THUNDER BAY, Ont. – Erb Group founder Vernon Erb is always eager to spend time behind the wheel. It doesn’t even matter that the latest load of produce in his trailer is being moved for free. In fact, that was by design.
The longtime industry executive is donating his time for the shipment heading to food banks in remote northern communities, working through the Trucks for Change Network that helps coordinate free or discounted shipments on behalf of Canadian charities. Navistar is even covering the cost of the fuel.
Erb Group has supported the organization in the past, but when the senior Erb heard about this one – in the midst of the Christmas season – he jumped at the chance to haul the load himself.
“I left at noon yesterday [from Leamington] and got to Cochrane last night in a snowstorm,” he said on Thursday morning, from the bunk of his prized 2014 International 9900. “There’s lots of snow up here and it’s two or three below Fahrenheit [-19 Celsius]. Now the sun’s out and it’s a beautiful day to be trucking.”
Such temperatures aren’t that friendly to fresh food, but the veteran of moving temperature controlled freight is ensuring that everything keeps above freezing.
Erb arrives in Thunder Bay on Friday, ensuring the food can be prepared for flights into remote areas further north. And that’s all part of CBC’s annual Sounds of the Season programming, which spreads the holiday cheer.
“Transportation is a key part of it,” said Volker Kromm, executive director of the Regional Food Distribution Association (RFDA), which serves as a hub for food banks throughout northwestern Ontario. “The discounted rates, they save a huge cost.”
Contributions from Erb and Navistar will save about $4,000 on this shipment alone.
Trucks for Change supports dozens of charities that are vetted and then connected with offers of reduced-rate shipments, says Pete Dalmazzi, that organization’s president.
“We’re connected to the food bank system in Canada at all levels,” he adds, referring to close to a dozen related loads that need to be moved a month. “To the charities involved it makes a big impact.”
The donations to remote areas are particularly important. “It’s so expensive to get stuff up there and it’s a completely empty backhaul all the time,” Dalmazzi says.
He hopes coverage of this shipment will engage other carriers in similar work. About 60 carriers participate in Trucks for Change today. He’d like to see that number double. “So we can say yes every time, and make it sustainable.”
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