Cafe fought to provide truckies a safe haven amid COVID-19
SHARPY’S Chinchilla fought to stay open to provide a vital lifeline for truck drivers to be able eat and rest amid COVID-19 restrictions.
When COVID-19 restrictions first rolled out in mid-March roadside eateries, truck lounges and rest stops closed across Australia which left truckies with nowhere to eat, rest or go to the bathroom - until legislation passed on Monday, March 30.
Owner of Sharpy’s cafe Charlene Rogers said it was vital for her to be able to provide drivers with the option of dine in.
“If they are run to the ground because they haven’t been able to get out of their vehicles, living off fast food and hot boxes, they are running their own health risk which then for me comes back on the country that hasn’t looked after them,” Mrs Rogers said.
“If they stop running and they can’t maintain their own health and fatigue, then nothing gets moved around the country and that would be worse than a lockdown, it’s no produce or supplies - if they stop the country stops.”
Thanks to Sharpy’s truck drivers passing through Chinchilla were given a place to eat and rest, although Mrs Rogers said she had to fight to have her business classified as a truck stop, enlisting the help of Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport Scott Buchholz.
“Because I’m not a roadhouse I didn’t come under the original legislation, so (Mr Buchholz) had to get additional legislation passed to class me as a truck driver rest facility,” she said.
“We get a lot of truck drivers in now… they spread the word that I went above and beyond the legislation to get classed as a truck driver rest facility.”
Mrs Rogers said if drivers don’t take breaks outside of their trucks, they can face hefty fines.
“Under their code of conduct and with their diaries, they have to take mandatory breaks and be able to get out of the vehicle and sit down and have a proper meal,” she said.
“If they don’t stop they can face $300 to $600 fines.”
Mr Buchholz said the safety of truck drivers at this difficult time is a key consideration of Government.
“I come from a freight industry background and I know first-hand how important these facilities are,” Mr Buchholz said.
“We want to make sure our truckies are safe, both in terms of fatigue management and their risk of exposure to COVID-19 and this exemption gets that balance right.
“With this exemption now in place, I do ask that facilities that can open per the social distancing and hygiene requirements of this new exemption do so.”