Blue Water Bridge Duty Free. April 2020.  Submitted photo. Blue Water Bridge Duty Free. April 2020. Submitted photo.

Bridge Duty Free providing pandemic respite for truckers

The Blue Water Bridge Duty Free Shop wants senior government to ensure it will stay open to provide a safe place for truck drivers to stop and rest during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Operations Manager Gerry Lee said business has slowed significantly since Canada and the United States agreed to restrict non-essential travel March 21.

"Not having that part of the business has been very dramatic for us," said Lee. "Obviously it's a big challenge for us to continue to keep the doors open while not having that traffic anymore. So, that is the day-to-day concern."

Lee said his staff are purely working on a volunteer basis right now.

"We're not forcing anybody to work right now, so definitely we are working with a lot less staff than we usually do. Unfortunately, it's just one of those things. We just want everybody to feel comfortable who is coming to work every day."

Lee said truckers need safe places to park, the use of clean washrooms and other amenities.

"It's been a challenge for these drivers to find places," said Lee. "My staff and myself have had a lot of truck drivers who have come up to us and personally thanked us for staying open because they're finding it so difficult, after spending many, many hours on the road, sometimes days on the road, trying to find a place to rest for a quick coffee or sandwich or something and so they're just so extremely happy that they know we're open."

The province announced in March that all 23 ONroute travel plazas would remain open for take-out, grab-and-go and drive-through services, including washrooms with enhanced cleanings.

"We think we are a necessary service for commercial drivers and I think us at the Blue Water Bridge as a whole, we're all trying to keep as many services open for these drivers as possible," said Lee.

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