REGINA, Sask. – Carriers across Western Canada are doing what they can to help their staff stay safe during the Covid-19 pandemic, even going as far as to sew masks for drivers.
Heather Day is the president of C.S. Day Transport in Regina, Sask., and they have tracked down enough fire-retardant material to make face masks for approximately 400 drivers.
The masks will have a fire-retardant outer layer so the drivers can wear the masks in the refineries, where fire-retardant clothing is required.
“I’m a beginner quilter, so I started calling some of my quilting ladies and they were already making them for care homes,” said Day. “Then I connected with all the designers, one who did the alterations on my wedding dress, and he had already made a pattern, so he sent that over to us, and it’s a really good fit.”
C.S. Day is working with the other carriers that haul fuel from the refinery to get masks to all the drivers. The fire-retardant material for the masks is on its way, and Day said there are around 12 women who have volunteered to help make the masks, and the number is growing.
“It takes about an hour per mask, so once we have (the material) distributed to everybody, it should only take a couple of days to finish them,” said Day.
They are also working with a local quilting store that is selling them the cotton lining for the masks, and is creating images for the masks to cheer up the drivers, including super heroes, trucks, and even cheese burgers and bacon.
“They even put in some Wonder Woman fabric for our lady drivers,” said Day.
Another initiative Day spurred was to broker partnerships with local distilleries to get a supply of what she said was basically moonshine for drivers to use as hand sanitizer.
“We’ve been getting pales of this moonshine to use as hand sanitizer that we’re putting into small spray bottles and giving to the guys,” she said, adding that the Saskatchewan Trucking Association is also handing the sanitizer out to its members.
Being a small carrier, the six office staff at C.S. Day have been working at home since mid-March, and though there have been challenges, Day said the at-home setup has gone well.
Whether large or small, carriers across Western Canada have been impacted by the worldwide pandemic.
Matt Berry, president of Berry and Smith Trucking, explained how trusted relationships have never been more important.
“We are really focusing on our core customers at this time,” said Berry. “It’s times like these that highlight the importance of having established relationships with carriers that will be there for you. Those shippers, who have established fair rates, are working with trucking companies to problem solve and are loyal to their core carriers, will get through difficult periods much better than those whose primary focus is the lowest price.”
Berry and Smith Trucking is a B.C. carrier that hauls a variety of freight across North America, with a focus on servicing the western provinces and states.
During the Covid-19 crisis, Berry said they have introduced several changes to how the company does business, including how it interacts with shippers and receivers.
“We have instituted a policy of not requiring signatures from receivers on bills of lading,” said Berry. “The driver will write down the name of the person who received the goods and, if necessary, make a note of any discrepancies or damage noted. Some shippers and receivers are asking drivers to wait in their truck while its loaded or unloaded with a location of where the paperwork will be left for the driver prior to departure.”
Berry said drivers have seen a substantial impact from the social measures that have been put in place to ease the spread of the coronavirus.
Though drivers remain busy, they have become even more isolated, which can result in greater stress. Drivers are also having to be more involved in their trip planning, and, as has been widely reported in the media, are having trouble finding food and equipped rest areas while on the road.
“It’s really important that they get recognition for the job they are doing,” said Berry. “It doesn’t matter if you are not hauling hand sanitizer or toilet paper, all trucking is essential and vital to keeping the economy moving and consumers supplied in this difficult time.”
And Berry is seeing several examples of people showing support for drivers.
“Signs on the side of the road thanking drivers, thumbs up messages, extra waves and kindnesses shown are occurring,” he said.
To help their employees, Berry and Smith strive to relay accurate information about Covid-19 from medical professionals, government websites, and trucking associations.
They have also done the little things to keep people safe, like ensuring a sanitary workplace.
“We have obtained a greater supply of high potency cleaning products and begun daily cleaning of the office,” said Berry. “In addition, we have supplied cleaning solutions along with protective gloves for drivers to enhance the regular cleaning of the interior of their vehicles.”
Ken Johnson, general manager of Ken Johnson Trucking out of Langley, B.C., said they have taken similar precautions when it comes to cleanliness.
“We have become, out of necessity, very sterile, both physically and socially,” said Johnson. “We are a small company, and having to limit the interaction between drivers and staff, and to separate our staff, some now in separate offices or working from home, has affected the dynamics in our office.”
Large carriers, like Bison Transport, are also taking steps to ensure driver and customer safety.
The company said it has employed work continuity plans, which accommodates 90% of its non-driving operations personnel to work from home.
Drivers are being kept up to date on all things Covid-19 related on a regular basis.
“Due to the nature of their isolated roles, professional drivers are considered low risk in obtaining Covid-19,” Bison said in a statement, “but all necessary precautions are being taken, including mandatory self-screening for all staff and visitors prior to entry into any of our terminals.”
Like Berry and Smith, Bison is considering new methods of paperwork exchange to limit the risk between drivers and on-site employees with contracting
Payne Transportation is another carrier that has managed to keep its trucks rolling, while its day-to-day operations have been disrupted.
“I like to think we are all doing our best to limit the risk of spreading, all while continuing to keep our businesses running effectively,” said Thomas Payne Jr., president of Payne Transportation. “We have over half our staff now at home operating very proficiently. We all have contingency plans in case of emergency, and now is as good a time as any to implement them and test their effectiveness.”
“We are very proud to be in an industry that is helping the country during a difficult time,” added Berry. “From all of us at Berry and Smith Trucking, thank you to all the professional drivers for all you are doing.”
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