Special access

HAMILTON, Ont. – As the commercial says, membership has its privileges.

Petro Canada is showcasing the future of its PetroPass facilities in Hamilton, Ont. – just off the QEW at the Burlington Street exit -with an array of services available for those truckers who carry the fueling card.

“This is a prototype for us,” says Bob Elliott of Petro Canada. “The biggest until now had four showers and a small, little driver’s lounge and two or three fueling positions.”

The newest company-owned facility, however, goes far beyond that. A design team was called in to help take the facilities to the next level.

It isn’t Canada’s largest truck stop, at 3,500 square feet on five acres of developed land, but the space is optimized to make room for a variety of services.

Those sitting in the driver’s lounge have a panoramic view of the parking lot and their rigs. A business centre and its telephones is in a separate area. Where telephones are set up, there are jacks for laptop computers. Those who don’t have computers can access the Internet with a VideoNet terminal developed in Moncton. Just swipe the credit card or insert coins and access is set up. A built-in camera will even allow drivers to send video images home.

A games area offers the standard video games for those who simply want to feed quarters into a box and shoot something.

Six individual washrooms are equipped with showers and a bench, while a washer and dryer are also available. And a weigh scale will be offered this summer to complement the six fuel islands and motor oil dispenser that’s already on the property.

“If you’re going to do it, let’s do it right,” Elliott says of the designers’ philosophy. They began their work in November 1998, while ground was broken on this project in August 1999. The fuel islands opened Jan. 13, while the store opened Feb. 7.

The store is an expanded version of a traditional PetroPass location, and offers some of the simple purchases that are usually only available at larger truck stops. Throw in a power inverter with that bag of Doritos.

“The feedback has been really outstanding,” he says. “It’s almost a fraternity or a club.”

While the store is only open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., other facilities are unlocked for drivers who can swipe their PetroPass cards.

Such facilities won’t appear at every PetroPass. Of the 185 sites in Canada, about half are unattended, and smaller markets won’t see the investment. But more are coming.

“If it’s accepted, it will become the norm,” Elliott says.

Two more sites of this design will be set up by late fall. A London location will be set up at the Wellington Street exit, while a Kitchener site will be set up on Homer Watson Boulevard. n

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