Coronavirus Chronicles: Petko Ganachev, Ken Johnson Trucking

Petko Ganachev didn’t expect to be on the front lines in a battle against a worldwide pandemic, and certainly never imagined he’d be pulling double duty.

A truck driver in B.C. for 10 years, Ganachev is also employing skills as a hobbyist, having created a 3D printing group that is making face shields and mask straps to help ease PPE shortages in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis.

Petko Ganachev, Ken Johnson Trucking (Supplied photo)

“I never expected me to be at the center of this, because I was waiting for somebody else to start it so I could just join with my one printer,” said Ganachev. “All we’re doing this for is to fill that short-term gap before industry can catch up to the trend.”

But he stepped forward to establish a related group through social media, after coming across a Reddit discussion with someone whose partner worked in a care home. In just one week the group included more than 300 volunteers, including around 110 who could print the face shields and mask straps.

Using laminated sheets donated by Staples, they were soon producing thousands of units per week.

“We can print about two of them every hour, per printer,” said Ganachev. An alternative design approved for hospitals takes up to two hours to complete, depending on the printer being used.

Soon after its launch, the group partnered with LNG Studios, which has offices in Vancouver, Toronto, and San Francisco, and produces 3D architectural visualizations, among other projects.

LNG started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the production of face shields, and eventually combined its efforts with the B.C. Covid-19 3D Printing Group.

“They have the money and we have the people with the 3D printers and the organization to produce things, and it’s been a fantastic partnership that has worked out great,” said Ganachev. “What we want to do as a group and what they wanted to do when they started the GoFundMe campaign matched up perfect.”

His group was planning a fundraising campaign of its own to continue raising funds for production.

“We’ve got a fairly big leadership group, and lots of knowledgeable people, so I don’t have to babysit it all the time anymore,” he said. “We’re about as organized as a manufacturing company would be. Maybe a little bit less, but we’re doing pretty good.”

In the midst of it all, Ganachev continues to drive for Ken Johnson Trucking, where he’s been working since he was 20.

“I don’t think there’s anywhere else I could have got as a first job and got better training and better mentorship,” he said. “I got really lucky with that…if I had started with one of the not-so-nice companies that we have in our industry, I probably wouldn’t be a truck driver anymore.”

Ganachev called Ken Johnson, general manager of the fleet, to discuss the 3D printing idea while still in a 14-day isolation after returning from vacation.

“I guess he had lots of time to think,” said Johnson, who thought the idea was worth looking into. “I told him we’d assist where we could. Initiatives, such as (Ganachev’s), are all beneficial. People wanting to help others.”

Johnson’s company has seen its share of side-effects with the Covid-19 crisis, both from a business perspective and day-to-day as a close-knit, family operation.

“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,” he said. “We have become, out of necessity, very sterile, both physically and socially, with much less conversation and joking between everyone. I miss the family atmosphere of ‘sibling’ relations.”

He commends the work of the young driver, and said efforts like Ganachev’s are needed now more than ever, as they show how the trucking industry has responded to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The #ThankATrucker campaign is another way of people helping people,” said Johnson. “In this case it’s more moral support, but hopefully it builds momentum and restaurants and stores realize they need to help our people so our people can help them.”

  • Coronavirus Chronicles tell the trucking industry’s personal stories from the front lines of Covid-19. They are drawn from the ongoing coverage at www.trucknews.com.
Derek Clouthier

A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and TruckNews.com. I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.
derek@newcom.ca
@DerekClouthier

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