'They need tacos:' How bridge closures can cause havoc for P.E.I. businesses

The weekend was here and Kim Green had a problem. The Confederation Bridge was closed to large trucks and Taco Boyz needed taco shells.

When trucks can't get across, some businesses have to get creative

Vehicles exceeding 2.2 metres (7 feet 2 inches) in height are considered high-sided and not permitted to cross the Confederation Bridge when wind restrictions are in place. (Canadian Press)

The weekend was here and Kim Green had a problem — the Confederation Bridge was closed to large trucks and Taco Boyz needed taco shells.

Green is the owner of Kays Wholesale, which delivers supplies to many businesses across P.E.I. — including Taco Boyz.

"Anytime the bridge is down and the trucks can't get across it causes major havoc, especially if it's on a Friday going into a weekend," she said. "It becomes a logistics nightmare."

The Confederation Bridge closes to high-sided vehicles — considered any vehicles exceeding 2.2 metres in height — when steady winds exceed 70 km/h, and gusts consistently exceed 85 km/h.

It becomes a logistics nightmare.— Kim Green

This weekend, truck traffic was restricted from Thursday at 10:50 p.m. to Sunday at 1:50 a.m. — a total of almost 50 hours.

The Confederation Bridge was closed to high-sided vehicles for almost 50 hours this weekend. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

That meant any retail and food businesses on P.E.I. that were getting short on supplies may have been getting a little anxious. Sobeys, for example, had a sign in its produce section advising shoppers they were short on products because of the bridge restrictions.

And Taco Boyz, well, how can you make tacos without taco shells?

"We knew they were going to be extremely busy coming at a Black Friday and into parade weekend," Green said. 

"I didn't have any option other than to find a solution. And that's what happens when the bridge closes you sit and think, 'OK how can I find a solution to a multiple of problems in order to service our clients to the best of our ability?'"

Kim Green, owner of Kays Wholesale, says she has to come up with creative solutions when the bridge closes to trucks. (Submitted by Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce)

So on Friday, instead of waiting on a truck that might be sitting on the New Brunswick side of the bridge until who knows when, she sent one of her employees to Moncton in a smaller van to load up on tacos and tortillas and deliver them to Taco Boyz that same day.

Green said "there was no money made on that deal" but it was worth it in the name of customer service.

"They need tacos for their tacos."

Kays Wholesale had to make a special delivery to Moncton in a smaller van to pick up and deliver taco and tortilla shells to Taco Boyz in Charlottetown before the busy weekend. (Shane Ross/CBC)

As a business to business wholesaler, Green said there are times when Kays benefits from bridge restrictions. When a restaurant's normal supplier can't make it across, for example, they might go to Kays for supplies.

"Sometimes it's good for us but it is logistically difficult for so many business owners and especially when you go into a weekend where you know your sales are going to be high," she said.

A sign at Sobeys in Charlottetown advises shoppers of product shortages as a result of the Confederation Bridge traffic restrictions. (François Pierre Dufault/Radio-Canada)

"When you miss those sales, you never make them up. They're gone."

Green said bridge restrictions also make it difficult for staffing. She said she had to send four workers home on Friday when there were no trucks to unload, but will be busier than normal on Monday when all the trucks arrive.

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About the Author

Shane Ross is a former newspaper and TV journalist in Halifax, Ottawa and Charlottetown. He joined CBC P.E.I.'s web team in 2016.


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