A group of coach drivers in Weston-super-Mare have been recognised for their heroic efforts after volunteering with ambulance services during the pandemic.
Bakers Dolphin’s team of drivers helped transport patients for Bristol Ambulance’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS), while national lockdown restrictions prevented the company from running holidays and day trips.
Many of the 20 drivers who volunteered spent more than a year with the emergency service in St. Philip’s, Bristol, as part of its covid-19 resilience planning.
Bakers Dolphin, which was established in 1889, also retained some of its drivers to help provide school transport for the children of key workers.
The team has now been honoured with a top industry award after being crowned the national winners of the Road Haulage Association (RHA) Heroes Award.
Presenting the award, the RHA’s chief executive Richard Burnett said: “The coach sector has been on its knees and yet their selflessness to do what they have done within a sector that had very little certainty or support is fantastic.
“It is an honour to uphold and uplift and recognise what they have achieved because they don’t get enough credit and that makes them a worthy overall winner.”
Bakers Dolphin managing director Max Fletcher said the drivers’ local knowledge, driving skills and customer service provided an excellent foundation for them to undergo specialist training to drive ambulances.
“Like most other businesses we were looking at ways we could all get through this. Our business is over 100 years old and has helped out in wars in the past providing transport, so this was another chapter in our history.”
Rob Johnson, director of operations at Bristol Ambulance, praised the drivers’ resilience during what, he said, at times could only be described as a “war zone”.
He said: “It was important for us to find local drivers that were available immediately as our own dedicated team were simply unable to work all the hours while keeping up with the soaring strain on the emergency services.
“Going over and above any sense of duty, Bakers Dolphin honoured its company pedigree and acted in the name of public service. Their support made an incalculable contribution to the lives of those saved by key workers, and proudly served Bristol in helping the city return to normality.
“We believe they are exceptional candidates for the RHA Heroes award.”
The efforts of the Bakers Dolphin driving team received unanimous praise from the RHA’s seven-strong judging panel.
“Most people stayed home on furlough, but these guys wanted to go out and drive ambulances,” said one member.
“At that time, when there was no vaccine and very little PPE, it was a risky and selfless thing to do, and I take my hat off to those guys.”
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