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Rest areas? What rest areas?

Imagine that when you show up at work today, all of the washroom facilities have been closed. You no longer have immediate access to toilets or running water. A sign on the now locked doors of the res...

Imagine that when you show up at work today, all of the washroom facilities have been closed. You no longer have immediate access to toilets or running water. A sign on the now locked doors of the rest-rooms advises you to make use of the facilities at the local restaurants and coffee shops that surround your workplace.

Perhaps you work a night shift and many of these local businesses are closed at that time, or perhaps only the drive-thru portion is open and other amenities are closed to the public.

Your personal comfort has now become a high priority in how you plan your time and how you conduct your daily affairs. Does this sound unreasonable to you? For the thousands of us that navigate the 2,000-plus kilometres between southern Ontario and the Manitoba border on a daily basis, this is not fiction. It is our reality.

How is it that governments can pass legislation governing our work activity and rest periods -the hours-of-service legislation -yet absolve themselves of any responsibility to provide safe havens for us to obtain the rest we need and the bathroom facilities we require?

Rest areas for commercial drivers are a necessary part of the transportation infrastructure that for the most part has been ignored in the province of Ontario. Even the terminology has changed for the worse. Along the 400-series highways there will now only be “service areas,” not rest areas. These areas have been licensed to corporations by the province and are now profit centres for them.

Is there any guarantee commercial drivers will be able to use these areas as a safe haven for rest purposes? Do we have to shop there to stay there? Will they even be truck-friendly? Will parking be limited in these areas or accessible at any time? Important questions that to the best of my knowledge do not have a definitive answer.

You only need to look south of the border to see how rest areas have been integrated into the highway infrastructure.

For the most part they are large, clean and only a few travel hours apart along interstate highways and the US highways that link the country together. Most importantly, they are available to commercial drivers and the general public 24/7. Ontario continues to live in the stone age.

It is interesting to note that during the G8 and G20 summits the province of Ontario kicked in a huge sum of money to build a “fake lake” in the media centre.

The justification given for this was that it would promote tourism for Muskoka and Ontario throughout the world. Wonderful.

When all of those tourists arrive and travel up and down the Trans-Canada Highway through the province of Ontario they will be able to enjoy the bottles of urine and bags of feces that litter the “viewpoints” and “pullouts” along the road.

I am not condoning the disposal of human waste in this way. The fact is that using these areas along the highway for the purpose of rest leads to people having to do what they have to do when they wake up in the morning.

When you limit a person’s options and there is no alternative, you can pass as many laws as you like to prevent it but it will still happen. The human body is not a machine that can be turned on and off at any time of our choosing.

It seems our priorities are more than just a little screwed up these days. Billions upon billions of dollars have been paid out in recent years in the form of corporate welfare. At the same time services to citizens have been cut back.

Many of us spend a good part of our spare time helping to raise money for, and contributing money to, services that fund our local hospitals, food banks, shelters, and various outreach services to our fellow citizens.

The well-being of our leading corporations now takes priority over the well-being of our country’s citizens in our legislative assemblies. As citizens, we don’t even have a pot left to pee in, at least out here on the road.

The answer is simple: Ontario needs to build and fund a series of clean, modern rest areas.

Why infrastructure money from “Canada’s Action Plan” was not invested in this project, I will never know. For thousands of us who drive the highways of Ontario, we all need to recognize that this is first and foremost our workplace.

Asking for some basic amenities that provide us with safety and comfort is not too much to ask for. Ontario has health and safety legislation for the workplace. Drivers need to start asking “what about us?”

-Al Goodhall has been a professional long-haul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his ‘Over the Road’ blog at can also follow him on Twitter at Twitter. com/AlGoodhall.

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1 Comment » for Rest areas? What rest areas?
  1. Jane Sminiski & Larry Motuz says:

    Hi Al, Was there been any progress or even response re the issue of public rest facilities? Last fall we travelled the Trans-Canada Hwy. to Victoria (you may have heard about the Tercel and Coleman camper!) and got really annoyed at all the lovely “rest areas” and toilets that were locked for the season. It was a long inhospitable drive between the Manitoba border and Ottawa!
    Jane and Larry, Ottawa

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