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 mid­March 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 did not take breaks out­side of their trucks, they could 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 was 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.”

Pic­tures: Con­trib­uted

GOOD TUCKER: Sharp's Chin­chilla open for truckies dur­ing COVID-19.

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