Alberta urges relief for hungry truckers ‘absolutely critical to the supply lines’

Truck driver Rob Walsh picks up a free lunch provided by Diamond International Trucks. COVID-19 has shut down many restaurants and washrooms for truckers. Dave Carels/Global News

Truckers may soon find some relief while traveling through Alberta.

Premier Jason Kenney says he has written to the heads of all the major fast food companies asking them to give truckers a break.

“Today I’m calling on restaurants to temporarily allow heavy truck and long-haul truck drivers to walk up to the drive-thru window to place their order and allow them access to washrooms.”

Kenney also announced all of the provincially-run highway rest stops have re-opened.

These measures follow a couple weeks of pain for truck drivers making deliveries in a world largely shut down by COVID-19.

Food can be scarce. Dine-in restaurants are mostly closed. Tractor trailers don’t fit through a drive through. Washrooms and showers are also proving difficult to find.

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

Transportation Minister Ric McIver says governments must do what they can to help truck drivers do their job.

“Those truck drivers — those men and women out there doing that — are absolutely critical to the supply lines – to keep food on the shelves, to keep medicine in the pharmacies and the hospitals.”

Premier Kenney also announced several provincially run highway rest stops would re-open. They closed down early in the pandemic because hoarders were stealing toilet paper and hand sanitizer from them.

While the facilities are re-opening, Premier Kenney and Minister McIver offered warnings to would-be thieves.

“Please, show some basic decency and some basic consideration. Don’t do stupid things that just make life harder for truckers to keep us supplied,” Kenney said.

McIver added, “Sheriffs have agreed to come by the public rest stops more often than they normally would to further encourage the public to be more considerate of one another.”

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

Drivers have been asking for relief for the last couple of weeks.

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On Wednesday, drivers described their ordeals to Global News in a parking lot at a west Edmonton truck stop.

“It’s a lot harder than the general public realizes,” said Ottawa-area driver Rob Walsh, who just dropped off a load in Edmonton and will head back to Ontario on Thursday.

“Last night I never ate. I ate this morning. So yeah, the struggle’s real. I’m 3,600 km away from home and just trying to get by.”

Another driver, Wes Matchett, who is preparing to drive to Nova Scotia said, “It’s had its ups and downs. Finding a place just to shower. Trying to find food just to sit down, it’s very limited.”

“So you stock your fridge and your cooler with water and juice and try to go with it.”

As drivers fueled their vehicles, Diamond International Trucks set up a table in the corner of the parking lot. On it, they filled baskets with sandwiches and macaroni and cheese.

The truck dealer says staff are concerned about drivers.

“We wanted to thank the truckers today and provide them with a free lunch,” said Diamond’s Angie Wight who added truckers are their clients and like family.

“Like anybody who has family, you don’t want to hear they’re struggling to eat. So we wanted to make sure that we’re taking care of them. That’s really important to us.”

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So to help, Diamond International is handing out free lunches at truck stops in Edmonton, Saskatoon and Chilliwack for the next week. When they’re done they expect to have given away 3000 meals.

“We’re all in this together. Everybody’s having a hard time. Everybody’s struggling, so finding little things to make everybody’s life a little bit easier really goes a long way,” said Wight.

Truckers welcomed efforts from everyone trying to make their lives easier.

“Right now, I’m very hungry. This is awesome and we really appreciate them,” said driver Mandeep Singh.

Wes Matchett added, “It’s going to be a long trip. Free food is good.”

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