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Coronavirus: B.C. effort to support transport drivers takes on national interest

B.C. effort to provide truckers with meals to go national
In recent weeks, the spotlight has been on our country's transport drivers who are keeping our stores stocked during the pandemic. They're facing challenges finding everything from bathrooms to meals while on the road, with many facilities shut down due to social distancing rules. But a new effort to help truckers here in BC looks to be going national. Doris Maria Bregolisse reports.

An effort to feed B.C. transport drivers during the COVID-19 pandemic is picking up speed.

“The response and the views on this web page have been astounding,” Greg Munden told Global News.

Munden started a Facebook page, called ‘Meals for Truck Drivers BC’ at the start of April, after securing a food truck for transport drivers to access in Chilliwack.

“I reached out to some people that I know in the industry, specifically Chevron Parkland, the fueling agency,” Munden, a forth-generation B.C. trucking industry professional, said from Kamloops.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: B.C. highways, ferries busy Easter long weekend despite calls to stay home

Chevron Parkland agreed to allowing food trucks at their cardlock stations throughout the province, according to Munden.

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It lead to food trucks stepping up in Kamloops, Prince George and Kelowna.

“The food truck sector is really engaged,” he said.

“We sat at home and all our events were cancelled until the end of June,” Surf Side California Taco food truck owner Ian Locket said, parked at the Chevron cardlock off Highway 97 in Kelowna.

As word got out about Munden’s efforts, companies stepped up to help show transport drivers they are appreciated.

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Ocean Trailer donated $5,000 to provide free meals at the Chilliwack and Kamloops locations.

Former industry worker Tony Laurie provided $2,500 to the Kelowna location for transport operator meals.

“It’s been a good chance to give back and show our appreciation,” Laurie said.

There is now a lineup of sponsors who want to help feed truck drivers in B.C., including Kal Tire and Tolko Industries, according to Munden.

He calls the generous pledges an important good news story during the current crisis.

“I don’t think we’ve had a location so far that a trucker has had to pay for a meal,” Munden said.

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The success of the Facebook page has the Canadian Trucking Alliance showing interest in taking the initiative across the country, according to Munden, who said a website is being organized for imminent launch.

“It will allow people to register on the site and post where they’ve made accommodations to allow for drivers,” he said.

“This is an emerging issue that we’ve been aware of for a couple of weeks now,” Kelowna-Lake Country MP Tracy Gray told Global News.

Gray and Todd Doherty, Cariboo-Prince George MP, Conservative members who are shadow ministers for interprovincial trade and transport, sit on a national committee which is working on keeping the national supply chain secure.

“We’re asking for safe, secure and seamless (transportation routes) so that we do keep all of our goods and services flowing across the country,” Gray said.

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In a joint statement, they said, “Adding insult to injury, the lack of washroom facility access has become a significant, unnecessary and unfair challenge to these front-line workers.”

They asked the Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau, to mandate Canada’s Transportation network.

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“The time to act was yesterday,” Gray and Doherty said in the statement.

While transport operation has been deemed essential during the pandemic, many places that used to offer food, washrooms and rest for truckers are closed in Canada to protect workers and promote safe social-distancing.

Walk-ups to drive-thrus have not been allowed, according to Munden, who said truckers associations are working with restaurants and food chains in Canada to figure out how they can accommodate truckers.

Munden believes more people are understanding the importance of transport operators during the crisis.

“More so than maybe ever, when they see something as simple as toilet paper running out at the store, I think that’s when they connect the dots,” Munden said. “It’s the trucking industry that actually gets that stuff, whether its toilet paper or groceries or medical supplies or medicine.”

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The website to help transport drivers navigate services across the country is expected to be in place after the Easter long weekend.