May 2nd 2020
My Meals for Truckers Story
About a month ago, I got a call from a fellow business owner in Kamloops. “Greg,” Brad Wood from Interior Vault and Milton Movers started, “we’ve got to do something about the trouble truck drivers are having getting meals and access to washrooms on the road. We should get food trucks out to feed them. I just don’t know how to get something happening and thought you could help.”
That’s a great idea, I thought. I considered it for a minute and then resumed trying to figure out how our family business would manage through this new COVID-19 crisis. A few days later though, I found myself still thinking about it. I’d heard similar concerns raised on Board and Executive meeting calls for the BC Trucking Association and the Canadian Trucking Alliance. Okay, I thought, maybe I can do something about this.
And so began an amazing experience.
Meals for Truck Drivers BC
Thinking small, I reached out to industry partners of mine, starting with Parkland Fuels, which now owns Chevron. The Kamloops agent is a friend of mine, and I called him about using one of his Kamloops Chevron card lock locations as food truck location to give truck drivers easy access to meals. It seemed like a natural solution since trucks already go there for fuel, making access a non-issue. The Kamloops card lock is strategically located off the highway and has plenty of room for a food truck. We already had a food truck operator, Deanna Bell, owner of Cookshack Cravings, eager to get her food truck working after the events she normally serviced were cancelled.
Chevron/Parkland got back to me the same day. With such a large organization, I assumed there would be questions, the legal department getting involved and on and on. But instead, they said, “Greg, we are happy to make our site available. We love this idea.”
Perfect – my job was done, and we could launch a Kamloops food truck to serve meals at a reasonable cost to drivers. “Hang on,” said my friend Scott Angstadt of Desert Cardlock, the agent for Chevron/Parkland who relayed the good news. “Not only will they make the Kamloops site available, but they’re willing to make every card lock location across the province available to you if you want to expand the initiative?”
Sorry?” I said. About then I realized the food truck initiative might be a little bigger than I first thought.
Growth of a Crazy Idea
So off we went. We launched the Kamloops food truck (Cookshack Cravings) on Saturday, April 4, 2020. A few days later, we launched the Dutchlicious food truck at the Chevron card lock in Chilliwack. A week later we launched a 3rd food truck, Surfside California Tacos, at the Chevron card lock in Kelowna. Soon, we had a food truck in Prince George, and by Saturday, April 18 another food truck had launched (TNT Dynamite Gourmet) in West Kelowna at a Kal Tire location.
The response was incredible, but not just from the professional drivers. One of the most inspiring parts
was the way sponsors for these food trucks and the industry materialized.
Tony Laurie and drivers at Surf Side California Tacos
Inland Kenworth’s Thank-a-Trucker Thursdays with Dutchlicious
Sponsorship for Truck Driver Meals – Really?
From the start, this was a simple concept. It was intended to be a single food truck, helping with a local problem in Kamloops. I never considered multiple locations, let alone sponsorship of meals for drivers. But that’s how it unfolded.
I clearly remember Sid Keay (owner of Ocean Trailer),a mere day or two before our launch, reaching out and asking if Ocean could sponsor the launch of the Chilliwack food truck. “Really? Well, what do you have in mind, Sid?”
Well,” he responded. “How about we give you $5,000 to pay for meals for the truck drivers?”
After picking myself up off the floor, we finished our discussion and came up with a plan. Sid agreed to split the money to be a “launch sponsor” for both the Chilliwack and Kamloops food trucks. In the end, Ocean contributed more than $6,000 to the cause and spawned a tidal wave of corporate and personal sponsorships for the initiative. I met Ed Genberg, General Manager for Ocean Trailer, at the launch of the Chilliwack food truck along with BCTA’s Dave Earle (President and CEO) to do an ad hoc social media video to talk about Ocean’s generous sponsorship.
Soon after, I got a call from Tony Laurie, an individual from Kelowna who saw what Ocean had done, loved our cause and wanted to provide $2,500 to launch the Kelowna food truck. Amazing! Once again, I was on the road, this time to Kelowna to meet with Tony and Ian Locket (Surfside California Tacos food truck owner) to spin off a couple of social media videos commemorating and publicizing the announcement. Asking Tony what had inspired him to become involved, he simply said, “It was an easy decision for my family and I. The trucking industry has been very good to me for 16 or 17 years, and it was a good opportunity for my family to say thanks and give a little back”.
Others have come up with creative ways to recognize truck drivers on an ongoing basis with sponsorship. Inland Kenworth, for instance, came up with “thank-a-trucker-Thursdays,” rotating a daily sponsorship of each food truck every Thursday. Lordco Parts provided a $10,000 sponsorship and spread it across several BC food trucks. We continue to receive personal contributions as well as donations like the one from Kris Gunderson (Tired Iron Equipment),a Kamloops owner operator, who sponsored a day of meals for other drivers in the industry. Incredible!
We have rarely pursued sponsorship for the food trucks from the start – it’s simply grown out of people’s generosity. Sponsorship includes:
Tony Laurie (personal donation)
George & Bobbie Harrison (personal donation)
And the list continues to grow.
At the time of writing this, more than $47,000 in truck driver meal sponsorships has been pledged in under four weeks. Incredible by any measure! Rarely has a professional driver had to purchase a meal at one of the Meals for Truck Driver BC food trucks since inception.
Enter the BC Trucking Association (BCTA) and the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA)
Not long into this process, it was clear this initiative needed more than the attention of one person. I am fortunate to have built some amazing connections in the trucking industry over my career. Some of my most valuable relationships stem from the work I do with the industry’s trucking associations, specifically the BCTA and the CTA. Connections like these have pulled through to help this initiative thrive
Dave Earle, President and CEO of the BCTA, quickly came to my rescue and offered assistance. This program both benefited BCTA members and simply was the right thing for industry, member or not. Dave quickly committed staff to assisting and eventually taking over the program. Sandra Stashuk, BCTA Member Services, and Ashley Greenidge, BCTA Reception, respectively stepped up to handle sponsorship and supplier services. As well, Dave has worked with me on strategy and media. All three are an invaluable team that have allowed the program to flourish. I know that BCTA will make this program the best it can become.
The Role of Technology
From the point of determining that this would be larger than a single Kamloops food truck, technology has played an important role. John Zubak, owner of Zubak & Associates, worked with me to develop a social media strategy to provide recognition of both food truck locations and our sponsors. Meals for Truck Drivers BC on Facebook and @feedatrucker on Instagram launched to bring publicity to the initiative and found an unbelievable following!
It quickly became apparent that Facebook wasn’t enough. The volume of inquiries I received from people asking for more information on food truck operating hours, food truck operators interested in becoming involved, and sponsors became overwhelming. As well, the number of social media videos and other announcements being posted didn’t allow for proper recognition of the sponsors – new posts quickly buried recent posts.
Reaching out to a business acquaintance at the advice of John Zubak, I spoke with Kris Brunsgaard of Adroit Technologies for a website solution. Kris jumped on board right away and offered his time to develop a website for the cause. Within a week,www.mealsfortruckers.ca was born.
This was no basic website. Kudos to his whole team, particularly Beth, who led the group to developing a web presence that is professional and extremely powerful. The site allows for truck-friendly suppliers to register and, once approved, manage their own locations on an interactive, searchable map. And did I mention that this site can manage listings from across North America.
Beyond Kamloops Borders
Not only had our little meal experiment crossed city boundaries, it had now crossed provincial and potentially national borders.
Currently, our website is populated with locations that now reach to Saskatchewan. Talking to truck drivers at the various food trucks has taught me some important things about the industry. Even during “normal” times, truck drivers do not have easy access to services. Sure, there are the regular (albeit sometimes hard to get to) fast food restaurants available to them. So long as you’re looking for a breakfast sandwich or burger, you’re covered. However, if you’d like some variety, you’re generally out of luck.
We now envision that mealsfortruckers.ca will eventually turn into a long-term repository of valuable information for the trucking community. With an early priority of meals and restrooms during the crisis, the website is already morphing into a repository of information for any business accommodating truck drivers and the trucking industry. While originally intended to offer information about food trucks, all truck-friendly restaurants or other truck driver meal programs are welcome to post on the site. We also list government-provided portable restroom sites at various highway locations, hotels with truck-friendly programs, truck & trailer repair facilities, commercial tire shops, etc.
Essentially, it has become a one-stop shop for all things truck-friendly!
North American Expansion and Emergency Services
Just this week, we announced a partnership with Canxxus, who have launched their “grab grub” program to provide North American coverage of services for the trucking industry. Canxxus is a leader in providing emergency repair services for members who encounter breakdowns on the road. While their call centers are normally focussed on providing a liaison between trucks needing repair and truck repair shops, their volumes have been down during the COVID-19 crisis. In an effort to help the industry, they trained their call centre operators to assist drivers unable to find meals on the road. If drivers cannot find a registered location on www.mealsfortruckers.ca , Canxxus will now provide emergency services to locate a meal. After receiving a call from a hungry driver, their call center specialists will search for available food services, make contact with the restaurant to confirm truck-friendly service, and then coordinate the driver with the meal.
As well, once a suitable vetted food supplier is established by Canxxus, their call center experts will be authorized to register that location within our website to have it available for future driver needs. One may say it seems like a match made in heaven. Our website will become the first point of contact for drivers while Canxxus will provide personal one-on-one attention to drivers who encounter areas where we haven’t already vetted a food supplier.
One of the incredible, and unpredictable, silver linings of this pandemic has been the positive recognition of the professional truck driver. For too long, drivers have been looked down upon from society. “A job of last resorts,” some would say. However, during this crisis, the general public seems to have finally connected the dots that everything they consume daily arrived by truck. It has taken toilet paper shortages at the grocery store for people to being asking, “What? Out of stock? Well, when does the next truck arrive?” For the first time in my thirty-one-year career, drivers are receiving the respect they have long deserved.
Capitalizing on this revelation led to an interesting idea from John Zubak, which has since been incorporated into the website. Nominating a “Highway Hero,” a driver that has kept the economy moving by working through the crisis, is a great way to provide positive recognition to our people on the front lines.
Media and Publicity
From the start, the media has been all over this program. For a guy who likes to say, “I have more of a face for radio,” I have done more radio, tv and social interviews than I ever thought I’d do in a lifetime. That said, the mainstream media has been amazing in portraying everything about this initiative in a positive light and has provided ample coverage. In an ocean of negative news, everyone is hungry for positive news in these trying times.
If anyone tells you they know how things will end up, ask someone else. No one knows. Aside from the obvious effects of the Coronavirus, the residual effects to the economy are hard, even impossible, to predict at this point.
What I do know is that I was lucky enough to be in the right place, at the right time, while knowing the right people to get involved and help make a difference. Meals for Truck Drivers BC, @feedatrucker, and mealsfortruckers.ca have proven to be one of the the most rewarding initiatives I have been lucky enough to be involved in.
As they say, onwards.
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