Walk & Knock faces new challenges

More volunteers needed to speed this year's process alongAdding volunteers needed to adapt to federal regulations

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

Published:

 

You can help

What: Interservice Walk & Knock, Clark County’s largest annual food drive

When: Dec. 7

Online: Walk & Knock.

Volunteers: needed, especially to unload at the Clark County Food Bank

Call: 877-99-KNOCK (877-995-6625)

New federal trucking regulations have made it riskier this year for truckers and their employers to volunteer their services for Clark County's largest annual food drive.

That hasn't cut down on their involvement, but food drive organizers are hoping a big wave of volunteers will swarm the endpoint of the effort in order to get trucks unpacked and drivers off the clock as quickly as possible.

Interservice Walk & Knock, which is always the first Saturday in December, has long depended on local truckers who volunteer to make the vital connection between a dozen scattered drop-off sites and the final collection point. That point used to be the Port of Vancouver, but now it's the new Clark County Food Bank warehouse.

This year, Walk & Knock officials said, rules aimed at making roads safer by curbing driver fatigue and avoiding fatigue-related accidents could have the unintended effect of earning penalties for drivers whose volunteerism keeps them behind the wheel for too long.

That risk hasn't depressed driver involvement this year, according to Walk & Knock trucking coordinator Bill Lundeen. He said six local companies have volunteered equipment and drivers. Two individual drivers who own their own trucks and work for themselves have pulled out of the effort this year — but that's because they moved out of the area, Lundeen said, not because of the new rules.

Those "Hours of Service" rules became law on July 1. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the rules:

• Limit the maximum average work week for truckers to 70 hours, down from 82.

• Allow truckers who hit the 70-hour limit to return to work after resting for 34 consecutive hours, including at least two nights of sleep between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

• Require truckers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.

Drivers and companies that commit "egregious violations" of the rules risk monetary fines and civil

penalties that can reach into the thousands of dollars, according to the FMCSA. Avoiding all that might mean having to avoid paid work to compensate for racking up volunteer hours with Walk & Knock.

"When you get into the weekend," Lundeen said, "you want to make sure they get off quick so it doesn't impact next week's work. We don't want them to get in a position to lose wages."

"We need these (truckers) in and out as quick as possible so we're not hurting their hours," Walk & Knock President Roxie Olson said.

"We need to get them off the road."

Volunteers needed

The best way to smooth over this new wrinkle in the Walk & Knock process is by amassing as many volunteers — on the ground, not in trucks — as possible, Olson said.

"The bare minimum is 4,000 volunteers," she said. "Our goal is 6,000. The last count of how many registered on online is roughly 800."

Walk and Knock begins bright and early on the first Saturday of December — this year it'll be Dec. 7 — as volunteers spread across the county to scoop up donated food that folks have left on their front porches or beside their mailboxes. Every year, she said, volunteers spend the day collecting donations and packing up trucks — and then unpacking the trucks when they've reached their final destination.

That can last until well into the evening, she said. But this year, she's hoping there's enough volunteer muscle at every stage of the process — but especially at the endpoint, as trucks arrive at the Clark County Food Bank — to speed it all along and have everything finished by midafternoon.

"Even if they're not literally driving on the road, even if they're sitting in their cab waiting to be unloaded, that's still waking hours for (truckers)," she said.

Olson said the annual Walk & Knock outing is an accredited community service opportunity for high school students, juvenile justice offenders and anybody else who needs to do some good work and get credit for it. "We have the documents to sign off," Olson said.

In addition to the needed army of volunteers on Walk & Knock day itself, Olson said, there's also a need for volunteers to fold the 140,000 donation bags that are distributed ahead of time. Two bag-folding sessions are scheduled: 8 a.m. to 12 noon Saturday and on Nov. 30 at the Clark County Food Bank, 6502 N.E. 47th Avenue. Many of those bags are inserted into The Columbian a few days before Dec. 7.

Call or register for all volunteer opportunities at www.walkandknock.org or by phone at 877-995-6625.

Last year, Walk & Knock resulted in 152 tons of food and $26,000 in donations for the Clark County Food Bank. The grassroots event, launched informally by the Vancouver Lions Club in 1982 and evolving by 1985 into the Walk & Knock event we know today, has collected over 6 million pounds of food overall. It is a registered nonprofit agency operated entirely by volunteers.

"It's such a great event," Lundeen said. "It's just one day, and it feeds our neighbors for three months."