A union representing truck drivers and delivery workers is demanding that gas stations and highway rest areas that have been closed due to COVID-19 fully re-open for transportation workers.
In the wake of the ongoing pandemic, many highway rest areas and gas stations in B.C. have implemented limited access to facilities or are closed altogether.
That has left truck drivers struggling to finding a hot shower, quick meal or “simply a place to wash their hands,” Teamsters Canada said in a statement on Thursday (April 2).
The union’s national president, Francois Laporte, said that some workers are going days without a shower and are being forced to drive an hour outside their normal routes just to find a bathroom.
“This is a matter of human decency,” Laporte said. “Nobody can be expected to work an entire day without using a bathroom. It’s a disgraceful way to treat the truck drivers and delivery workers who are essential to the functioning of our country.”
In B.C., gas stations and rest stops are classified as essential services, which mean they can remain open to the public so long as operators follow the advice of provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry in minimizing social contact.
By being declared an essential service, this also means operators who do follow protocols while the state of emergency is in effect will be protected from being held liable for damages cause by exposure to COVID-19.
With fast food restaurants operating only through drive-thru, the problem is affecting urban and local drivers just as much as it is affecting long-haul drivers, the union said.
“Truck drivers and delivery workers are vital to keeping hospitals supplied and food on store shelves. If they can’t do their job properly, we all suffer,” Laporte said. “Everyone has a breaking point and if this goes on, some drivers get sick or will simply stop showing up to work, harming the supply chain and leaving critical shipments in limbo.”
On Wednesday, during an afternoon news briefing, provincial health officer Henry said she’s aware that current provisions put in place have made it challenging for essential workers and those living on the streets to practise adequate hygiene.
“The important things are having the hand washing abilities [and] facilities being able to clean the bathrooms,” she said, adding it is her understanding that their has been effort made by the province to keep these facilities can remain open.
Black Press Media has reached out to the Ministry of Transportation for comment.