Open the washrooms to truck drivers everywhere

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In a just world, there would be no need to legislate common decency. Simple acts of humanity would be a common reflex. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

This is apparently too much to ask. Look no further than businesses that deny washroom access to truck drivers, even as those same drivers deliver loads that ensure the businesses can operate in the first place.

Picture of sign saying "we are sorry but we have no truck driver's washroom!"
(File photo: Satinder Goindi)

The problem is not unique to these locked-down times of Covid-19. Washroom access, or the lack thereof, has long been a challenge to those in the trucking industry, just like the lack of available parking. The repurposed jugs that litter truck stops and road shoulders offer proof.

But the practice of actively locking out truck drivers has intensified under the guise of health, safety and security. All too many businesses are saying truck drivers can’t be welcomed into a workplace because … well, Covid.

Legislators in two North American jurisdictions are looking to right such wrongs, and they should serve as a model for other provinces and states.

Ontario’s governing Progressive Conservatives were the first, unveiling plans for a rule that would require businesses to provide the washroom access. Mike Sells, a Democrat in the Washington State Legislature, is now leading a similar charge in his jurisdiction.

“No matter what level of trucking you’re in in Washington State, whether you’re a UPS driver, whether you’re a general freight driver like me, LTL driver, port driver, flat-bedder, over the road, this is a problem at every level,” said 20-year driver Ryan Johnson, who raised the issue with his Washington representative.

In a public hearing before the legislature’s transportation committee on Jan. 17, he counted the limited number of washrooms available in regional port facilities alone. A porta potty here. Maybe a couple of stalls there.

“It’s a shame that we need to have this law passed. This is a nationwide problem especially in the ports,” he said. “This should cost taxpayers nothing. We’re asking to use existing bathrooms for 90% of it.”

The Washington proposal is already seeing support from several trucking organizations.

“The general public will never truly understand what it is like to not be able to use the restroom when nature calls out on the road, but this is a daily challenge for truck drivers across the country. When you are driving a tractor-trailer that is 70+ feet long, it can be especially difficult to find a place to park and use the restroom, and this includes locations that truck drivers deliver to and pick up from,” said a joint letter from the Washington Trucking Associations, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), and American Trucking Associations.

“The issues facing truck drivers during the pandemic were incredibly tough to hear about, and many of them came down to a lack of common decency,” Ontario Transport Minister Caroline Mulroney said in a recent speech to the Ontario Trucking Association.

Make no mistake about it. Such rules are more than empty platitudes, and they carry the threat of hefty fines. As they should.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour issues about 100,000 orders under its Occupational Health and Safety Act every year, Robert England of Miller Thomson LLP said, responding to my questions of whether it’s even possible to legislate such access.

“While you, and others, would be forgiven for thinking that such a prosecution is reserved for cases of serious contraventions that may have resulted in a critical injury or fatality, that is not frankly the case.”

That’s welcome news. It’s time to open the doors, and to show some common decency in every setting.

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John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking,, TruckTech, Transport Routier, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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  • This is still happening a lot at receiving. Drivers are being treated very badly I do not see any protection for truck drivers especially those that are disabled.

  • Shame on Doug ford, this has only been going on for three years and he has done Nothing to do Anything to help truckers???? That is why I retired.. expected to be on the road 12-14 hrs with no restrooms. It’s shameful and disgusting. I’ll bet that Caroline Mulroney has a toilet in her office just steps from her desk….. I’m betting 50k?

  • I can’t believe this is a thing. As if you would turn someone away from using your facilities. Anyone who does is totally f—-d.
    I own autoparts store and would never do this. We see many drivers and wouldn’t give it a second thought.
    You can thank our govts for this b.s.
    Putting people against one another praying on the week minded to fuel this scamdemic…

  • I am a professional driver . And I am ashamed to call my self a Canadian . We get treated like we are the out cast. Yes was noticing there is nothing for truck drivers any were . You get kicked out of any were you wanna go . Last years heroes this years zeros. Come on chanada .

  • This is a job for the federal government’s, time they did something useful. Already 2 years overdue, but don’t hold your breath, maybe by 2032.

  • I sympathize with these drivers….Ontario/Canada has ta kk en up this issue seriously and kudos to them….it will never happen in the united states in most states….too much hate… politicians who don’t care! There is one thing I do want to say ..the smell of some trucker shits can make a person gag…I’ve been there …eyes tear up , gagging, .. all trucker bathroom should have fans in the ceilings… Lol

  • They treat even worse than animal with drivers
    If they having a bad day for any other reason they gonna make driver’s day worse they don’t let u use washroom delay paperwork sometimes i standing on check in window they keep playing with their phones don’t respect ur time
    Parking is biggest issue these days sometimes u have to go 4-5 places to get parking if u park on ramp police gives ticket it’s getting worse after 9 years on road thinking to quit

  • Portable johns have been “offered” since March 2020 covid19 began.

    Burger King and McDonald’s closed doors and refused walk up service to drivers.

    And, people wonder why drivers are leaving industry.

  • The Trucking Industry is the focus of too much legislation of which I call ™ Job security for legislators™ if they don’t change anything… they are not needed.

  • One of, if not the, biggest offenders … non other than Tim Horton’s.
    And just who do you think one of their biggest demographics is? You guessed it, truck drivers.
    The icing on the cake, they would not let truck drivers walk through their drive thru lanes.

  • As a long-time long-haul trucker, I totally agree that washrooms should be available for all truckers. That being said, truckers MUST respect the property they are using! I’ve seen graffiti, broken doors, empty water bottles on the floor, and other ignorant, uncalled-for damage! If you’re going to act like an animal, don’t be surprised if you are treated like one!