Supply chain into Indigenous communities appears intact amid Covid-19 demand

by Today's Trucking

VICTORIA, B.C. – Despite the challenges meeting demand across the country amid the Covid-19 crisis, provincial governments are confident the trucking industry is continuing to reach those in remote locations, including Indigenous communities.

Even during normal times, maintaining a reliable supply chain into isolated locations, such as Indigenous communities, can be difficult, with highway access and weather at times putting up roadblocks.

The Province of B.C. recently created the Provincial Supply Chain Coordination Unit, which can step in to direct essential goods to communities in need if it sees an issue in any particular location.

So far, the Province is confident the trucking industry is doing a good job.

“At this time, there’s been no indication that delivery of supplies to First Nations has been impacted by the current high demand for trucking services,” the province’s Joint Information Centre – Covid Provincial Coordination Plan indicated to Today’s Trucking. “Indigenous communities, particularly in isolated areas, have specific needs when responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. The province’s transportation network, including trucking, is critical to keeping our supply chains open. Our interconnected transportation system helps ensure people in every part of the province continue to have access to vital goods like food and medicine.”

The Province has also launched the Covid-19 Supply Hut, a made-in-B.C. online platform to coordinate, source, and expedite medical supplies and personal protective equipment for provincial health authorities to support those on the front lines of the pandemic.

“As we’ve learned from past emergencies, close communication with First Nations is critically important,” stated the Joint Information Centre. “That is why we have initiated ongoing calls to identify and help resolve issues, including regular calls in all regions of the province for local governments and First Nations.”

The Alberta government is also confident the province’s trucking community is doing an effective job keeping the supply chain moving into Indigenous communities, though remote northern regions do pose unique challenges for drivers, particularly during this Covid-19 crisis.

“A week or two ago, it was the roadside turnouts and safety rest areas,” said Wayne Wood, director of communications for Alberta Transportation. “We had to close them all for a few days because they were being vandalized and people were stealing the hand sanitizer and toilet paper out of them.”

The reason this creates challenges for drivers servicing remote communities is because rest areas, as well as places to stop for food, are few and far between the further north you travel. And with no places for drivers to stop and rest or eat, it becomes that much more difficult to safely access these remote communities.

“It’s a service that the truckers need anywhere in the province,” said Wood. “So now they have all been restocked and we’re having the maintenance contractors do a once or twice a day drive-by to make sure they are still stocked and not being vandalized.”

Wood also echoed a plea from Premier Jason Kenney for restaurants to find a way to open their doors so truck drivers can get a meal while on the road.

Wood said it is the province’s job to ensure these types of facilities are open for drivers and that highways are well maintained for everyone to use.

“We’re working with the Alberta Motor Transport Association…and what we can tell through them so far, aside from the restroom challenge, they are making their deliveries to all corners of the province and they’re not having many problems,” said Wood. “The supply chain is open and it’s working.”
Covid-19 supply chain

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