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Where Will Truckers Sleep?

OTTAWA, Ont. - Difficulties finding a safe and legal haven to sleep are only going to get worse for truck drivers, according to the executive director of the Owner- Operator's Business Association of Canada (OBAC), Joanne Ritchie.


NAP TIME: Drivers need more places to pull over throughout the country's roadway infrastructure.
NAP TIME: Drivers need more places to pull over throughout the country's roadway infrastructure.

OTTAWA, Ont. – Difficulties finding a safe and legal haven to sleep are only going to get worse for truck drivers, according to the executive director of the Owner- Operator’s Business Association of Canada (OBAC), Joanne Ritchie.

With new hours of service regulations in the U.S. (assuming they survive the current court challenge) and new rules expected in Canada next year, rest areas along highways and corridors will become even harder to find than they already are.

OBAC launched a campaign this summer inviting truck drivers to add their voices to OBAC’s efforts to bring the shortage of rest areas to the attention of policy makers and regulators.

“To put it simply, there are just not enough rest areas along the highways,” said Bob Ross, an owner/operator based in Mississauga, Ont.

“Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find a place to have a nap. Now if they are going to tell us how many hours we can drive, I think they should also give us a place to sleep.”

Although there are rest areas every 40 to 50 miles south of the border, they usually only house about 20 vehicles, and are full by 8 p.m., said Ross, adding even that is better than Canada, however, which doesn’t have nearly the number of rest areas that the U.S. does.

To begin with, OBAC is trying to determine if any of the millions of dollars that have been spent over the years in research, studies and reports – both on hours of service and highway infrastructure planning – have specifically addressed the question of adequate and safe rest areas, said Ritchie.

“I have approached Transport Canada and CCMTA and their responses have been that they don’t think there has been anything done officially but they are looking,” said Ritchie.

“I can’t seem to unearth one study that focuses on rest areas.”

There has been no one source that Graham Cooper, senior vice-president for the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), has stumbled across throughout his time with the CTA – even after researching the topic himself.

“There is no single source of information about where Canadian rest areas or truck stops are and what services they offer and the hours of operation and that type of data, but it would be very helpful and it would probably be a good place to start,” said Cooper. “From that point, it would be relatively simple to extrapolate what the overall need really is.”

It would also be helpful for the CTA to find out whether this is a top priority for drivers, said Cooper.

“These are the people on the front lines and if they are telling us that there is a real problem and that there are safety issues on our highways, then there certainly is a synergy between what they are telling us and the new hours of service coming into play. It would be better ammunition for us to take to governments,” he said.

The rest area issue is not currently seen by governments to be a major public policy issue. Cooper said the provincial associations across the country have been unanimously pushing for additional rest areas for a while now but have also, just as unanimously, not received a warm welcome from governments.

According to Peter Coyles, a spokesman for Transport Canada, nothing has been pulled together in terms of statistics or research on the matter. But he suggests that it is more of a provincial government concern.

This is part of the problem, said Ritchie. Solutions will likely not only be costly and complex, but multi-jurisdictional.

“The government cannot look at this issue in isolation, you have to take it as a package,” said Ralph Boyd, president of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association.

“If you are bringing in rules to govern an industry, then what are you going to do to support those rules on behalf of the industry?”

The four provincial governments in the Atlantic region have left the development of rest areas to commercial ventures by big name oil companies, said Boyd.

“Although I appreciate the work the oil companies have done in creating this network of rest stops, as far as I’m concerned, as long as the government is going to regulate working schedules, they have to contribute in some fashion to the development of rest areas to go along with that regulation,” he said.

The problem of finding suitable rest areas shouldn’t be completely left up to commercial developers because they are looking for a return on investment, said Boyd, adding he fears that eventually Canadian truck stops will also enforce time limits on using the facilities.

Because of the lack of dedicated areas for drivers to pull off the highways, rampways and interchanges are becoming rest places by default, Boyd pointed out.

But if truckers pull off into snowplow turnovers, even in the summer months, they will get ticketed.

If they pull into the government’s weigh scales they will not only get ticketed, but perhaps targeted for an inspection, said Ritchie, so the number of safe havens along the roads are terribly limited.

“I’m not talking about a widening of the road so trucks can barely pull off the highway,” said Boyd, as he discusses the advancements made in the province of Quebec and the state of Maine on this issue. “I’m talking about a spacious area with washroom facilities, a pay telephone for emergencies, a lighted area to park and a garbage receptacle.”

John Comber, a driver for Robertson Fasteners of Milton, Ont. said it shouldn’t be up to the commercial truck stops to provide areas for drivers to park.

“I personally don’t think you can make enough rest areas for when we get tired,” joked Comber. “But we don’t need every rest stop to have restaurants and gas bars and the whole bit, as long as it is a safe area, far enough off the roadway, then that is all we need.”

The situation could lead to litigation, said Boyd.

“If there is no rest stop near by and a driver desperately needs his sleep and needs to log off for his hours and if it is not safe to park at the apron of the roadways, then what happens if that driver gets into an accident?” Boyd asked. “The legal community will certainly start pointing fingers at the people responsible.”

OBAC has already received a number of responses from drivers interested in its campaign.

“It’s interesting because a lot of drivers out there are writing letters to me, sending me pictures, telling me horror stories about their experiences when they absolutely haven’t been able to find a spot to pull off and sleep or somewhere to use the washroom. It has certainly touched a nerve out there on the road,” said Ritchie.

It is obviously an immediate concern for drivers, but it should be a concern for all stakeholders, she added.

“By joining forces, we can raise this issue once and keep at it until we find someone who will look at it but we will need all the players involved to get this initiative rolling.”

Boyd agreed. “We need a lot of people talking about this. It’s not just one silver bullet that will do the trick,” he said.”If governments don’t contribute to this network, whether it be in partnership with the public or private sector or by creating the network themselves, they will have a real issue on their hands as we move into a new realm of regulations.”

For more info about OBAC’s campaign, call Joanne Ritchie at the OBAC headquarters at 1-888-794-9990.


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