I noticed a story in my local community paper about a family’s problem with a Tim Horton’s outlet on Highway 7 in Halton Hills, Ont. This is one of those gas stations / convenience / coffee dispensaries, and it seems truckers are stopping their rigs on the shoulder and running in to get coffee.
I sympathize with the family. They’ve been living without this stress for 17 years and now have to deal with idling trucks in front of their house. The owner says he has even installed a nine-foot wooden fence around the property at a cost of $20,000. Besides having witnessed drivers urinating by the side of the road, the homeowner cites a public safety problem with pulling onto the highway between the parked trucks in an 80 km zone.
The article goes on to say that “no stopping” signs have been posted and the cops have been giving out tickets. But Tim Horton’s attract truckers like flies. For one thing, they’ve chased all the mom and pop truck stops and diners out of business, as well as most of the rival donut shops. Ottawa is entirely serviced by TiHos, having bought everyone out.
I can only think of a handful of THDonut restaurants that have any parking for trucks, aside from the service centres on the 400 series highways. The Tim’s on Highway 7 at Madoc has a few truck spaces around the side, but you’d be advised to stay out of most of them if you’re pulling a trailer.
The most truck-accessible Tims are located next to supermarket parking lots, so you can a least get a coffee and get off the road (I’m talking about night time driving here). Gananoque and Port Hope Tims are good examples of this. But the last time I was coming back from Ottawa at night (I’d taken 417 from Montreal because I heard the 401 was closed at Cornwall, can be done in about 6.5 hours), I was Jonesing real bad for a coffee and the last open place was the Tims in Perth but that’s on the wrong side of the road.
So I knew there was one on Hwy 37 somewhere around Tweed. Also there was a lumber yard you could pull into next door. Occasionally you’d see an OPP chasing trucks out of there, but the odds are still good–you’re only in there for minutes and the marauding bear might have some real work to do chasing bandits or impaired drivers.
But now the lumber yard keeps its gates locked. No place to park on the other side of the road, either, and one trucker has been bold enough to worm his rig though the concrete curbs of the parking lot.
So I waited to Wooler Hill to get a coffee, did you know they truck in the water for that Enroute?…The wells are full of salt from decades of salty winters.
But the issue of parking and a reasonable coffee break are important to truck drivers. Like I said the mom and pop places are gone where you could swing around the back (Pinecrest on Highway 7 was among the last of these and I see its closed now—next to the former Pinecrest Speedway I recall from my youth).
Anyway, where do you go when you get a break and you’re doing city pick ups or deliveries? LTL drivers know the spots, where they can duck in behind an industrial building, In the LTL or Express business, it’s never good to be late, but it’s not good to be too early either. The freight isn’t ready and everyone gets flustered when you back in the dock.
But when your dispatch says “go and have a coffee and call me in 15 minutes” start immediately calculating, there’s a Chapters in that plaza, can I get in and to the Starbucks counter for a triple mocha americano grande espresso in 15 minutes, and while you’re still calculating a call comes up on the scanner, anyway, there’s 15 skids waiting for you at Acme IT Systems in Markham, and when you get there, the shipment isn’t ready and the shipper has gone home, the snow is picking up outside and you wished you had stopped and gotten that triple mochoa americano grande espresso, but you’ll settle for a quick coffee in Halton Hills at that gas station Tim’s on your way to Guelph. You’ll only be a minute.
Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.
With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude. All posts by Harry Rudolfs