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Coronavirus: Truckers work around the clock to keep supply lines open amid COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus outbreak: Truckers work to keep supply lines open amid COVID-19 pandemic
WATCH: Truckers work to keep supply lines open amid COVID-19 pandemic

Life on the open road has become rather difficult for long-distance truck drivers hauling between Canada and the U.S. amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With limited access to places to eat, shower and re-supply, many have put their lives on hold to ensure Canada’s supply chain remains open.

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau announces new measures on domestic flights and intercity passenger trains
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau announces new measures on domestic flights and intercity passenger trains

“I made the decision, I haul groceries,” says Josh O’Keefe, who hauls mostly produce for Bell City Transport in Brantford, Ont. “People need groceries.

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“I’ve been to the grocery store where there’s been nothing, and when I left two weeks ago to go work, I made the decision that I’m not going back to the East Coast until it’s done.”

The 35-year-old trucker, who has three children and lives in Moncton, N.B., said he decided to stay on the road due to COVID-19 and the need to restock grocery store shelves across the country.

Putting his own life on hold, O’Keefe says he’ll go into isolation only after the country rebounds from the pandemic.

READ MORE: Quebec company offers free room and board for truckers during COVID-19 crisis

“I had to go to work to provide for my family, and once I left, there’s really no option. I go home, I gotta stay home and it impacts my family’s life,” adds O’Keefe, who hauls mostly produce between Canada and the United States.

Classified as essential workers, truck drivers are allowed to cross back and forth across the border.

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In Whitby, cross-border drivers dropping at the Sobey’s Distribution Centre have been granted limited access to facilities and, according to a notice obtained by Global News, have been told to stay in their trucks, all in an effort to manage the risks associated with COVID-19.

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It reads in part, “paperwork to be dropped off in the tray just outside the driver’s entrance by dock 51. Do NOT enter DRIVERS LOUNGE.”

“I’ve been to do deliveries and they’ve blocked off, drivers’ lounges; there’s no access to actual proper washrooms,” O’Keefe says.

“Their idea of a washroom was a porta-potty set up in the parking lot.”

On Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged the hardships professional drivers are facing while trying to balance their own safety and the safety of others.

READ MORE: Alberta truckers’ association asks you to #thankatrucker amid coronavirus outbreak

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“We need to keep working to try and make sure we can continue to get these essential goods while people are continuing to take risks while people are continuing their essential work,” Trudeau said while standing outside his residence in Ottawa.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance has stood behind its members, asking for people to reach out and thank a trucker.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says it’s in both Canada, U.S. interests to keep border ‘un-militarized’

“Please treat these front-line workers with the utmost respect and dignity they deserve and thank a trucker for the amazing job they are doing during this critical time,” a post website on their website read.