Truckers facing challenging conditions on the road

TORONTO, Ont. – Truckers are being widely hailed as heroes in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, for keeping store shelves stocked and goods moving, but lack of access to food and facilities is making their jobs even more challenging.

Many drivers report being denied access to restrooms at restaurants as they close sit-in dining areas, as well as shipper and receiver facilities.

“Truck stops are not open. Their washrooms are locked,” Kavita Kohli, safety manager at Polar Express told Today’s Trucking. “Receiver companies don’t even let the drivers in their building.”

Guy Broderick, corporate communications manager with Apps Express, said such policies are putting drivers’ health at risk.

“Why is the industry that is driving the supply chain consistently being refused to use washrooms to wash their hands at customer sites?” he asked. “I have been told by a large group of our own drivers, as well as other drivers across Ontario through social media that they are told they cannot use a washroom to wash their hands. We have all heard Health Canada and the World Health Organization’s comments. The best way to fight this virus is to wash your hands. We have been given letters by customers who have adopted the rule of not letting drivers into their building for the fear of spreading this disease, which I can understand, but why not provide drivers proper facilities to wash their hands without access to the building?”

“To try to find a washroom nowadays? Just not happening.”

Driver Susan Kupschus

“To try to find a washroom nowadays? Just not happening,” driver Susan Kupschus told Today’s Trucking. “I have had only one delivery spot that actually put out a portable washroom for truck drivers. Most other pickups or deliveries won’t even allow us into the building anymore.”

Susan Kupschus

Kupschus is a regional driver in Southern Ontario. She’s encouraged by commitments from the province to keep OnRoute washrooms open on 400-series highways, but says “in town, I cannot find a washroom.”

It’s an issue the U.S.-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has taken to U.S. President Donald Trump. In a letter to Trump, OOIDA said restricting truckers from using restrooms is “unconscionable, and those enforcing the policy lack public decency. The federal government must work with the logistics community to ensure truckers have access to restrooms.”

Drivers shunned

Some drivers are also being shunned when handling documents.

“Drivers bring in the paperwork from other customers and we are scared to touch it with bare hands,” said Kohli. “We don’t know what and who is carrying that virus.”

But Scott Tilley, president of Tandet Group, said these fears are overblown, and technology can be used to minimize driver interactions with shippers and receivers. Tandet suggests drivers prepare and carry their own food to minimize interactions with others, and embrace “no-sign” document transfer technologies.

“Many drivers load at the shipper without getting out of their truck, with the Bill of Lading transferred through the window at a distance,” Tilley noted. “Drivers pull up to the dock at the receiver and deliver without getting out of the truck, using a POD process that is ‘no-sign.’ In this scenario, a regional haul truck driver crossing the border would interact with two people that day – the border control officers at the booths entering the U.S. and Canada, all schooled in minimum interaction and low-flow paperwork, with gloves.”

Domestic drivers, Tilley noted, can go all day without physical interaction with others when using such protocols.

“Drivers have the tools and processes to be safe,” he noted. “They know the safe practices and protocols and they are minimally exposed. Longhaul drivers have one of the safest front-line (non-work-at-home) work environments of all the businesses that have been deemed essential in North America.”

Access to food

Getting food while on the road is also proving to be difficult for some longhaul drivers. In many parts of North America, dine-in options have been eliminated, and walk-up traffic is typically not served at drive-thru windows due to safety concerns.

Pictures of transport drivers attempting to drive their rigs through drive-thrus have popped up on social media. Some restaurants, such as McDonald’s, are accommodating truck drivers through special measures, which earned the fast food chain praise from U.S. VP Mike Pence. At some McDonald’s locations, truckers can place orders using the app and have it delivered curbside. But healthy food options are becoming more difficult to find on the road.

“Food has changed,” said Jamie Hagen, owner of Hell Bent Xpress out of Aberdeen, S.D., who frequently delivers into Canada. “Most fast food facilities are open through drive-thru. I’m missing having real food at a dinner.”

In a letter to the National Restaurant Association, OOIDA wrote: “While we realize the restaurant industry is dealing with significant issues of its own, to the extent you can work with your members to accommodate the needs of our nation’s truck drivers, we would be extremely grateful. Using a drive-thru in a commercial motor vehicle is impossible, most restaurants have closed their inside operations, and individuals are generally prohibited from walking through a drive-thru line. As a result, truck drivers are struggling to find food.”

Rate gouging?

To exacerbate the situation, an owner-operator in one of the hardest hit segments of the trucking industry says brokers are gouging rates. A car hauler, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution from brokers, told Today’s Trucking that since auto plants have closed, shippers have been offering load for as little as 55 cents per mile for full, nine-car loads. That compares to roughly $3 to $4 per mile before the Covid-19 pandemic. The driver noted it takes several hours to load and unload these shipments.

The trucker sent us screen caps of postings on the Central Dispatch load board, used by most car haulers to find loads.

“What’s going on in the industry right now is, these brokers are starting to push the envelope,” he said, adding his equipment is specialized and can’t be converted to haul other commodities. Central Dispatch didn’t respond to an inquiry about rate trends.

TransCore Link Logistics’ Loadlink marketing manager Karen Campbell-Jones told Today’s Trucking there have been no indications of price gouging on its load board.

“When we looked at our truck-to-load ratio product for the last couple of weeks (which tracks loads and capacity on Loadlink), there were no significant shifts in the demand/capacity trend. As well, our truckload spot rate tool (which holds aggregated rates paid to carriers by shippers and brokers), also did not show any significant shifts in average spot rates in the lanes that our carrier members run,” explained Campbell-Jones.

“The lack of dramatic changes in both of these indices/tools would imply that there is stability for the wide range of commodities that carriers haul and lanes that they run, however this is based on overall volumes.”

This one in a series of reports on the experiences of truck drivers and other members of the trucking industry amid the fight against Covid-19

James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

Have your say

We won't publish or share your data

*

  • I think it’s time for Truck Drivers to stay home until conditions improve for us. I believe it will only take one day to realize that our service is totally dependent to everyone’s survival. It’s unbelievable (then again not) that we are not getting respect when the population needs us the most.

    • I am deeply sorry to see that people are still looking at drivers local and long haul like they are dangerous to every one what is with the general panic ? if we all are restrained to stay home what about these drivers?? if they stay home we all gone go rub supermarket till there is nothing left than what after that?? get the Army to deliver to supermarket it is so ridiculously not funny.
      I sure hope some of our suppose elite will wake up and help wit this situation.

    • Absolutly Robert ! We are just currently treated like a shit (as usual the rest of time) especially right now.
      Just a day without any trucks on the road should be enought to show how it’s important to respect people who carrying food …

  • It’s a time for all the drivers and owner operators to stop moving and let the people decide that whether they want respect drivers and also ministries of transportation and labor understand the meaning of word “ truck driver” . So many shippers and receivers don’t allow trucker to use the washrooms as they are from other world, but they need the good being moved by trucks . So I urge every truck driver to stop moving until govt declare that every shipper and receiver is supposed to provide restrooms to truckers . One thing more if anyone is denying entry to the washrooms truck drivers are requested to bring the load back and give a call to ministry of labour . Thanks

  • People need to realize how essential the the services that us truck drivers provide. When the trucks stop rolling then the world stops. Plain and simple. And to all those businesses that are not letting truckers in to use their facilities or to get a bite.. SHAME ON YOU… you wouldnt have a business if it wasnt for us.
    To all my brothers and sisters on the road, stay strong and stay safe. Were all inthis together.

  • The closed bathroom problem is everywhere! Same thing is happening in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada. Truck drivers must be allowed to practice the basics of hygiene.

  • We are traveling to California and back to Vancouver twice a week now since Covid 19.
    For the most part it has been ok. Loves, Pilot , TA’s have been open and able to least get showers. When this stops we stop…Drivers are not lepers, we are all trying to keep supply chain open. Customers have let us down they do not want us in there warehouse but they sure as well want there product up in 24 hours from pickup.
    Border interaction has been good also it’s funny how the frontlines are working together but business still treats us bad.
    After this crisis is over there will need to be more discussion on making this a skilled workforce.
    And getting the respect we all deserve.
    Please all over us drive safe and let’s respect each other.” We are in this for the longhaul”

  • Yes that’s completely true and I’m completely agree with the statement the government should do something and take care of the drivers on the road. There’s extra exhausting life being on the road and especially on this kind of situation with covid-19. You cannot use the washroom you cannot buy food from the restaurants . Being on the road we all need hygiene and protection to keep ourselves protect and ours.

  • To Scott Tilley
    Do You have any idea how big a fridge is in one of the long haul trucks, to suggest a driver bring his ” bag of lunch” for the next week while on the road is ludicrous, I suggest to You sir to try and bag your breakfast lunch and dinner for a full week, I dare you,let me know how you make out.

  • Employers are also to blame here. As the companies providing the loads to the truckers are requiring them to go through hot spots without the option to go around the hot spots. If the drivers choose to go around the hot spots for their own safety, they are being told that they won’t be paid for the extra miles to go around. New York is a major hot spot. Truckers should be allowed to go around this state and be paid properly for doing it. And these drovers also need rest areas and places to shower and change. Hygiene is very important right now. As is the safety of the drivers.

  • ok people time to get your heads out of your ass. These people are heros fir sure.Take a look around you right this minute. EVERYTHING HAS BEEN ON A TRUCK AT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER!!! Stop and think …If these people cant do thier jobs safley they are going to get sick for sure..THEN WHAT??? You think things are tough now If they stop hauling we start dying
    THANK YOU TO ALL TRUCKERS EVERY WHERE..There are those that understand how importang you really are..I love and thank you all.

  • Fast food outlets that deny truckers washrooms or curb side delivery should not be delivered to, plain and simple.

  • I’m a truck driver and I have been for 22 yrs. I can see most people still don’t know what we are or they don’t give a shit.
    Come on people, SUCK IT UP.
    Check the stats. What would happen if all trucks did not go to work.
    I think being a AZ driver WE ARE NEEDED.

  • Hi,
    We have shut down the services for next 2 weeks due to drivers safety. Trucking companies and the drivers suffer the most. People need to realize the importance of driver’s. They work so hard and they get treated like shit at shippers and receivers.
    Only few people know the value of the dedication to haul goods from one country to another leaving there kids and families behind. Custom brokers also treat the same. We own a company and I know how hard is for us to survive right now with all the parking, insurance, loan payments.
    I value my drivers and want them to be safe.
    I hope they do get better treatment and people start respecting them.

  • Suddenly driver is essential when everyone needs basic supply. Why than we are not given essential protective gear to protect ourselves.
    Last week I was in Wisconsin, denied access to washroom at most of my stops. I can schedule my delivery or pick but I can’t schedule when I’m going to need trip to restroom. Seems that people treat their pets with more dignity these days.

  • I agree with a lot of what is being said but totally disagree with the statement made by Scott Tilley! Unfortunately he has the typical view of someone who isn’t out on the road doing the job and disconnected from the reality of what is actually happening!!! Most companies are still using paper bills and signatures are needed and as far as carrying food, not all drivers are in day cabs and not all regional drivers have vehicles equipped with fridges and microwaves! What about the use of washrooms (which are near impossible to find) and showers! What about a decent hot meal and a hot drink?? All are almost totally unavailable! Sorry Scott Tilly but when you’ve driven for 3 days with no shower or facilities except filthy dirty porta potties and finding a hot coffee or food can also be a hard job makes your statement worthless to drivers!

  • I am a truck driver my account was blocked I covered myself and went to the branch so I can access to my account i told them i travel to USA because i am a driver the guy was so rude to me like i have done something wrong and did not allow me to go inside even he didn’t listen my problem now i am not able to use my account

  • Before we open trailers doors to load or unload ask them if we can use restroom and if they
    Say no then the driver will say I am not taking or dropping off freight ,get somebody else.

  • What is happening to truck drivers right now during this time is appalling. The least we can do is a general public is show them some respect. Lord knows when the last time these people were home with their families. The chances of these guys getting sick is very high and if that happens we have nothing. So grow the hell up people and show these guys some respect.

  • I was a team driver with my guy until he got sick in January. I was laid off and taking care of him before he passed away February 23rd. I’d pretty much had enough of how we were not treated well on the road for years but right now must feel like a smack in the face. Drivers do a great service 6 days a week or more away from their families risking their health these days and this is the thanks they get? I enjoyed driving OTR but the respect out there for drivers is terrible. I’m done with it. Reluctantly moving on to something different. I did work for a great company.

  • With all due to respect to the whiners, suck it up kids! I drive cause it what I love to do. Despite all the BS involved we keep things rolling and unlike millions of other people at least we are working. I am long haul and just make the adjustments I need to keep myself safe and reasonably comfortable. I try not to take things personal and let everybody know when I don’t think something is right. But I try do that respectfully and honestly and then move along. Shiny side up drivers! And stay safe!

  • I drive truck between Ontario and nova Scotia.
    It’s to the point now I may have to stop. Out on the road for a week or two at a time. Can only eat sandwiches for so long. I think with all the hard work that professional drivers do they deserve at least one hot meal a day.

  • No coffee for me, no toilet paper for you
    Seriously join the club on undercut prices the patch has been dealing with that since the bottom fell out of oil prices a few years back – you can’t compete against an owner who decides he just has to make the truck payment, insurance and fuel – and the wife will have to buy the groceries. It can’t last but they’re hoping to be the last one standing and hoping not to go broke – can’t blame them it’s like a drowning man will drag you down just for that last breath of air. Luckily in our case we were able to get out from under the tanker and hook onto something else. What I don’t like is if they’re doing it deliberately to squeeze you out and paying the bills with drug money or whatever but we live in a country that just re-elected members of parliament with open disrespect for the rule of law (SNC Lavalin) so you get what you ask for… a kleptocracy.

  • I am not a truck driver but i respect this industry.Now a days they are one of the frontliners. Foodwise,my thinking all truck drivers should have their own id showing they are truck drivers.On all food drive throus,they should be allowed walk through keeping safe from cars in drive through.I know this seems weird.But they should be prioritizeable to be bypassed other drivers.They can park truck far away.

  • What planet is this Scott Tiiley president of Tandet from? By saying alot if this is over blown.
    If it’s so over blown then maybe he personally should get behind the wheel for a week, go out there on the road to see what it’s really all about!

  • Stop about a foot away from the loading dock, ask to use facility’s. If the answer is no…..then they’re not getting their stuff….or getting to load their stuff.

  • Yes that’s very true,
    We are not allowed to use washrooms at cold storage warehouse.
    We are out there to deliver food or other products to help families who in needs.
    And shippers and receivers treating us (Driver’s) like Virus.

  • Restaurants are considered essential services so they should reopen for the truckers who are doing a huge job for us . they need to be fed and use the bathroom.

  • I was in Winchester VA Mar 23 @ Flying J. It looked like a busy business as usual day. I was horrified to see no gloves, no face masks, no social distancing…cashier coughing all over the place. I finished my run and came home and hung up the keys. Not doing it…US is clearly not taking this virus seriously.

  • Since when did it become ok to charge me full price for 8 cups of coffee to “carry outside to my truck to refill my thermos” when my loyalty card gives me free refills ???? I just bought 150 gallons of fuel from you! The coffee alone, is a necessary evil needed to keep going. Guess Mother nature’s gonna be our bathroom here, pretty darn soon. All trucks parking for a day or 2 should speak volumes. At least put out port’alets. I can wash my hands from my truck. Food? If and when this is over, I will “NEVER, I REPEAT, NEVER” Eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches again.