At a Calgary truck stop, Amanpreet Gill hands out a bag full of vegetarian meals to a long-haul truckers.
In each are enough curries and naan bread to see a driver through a couple days on the road.
“They’re bringing all the medical supplies to our hospital, our homes, all the groceries.” Gill says, “so it’s our turn to pay them back.”
Back at Gill’s local Sikh temple, 35 volunteers are cooking to make enough food for 100 deliveries a day.
Their “No Hungry Tummy During Covid-19” effort is a hit.
And it’s one of a growing number of local efforts popping up across Canada to help truckers who are sometimes facing harsh and even unwelcoming conditions on their routes.
Drive-thru windows can’t accommodate big rigs, and some restaurants are refusing pedestrians at the window.
Al Adolphe, from Steinbach, Man., discovered that when he tried to get a coffee in Portage la Prairie.
“They refused to give me a coffee. And I was supposed to phone it in,” he recalls. “I said, ‘Phone it in? I’m right here.'”
Trucker Paul MacDonald from Monkton, Ont., sympathizes. He says he can’t wait to get home.
“Yeah, you need proper food, a shower, stuff like that. Basically, what everybody else takes for granted. We’re having a hard time finding it.”
Food isn’t the only concern.
One of the big challenges facing truckers is finding a place to use the bathroom.
“The shipping facilities have just shut down access to drivers, so we’re sort of like, OK, we have to work together on this,” Susan Ewart of the Saskatchewan Trucking Association says. The alternatives aren’t exactly sanitary. “We’ve heard some people say, ‘Well, there’s the bush.'”
You just hold it and carry on.– Trucker Paul MacDonald
Paul MacDonald has his own way to cope: “You just hold it and carry on.”
It’s not just shipping companies that have closed washroom facilities. Some rest stops and washrooms normally open to travellers have been locked, presumably to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.
But Alberta recently had to close some of its rest stops, because people were raiding the toilet paper and hand sanitizer supply.
That raised the ire of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.
“Please show some basic decency and basic consideration. Don’t do stupid things like that that just make life harder for our truckers….”
Please show some basic decency and consideration.– Alberta Premier Jason Kenney
Alberta has reopened its rest stops with increased surveillance and is calling on fast-food restaurants to allow truckers to park their big trucks and walk to drive-thru windows.
Other politicians from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Ontario Premier Doug Ford have raised awareness during their daily COVID-19 briefings of the truckers’ role in delivering essential supplies to Canadians.
Canadians step up to #ThankaTrucker
Efforts to pitch in and help truckers are cropping up across Canada.
The hashtag #ThankaTrucker is spreading with both good thoughts and deeds for truckers.
For Medicine Hat, Alta., based trucker Neal Davey, it means a lot to see truckers recognized. “They’re actually seeing truckers are doing what they need done. Like, all these jobs that people thought were below them are now what’s carrying us.”
In Sidney, B.C., a makeshift rest stop has been set up in an empty parking lot across from two 24-hour restaurants.
Sidney’s Fire Chief Brett Mikkelsen says they felt the need to do what they could when they heard about the truckers’ plight. “There’s a lot of unsung heroes out there, you know. Truckers are definitely among them.”
The Holiday Inn Express in North Battleford, Sask., is offering all commercial truckers a room to have a hot shower, as well as breakfast or dinner to go. The hotel offered assurances it was following above-standard cleaning and sanitization to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Dayna Robbie and her family aren’t in a position to offer a shower and meal to the truckers who pass by their home on the TransCanada Highway in Winnipeg. But that didn’t stop them from showing their appreciation. In a video that has since gone viral, Robbie and members of her family jumped up and down waving to show support.
Robbie, whose partner works in transportation, says, “I would just like to say thank you, and we appreciate you, and you don’t go unnoticed.”
The truckers seem to understand, blowing their horns back.