Jarred Cohen is the Policy Advisor at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
As Canadians grapple with the impacts of the COVID-19 virus, there are unsung heroes that have helped keep supply chains open and flowing. Canada’s long-distance truckers have been on the front lines, putting their own lives at risk to keep grocery store shelves stocked for shoppers. These people are vital to economic growth – about 70% of Canadian goods are transported by truck.
It has not been easy. While truck drivers are considered essential workers, which provides them with the ability to travel between Canada and the US, they face significant challenges to their normal work routines. While some progress has been made in negotiations with various orders of government, the drivers are unable to access washrooms and showers at some truck stops and are being refused access to facilities at more and more distribution centres. This barrier makes them unable to follow government-mandated hygiene requirements. Drivers also need adequate support from shippers and receivers. As Maryscott Greenwood, CEO of the Canadian American Business Council and Stephen Laskowski, President of the Canadian Trucking Alliance noted in a piece yesterday morning, some shippers and receivers are not letting drivers use their bathroom facilities and insisting they stay in their trucks. Surely, given that these drivers are keeping our economy moving, shippers and receivers can develop practices and protocols to keep drivers and their employees safe while providing driver access to these facilities.
“If we can work together to get the product to the people it needs to get to, why can’t we work together to ensure we look after each other’s basic human rights and needs?” asked Mike Millian, President, Private Motor Truck Council of Canada.
We should all be inspired by recent acts of generosity and good spirit towards truck drivers. There are stories around the country of family-run businesses that are taking measures to truck drivers to give them at least a bit of a break. For instance, one business in Quebec is permitting truckers a free 30-minute stay at certain hotels. Another in Nova Scotia offers them free meals. These are just some of the ways Canadians are stepping up to help one another.
To the Canadian trucking industry, we thank you. Canada is grateful for the work you do to keep Canadians fed and watered through this difficult time.