Why are U.S. truck stops so much better than Canada’s?

There has been a lot of talk lately about the sad state, or access to washrooms for truck drivers in Canada.

It is a huge problem but it doesn’t end there. Nor does it start there.

I was thinking about this as I bounced across our Trans-Canada highway the other day. So, I asked some others drivers these questions:

Why is it so much worse at truck stops here than in the U.S.? How many good truck stops are there in Canada? When I ask about good, I mean where can you find decent food, pumps that work, clean facilities and friendly service?

I’ll give you a hint. The responses were quite negative. No surprise, right? Again, I ask: Why is it so drastically different from Canada to the U.S.?

I was at a place in a small Idaho city and there were six employees working within my sight. For the same sized truck stop in Canada, that might be their entire staff.

One theory I’ve heard from others is the sheer number of trucks in the U.S. makes it easier for them to afford to offer better places, while the demand in Canada is lower, making it more difficult to justify the investment.

But truck stops in both countries have one thing in common. Every one fills up and drivers have a hard time finding parking. If the places are filling up, aren’t they getting enough business? So maybe it’s not that.

Truck Stop Sign
(Photo: iStock)

I had the owner of a franchise in Canada tell me he hated truckers. His margin was so poor, it wasn’t worth it for him to provide anything but fuel. Yet, his business keeps dwindling and another major player built beside him and fills up first. If the margins are so bad, why is he still in business? Why do others succeed? There must be money selling fuel, or no one would do it.

We have Flying J in Canada and a TA. Generally speaking, they are better than their competition in Canada, but they’re still not at the consistency of the U.S. brands. One shoutout here. The TA in Woodstock, Ont., ran Meals for Truckers a lot over this past year. Kudos to them!

In Canada we are locked into separate fuel cards from each supplier. We could conceivably need six fuel cards to drive across Canada. I’ve never carried fewer than three cards for Canada. In the U.S., I only need one card, two at the most.

This is what I think is the difference. If I don’t like the brand in one city in the U.S., I can go across the street and use the same card to buy fuel at the competition. If I’m in Winnipeg with the same scenario, I can’t do that. I’m locked into my supplier who provides my boss with the best pricing for Winnipeg.

There’s a place where I fuel that has four pumps. Rarely are they all working at the same time. The lineups and time to fuel is crazy, but I’m locked in. I’d be over at the competition in a heartbeat if I didn’t require another fuel card. So would most other drivers. The four-pump place would see business drop off and realize they better improve.

Why don’t we have the same system in Canada? Are there regulations prohibiting this? If someone with deep pockets started a credit system enabling drivers to fuel at any stop in Canada, I’d be all over my boss to sign up.

Let the truck stops fight for our business. It won’t totally fix the washroom issue, but I’m sure most places would improve their services.

David Henry is a longhaul driver, Bell Let's Talk representative and creator/cohost of the Crazy Canuck Truckin podcast. His passion is mental health and presenting a better image for trucking to the public.

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  • Trucking in Canada as been come a joke its a big race on the hwy tailgating being cut off pull out in front of you pass you on a off ramp getting fuel what a joke driver gets out of truck goes to the washroom beside his truck rude on the cell phones well fueling the truck never saw this bullshit 20 yrs ago on the road when backing into a spot go flying by you in the back big hurry

    • The simple problem is cost of wages… High minimum wage means lower service ratios to maintain the same margins

    • Look at petrocan
      Fuel at truck stops you dont get points for fuel.
      Gas station have diesel and give points pr liter. .
      Big difference for the driver.
      Husky is prepay only. You always fuel less then ful.
      Go north and sometimes you have to buy fuel for cash. Or you run short.on trucks like 5 and 10 ton.
      Petro closes at night. You dont even get a coffe..
      THERE IS MOORE..

  • So he hates his customers, sounds crazy doesn’t it? Unfortunately I’ve only trucked in Canada so I’ve yet to experience the American truckers Xanadu, but perhaps that’s a good thing not to have a taste of the good life then come back North of the border. Flying J is the best out west here and I’d say Petropass is the worst. Parking in all places is very limited. Thanks for bringing attention to this issue. They we’re calling us heroes not too long ago but we’re back to being a nuisance.

    • Straight truck, produce delivery driver here. Not in your world obviously, but, yes, we were heroes. For about 3 weeks. I actually had someone say “God bless you ” as I made a delivery last summer. The store staff is rarely a problem, it’s always the customers customer I say. They want what they want but don’t want the trucks around

  • Western Canada is an absolute disgrace when it comes to rest areas for ALL. The trucks stops are few and far between and an absolute JOKE!! As a matter of fact I recently posted pictures on FB comparing rest areas in Wisconsin, Ontario & Saskatchewan. The picture of Saskatchewan was basically Two Flags and wide open spaces. NO washroom facilities of ANY kind and no fuel. I drive west in the US and enjoy the many rest stops/truck stops along the way and when I head back East I am in Canada and have to wait for each major City for a decent washroom, food & fuel. What gives?

  • Problem in canada is most have been bought by..people who have no clue to what a trucker needs. Self’s are stocked with trinkets for the traveler to buy..nice snacks key chains etc. Resturants are not geared to food for truckers..fast food is almost all you can buy…

  • I trucked on both sides of the border. With a Comdata fuel card you can get fuel pretty much everywhere. Flyin’ J, Petropass just to name 2. I stayed a Lives and Flyin’ J’s south of the border. Great service. Lots of food including healthy options to chose from. Fuel in general is cheaper as well even with our x-change rate. I also went to Yellowknife on a trip. There is pretty much no decent Infrastructure for Truckers, but a lot of stuff gets trucked up there

  • I recently did a trip from Prince Rupert to Delta .then across to Kenora Ontario . This was my first trip past Alberta I was not impressed with the condition of the highway surface in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. As well as the rest stops were also no existent in those two provinces. This is the trans Canada highway I expected better . There was very little parking in the towns to get near a place to eat . I did end up getting into the Flying J in Winnipeg and was lucky to find a parking place .. this highway has plenty of room beside it to build rest areas seems trucks are forgotten even though most of the traffic on the highway was trucks.

    • Trucks should be on the road, running, not parked. That’s what they consider and so you are wrong…You don’t have their money so you should not speak. You only have the right to work until you pass away.. Why so much freedom with the ELD in Canada??? Not for the drivers, for sure. If I win the lottery I will buy 100 trucks and hire “slaves” to make a few easy millions for me.
      Seriously why are you driving a truck in Canada???
      It’s utterly offensive towards a human being.
      I feel sorry for you guys. I’m packing up after 2.5 years doing this ( 18 years in Europe).

  • Moved to Canada less than 3 years ago, from Europe. As a truck driver Canada US. Now I see why no Canadian wants to drive the trucks here. Me neither!!! That’s it. STOP. No more. What a joke!
    Money?
    They all make money: fuel providers, trucking companies. They just consider the truckers are idiots. So: terrible services and little money in pay.
    In Canada anyone can exploit “stupid “people.
    That’s so obvious.
    If you are stupid, you can drive a truck and keep your mouth shut, as you have no rights.
    Disgusting

    • If don’t like Canada and don’t wanna drive here I suggest you to go back your own European country
      What are you doing here?
      No one forcing you

  • Canadian truck stops suck. They treat us as liability, charging us, or in Petro Canada scenario, to actually buy towels just to have a shower. I just spent $600 in fuel, give me a towel for my shower..
    Canadas truck stops have always been pathetic!
    Smart as a bag of hammers!!

  • Maybe I’m askig too much? But is it such a big Problem to get rid off the Potholes, pave the Parking Lot and keep the Washroooms in a decent state of healthy Condition? And maybe a Restaurant with good Food? I really don’t need something like the Iowa 80, but some Comfort would be nice. Right now you’re running into the Danger of drowning in the Mudpuddles and Water filled Potholes just by trying to walk into the Gasstation across the Parkinglot after the Rain. Maybe Petropass and all the Others could take a Look at the Flying J’s how to do it?

  • You are 100% right.. but still it’s different country. And US CUSTOMS acting Canadians worst then animals. So my answer is even canadian truck stops are very bad still I am canadian and would love to stay in Canada instead of seeing those us customs.

  • I’m still wondering why all the 5th Wheel truck stops closed here in Ontario??
    I remember the one at Highway 25 and Highway 401 in Milton always being busy! And the one in Bowmanville seem to be doing good business as well.

  • Many truck driver causes lots of problems in the truck stops if they use the bathroom do not flash it! Mess up the wall with marker!
    Some of them eating pizza in the bathroom stall while seating in it! Some of them don’t even bother to wash hands after the bathroom and throw his leftover food into the sink. Do you wonder why most truck stop don’t appreciate truck driver?

  • Because Canada is a backward nation. It’s not only truck stops, everything is better in USA. Better housing, better technology, better Healthcare, better MD’s, better infrastructure, better tolls, better highways, better ISPs, better drivers, better people, etc. Lazy Canadians built 1 freaking Highway in whole Canada. Canadians should continue living in their own bubble and keep on praising themselves and keep on barking like dogs. There’s no point comparing a dog to Lion. I’ve met more nice Americans than Canadians.

    • Well said! The Canadians are waiting for government hearings to discover the problem. Then form a commission to fix the situation

  • Travel the Interstate highways and you will find a rest area every 45 miles. The most you travel is 1 hour without a rest area. The rest areas all have restroom and some even have showers. There is10 times the truck traffic in the USA so better truck stop is essential.

  • The only decent truck stops that I have seen in Canada were Irving truck stops in the maritimes places were clean and the food was good.

    • You are dead on with that. Irving owns several trucking companies of their own for one thing, also the founder K. C Irving, wanted rest stops/restaurants that were completely family/truck friendly and his goal was that no one would ever be far from a decent place to fuel up and/or eat. Unfortunately Mr Irving never made it to Western Canada. Another note. Generally speaking, Tim Hortons are easier to access in Atlantic Canada for trucks as well.

      • Yes you are right! I ran from BC to Newfoundland and the Maritime provinces have the best truck stops. The Irving Big Stops are full service truck stops with fuel, fresh hot food and clean hot showers. They need truck stops like Irving out west Husky is okay and the new Flying J travel center is good but the Irving Big Stop is the best in Canada.

    • 100%. That’s exactly what I thought when I read the title. There are places in the maritime where it can be hard to find a place to eat it find a shower, but you can’t beat the quality of the ones we have. I was in NJ weekly when the Carney’s Pt Flying J opened. Within 3 years it went from 1st class to total dump.

      Side note: Our trucks don’t have any trouble running Canada and US coast to coast with just 2 fuel cards.

  • I absoluyely agreed with you that we have a problem with Truck stops in Canada, and it needs to be fixed. US Trucks stops are way better than Canada’s

  • It’s all about the #’s.

    Margins in fuel are higher in USA

    No margins in Canada

    Petro Canada lost its shirt in retailing gas for over 20 years

    Only one making money in retailing fuel is the government on all levels

    Locally with absurd property taxes
    Provincially & Federally with passive income per litres of fuel pumped then the new carbon tax; these hidden taxes kill investment no one in their right mind would open a gas bar; the return on investment is none existent and the capital needed to build is restrictive. Next to the government for retail taxes and operational taxes of payroll, HST, workers comp alone squeeze any operational margins; then comes the banks & credit card companies in fees and interest rates; leaving nothing the cover costs of assets being replaced after any corporate taxes to be paid to investors.

    Its amazing any locations for truckers stay open wait until electric cars get a foothold

    The only savior I see is selling Hydrogen as there’s less taxation on it leaving room for margins

    But that is going to take ROI to attract investors

  • I have lived in both countries. The USA by nature is much more focused on service. It was one of the reasons I moved to the US years ago. Thanks again for an insightful commentary.

  • Some states government weight stations ( for example Kentucky) welcoming truckers with the Truckers Haven rest area. Where in Canada at those weight stations we find opposite. (Truckers hel) specially in Ontario.

    • I’m not a trucker. I found this story interesting though. I’m from Nova Scotia. I’m curious if it is different here because I go to Irving Big Stops because they have amazing food. I see tons of parking for big rigs. Large separate fill stations. Showers and rest areas exclusive for truck drivers. It looks nice to me, but as I said, I’m not a driver. Seems funny though that with so much less population we would have better services.

  • Trudeau govt. is so far behind,it makes u sick.Look at the states and even in Europe,lots of rest stops and restaurants. These people need to wake up or get out.

  • Canadian truck stops don’t appreciate RV customers. Many stops have very small gas pump islands. Another good topic is the pathetic rest areas in many parts of Canada especially BC.

  • I agree and its worse for women truckers fuel stops are to far for my bladder anyway. And the locked in fuel is correct but our company planned for that so it kinda worked out. I found the flying j the best in Canada for cleanliness. When you travel north you have to time your bathroom stops and fuel stops . The en route on the 401 are ok but no showers and they won’t let you Park on the off ramps but man they will nab your ass if your logs aren’t correct something needs to be done because sleeping eating and going to the bathroom is a necessity for a trucker

  • In the USA, service is good because economy is open. In Canada too many hurdles, high taxes and bulshit cold, wrecking havoc on people and infrastructure. I think the six months of subzero temperatures is the single biggest reason I moved to the USA. I can just wear a tee and walk out the door. The requirements to live in this polar climate
    a house, a car, food and energy are all expensive compared to US.

  • We spend no money on decent truck stops in Canada, Truck drivers are not appreciated in any shape or form in our wonderful country. And car drivers have no patience for a slow truck in front of them because Canadians are in too much of a hurry to get nowhere.

  • Ìn the us trucks fuel at truck stops in Canada we fuel at card locks.so the truck stop loses out on that revenue they pay big bucks to purchase land for trucks to park for free there only profit side is meals and that is not great so why do that.the big money is in fuel sales not spending millions on land for trucks to park for free and buy a cup of coffee.i feel qualified to give my opinion as I did long haul ( produce) for thirty years all over Canada and us. You get more for your money in the us.you don’t have to hang your towel to dry in the bunk after you shower in a dirty cardlock granted some were fairly clean. It all boils down to owning a truck stop in Canada is a money lover.

  • I have driven for 32 yrs and both sides of the border. Canada’s truck stops are a disgrace to our culture. Most fuel stops in Canada are card locks with filthy showers and some with porta potties. You have to buy your food from a gas station so convenient i just love left over sandwiches. Drivers if your smart stay on USof A side you will be further ahead. I drove 3 million miles and i have seen it all. Thanks for your time and have a great day.

  • All true. Another big difference is rest stops. Quality and quantity. Outhouse on Alaska Hwy are cleaner than ones on Hwy 16 and more of them, in Yukon, bc not so many

  • We don’t even have anything that compares to the worst Interstate.
    South Ontario has nothing to complain about compare to the rest of the country. Parking could be relieved if we could park in industrial areas.

  • Canadian trucker drivers have always had it tough not enough Truck stops The reason is no one cares about the guys and girls that leave their families and drive all over getting the food and goods to the store for everyone to have And for this service you have to quite early to get a parking spot and hope you and your truck are safe This will never change in Canada .

  • I travel across the states and Canada in my car and yes, America has fantastic amenities everywhere. Canada is horrible for decent amenities, horrible. I have told many friends is like 1849 at some stop and they are gross. Canada needs to fix this. In the states every 50 miles or so there are fantastic rest stops that are as clean as a hotel and have bathrooms, with 2 open all the time and they are spotless. 2 are always being cleaned. Get with the program Canada and offer travelers decent stops on their journeys.

  • If you want a fuel card that is for fuelling at approximately 90% of all fuel stations is EFS,
    Electronic Fuel Systems. Our Company uses them and I have noticed a lot of fuel stations allow it (EVEN THOUGH OUR COMPANY ONLY USES ONE FUEL COMPANY)
    Flying J, and most Flying Js are cleaner then most other Travel Centers. They have been offering food as take out even through the so called lock downs.

  • I drive both and refuse to go over the top on 17 in Ontario just for the fact that there is only ONE real stop at Sault St Marie. Trans-Canada highway in general is a joke. All the small places are shut down, barricaded or blocked off. In Canada There are mostly card locks where you have to provide your own towels and hopefully the guy prior actually cleaned up after themselves. Courtesy among Canadian drivers whether is driving or being stationary is awful. Simple things like driving habits or just pulling ahead after fuelling (which is just as bad at most LOVES) that can make or break a daily experience.
    The difference plainly is that the US appreciates the industry and accommodating no more than every 30-45 miles not 3-5 hours. Most stops in Canada are run by rude people that, as your article says, “hates truckers” but this is only because in Canada you have to carry your meals, so why then would you stop to buy anything. Also it’s the ‘breed’ of Canadian drivers that have severely smudged the trucking industry in Canada.
    My rule is if I use the washroom (especially at a mom & pop) I purchase from the store. It’s a gratitude thing.
    Now in the US, the difference is yes volume of business, competition and sheer population but everyone takes care of each other as well. All the major players have a reward system, and offer better services (wifi even at rest areas). There is a sort of self policing among us. In Canada, if you tried to do the same you are called down or called a racist if they understand you to start with.
    So what are our choices in Canada?? Flying J is now becoming a major player but still has limited services and benefits compared to the US. Husky, Petro Can in the east (not sure of any others) in the west add UFA and COOP. All are self serve showers “at your own risk” during these trying times.
    The fuelling thing well is a government regulated thing whereas we can only fuel one side at a time rather than fuel on both sides simultaneously which drastically increases waiting times along with pumps out of order.
    There are so much more reasons but I can’t think of anymore.

  • great job David Henry ,/over the road . I agree with you I’ve trucking for 40 plus years and what you’ve said hasn’t changed.

  • Once upon a time you could get good service and a good meal at a reasonable price but the truck stops have priced themselves out of business. Try to sit down for a meal and get out of the door without dropping a twenty. Glad I retired.

  • When you enter Ontario from Manitoba…the big sign says “Take a Break”….my thought is always the same..Where?
    Most of Ontario has No Rest Areas & very few Truck Stops worth pulling the plunger for. Even the 401 corridor is pretty sad. I believe the Government does not want Truck Stops. What happened to all the Fifth Wheels.? They were all full every night. Personally, leaving the GTA and Canada is the best part of my trucking career every trip. I can’t wait to enter America, land of the Interstate Rest Areas & endless Truck Stop choices. Canada as a whole is just plain lousy insofar as Truck Stops & Rest Areas. Canada obviously doesn’t want them.!

  • Nothing will ever change in Canada until all trucks come to a stop. If you want things to improve. Be the change and park your rigs for a week. Everyone must all fo this at the same time

  • It’s just a shame! So called TransCanada Hwy #1 . 2 lines road ,no parking, few small TS . If it snow storm can’t find any safe place. Nothing changes in 20 years.

  • I agree totally with that. I find in Canada, no matter who is working, you have a feeling that you are bothering them . Like they have to tolerate you. But down south, its their job. They are proud to be working and you can tell by how polite they are.
    In Canada it feels like everyone working at a truckstop is just marking time until a better opportunity comes along.

  • In Canada (Tilbury ON) EB, OPP Started giving tickets to Truck dtiver who by mistake park for few mins to grab quick coffee from Onroute.

    • They were giving tickets to the truck drivers that were parking where they were not suppose to park , signs posted every where no parking . They were to lazy to walk the extra distance from the posted truck parking .

  • Hi David,

    I really enjoyed reading your article. Though I am not a trucker myself but others in my family are, I have heard many stories both good and bad. I am currently working on creating a truck stop that will accommodate the many needs that are not being met in this industry. I look forward to hearing more of your input !

  • The Canadian truck stop dilemma has existed for ever and my belief is the number one reason being is franchise territories.
    Irving owns the East while Flying J & Husky battle it out Ontario to BC.
    No single player has enough skin in the game to be committed to offering a superior service.
    Another huge factor in the whole thing is building a truck stop anywhere in Canada is a massive uphill
    battle.Between zoning, environmental issues and the sheer bureaucracy of multi levels of government hurdles to clear make it a 10 times the cost building in Canada as opposed to the US .
    Pilot Flying J at 1 one time had an interest in building dozens and dozens of travel plazas and strategic and much needed locations beyond their current numbers but were met with so much opposition and finally gave up after millions of dollars spent over years.

  • I agree with most of the things you’ve described. Some of the Flying J’s up here are way better then any Petropass with amenities (showers etc.). If a Truckstop owner hates Trucker that much sell and get out of Business. Would be interesting to see how much money Truckers spend @ Truckstops every year. As further north you drive as worse it gets. Like Yellowknife. Not very Trucker friendly.

  • Yes, the truck stops are way better in the United States. For one thing the washrooms are generally much cleaner and you don’t see as much graffiti on the bathroom stalls. Depending on where the truck stops are located, if you Don’t like what they have to offer you can usually walk a short distance to find something you like.

    They have rest areas with heat and real washrooms. Not dirty disgusting outhouses.

    The only decent places that come close in Alberta are the Flying J in Medicine Hat, Roadking Calgary and the Petro Pass #42 just south of Red Deer on hwy 2.