The top executive at the Saskatchewan Trucking Association has a message for Saskatchewan residents and business owners during the COVID-19 pandemic: be kind to truckers and help them out if you can.
Susan Ewart told The Western Producer that truck drivers are facing extraordinary circumstances as they move products throughout the province.
Restaurant closures mean there are fewer places to get a healthy meal. Access to public washrooms is limited and some companies are restricting access to their facilities when truckers arrive with a delivery.
“We’ve put truck drivers on the front line here, asking them to provide an essential service during the (COVID-19) pandemic,” said Ewart.
“We need to be mindful of this and make sure that we do what we can to help them get through this….”
Ewart said awareness of the conditions that truckers are facing is starting to improve.
But drivers still face many challenges, she added.
Some businesses have stepped up, she added.
A number of hotels have opened their facilities, offering drivers a clean place to shower, change their clothes and get a hot meal.
“It’s not all bad,” said Ewart.
“There’s lots of good things happening out there as well.”
Ewart urged residents to use common sense and compassion. Companies that depend on the trucking industry need to do what they can to make truck drivers’ lives easier, she said.
“We need to use a little bit of common sense right now. We want to remind shippers that if you want your stuff moved, you need to let the truckers in.”
“Trucking employers around the province are using all the same measures that other companies use to protect their employers, such as proper hand sanitization and sanitizing their equipment.”
Ewart said truckers have been deemed an essential service during the pandemic.
That means they’re still at work and they aren’t required to self-isolate unless they are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.
There are no restrictions limiting the movement of goods across interprovincial borders.
Late month, the Saskatchewan government tweaked regulations that limit the number of hours truck drivers can spend behind the wheel each day.
Previously, commercial truckers were prohibited from driving more than 13 hours per day.
But on March 31, Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe announced that truckers will be allowed to drive for more than 13 hours a day if they are carrying essential supplies such as medicine, medical equipment, food, cleansers and disinfectant products.
Under the new rules, drivers carrying essential goods will be allowed to exceed the 13-hour-per-day
limit, as long as they break for eight hours after reaching their destination.
Moe said the change is a temporary measure and was made to ensure that consistent rules are in effect across all Canadian jurisdictions.
“It’s not a decision that came about lightly, but it is a decision that aligns us with the rest of Canada,” Moe said.
Some observers were critical of the rule change, citing safety concerns and heightened risks associated with driver fatigue.
Only two years ago, Saskatchewan tightened regulations in the trucking industry following a fatal highway accident near Nipawin, Sask., that killed 16 people.
The accident involved a commercial transport truck and a bus carrying members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey club.