Coming soon: Better ONroute truck stops

by Abdul Latheef

TORONTO, Ont. – Truck stop operator ONroute is taking a series of measures to improve the customer experience at its sites, and that will include more food choices and parking spaces, the company CEO has told Today’s Trucking.

“We are aggressively evaluating adding up to 200 parking spots in the next 12 months,” Melanie Teed-Murch said in an interview. She said the additional spots will be made available at four locations. Details are expected to be announced soon.

The ONroute travel plaza in Woodstock, Ont. (Photo: ONroute)

ONroute operates 23 travel plazas across Ontario, but many truck drivers are not satisfied with what they offer.

They have long complained that Canadian truck stops lag behind their American counterparts, and most don’t offer the same facilities as those in the U.S.

“The American truck stops are full-service facilities 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which means you can buy hot food day or night and you can service or repair your truck 24 hours a day, seven days a week as well,” said veteran cross-border trucker John Giunta.

“It seems Canada doesn’t realize trucking runs 24 hours a day.”

– Cross-border trucker John Giunta

In Canada, he said, the truck stops are open but they don’t serve hot food all night long and they do not offer full-service facilities.

“It seems Canada doesn’t realize trucking runs 24 hours a day,” Giunta wrote in an email.

Teed-Murch said ONroute takes customer feedback very seriously, and that the company has been working diligently over the past year to improve its food offerings.

Melanie Teed-Murch, CEO, ONroute. (Photo: ONroute)

“We do offer food 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” she said.

“Over the coming six-to-12 months, what our trucking community will see is more offerings at ONroute that are perhaps frozen that they can take and bake, and/or items that are already prepared that are just ready to eat,” Teed-Murch said.

The company is also testing vending machines that will provide salads and hot pizzas, she said.

“I think we’ve been very conscious of looking at our own offerings and making sure that we have a gamut of quick-service restaurants, food, but also healthier offerings,” said Teed-Murch.

She said ONroute has also resumed accepting cash at its sites. Many businesses including truck stops had stopped accepting cash, opting for debit/credit card transactions, following the Covid-19 outbreak.

“One of the pain points we heard from our trucking community was that we weren’t accepting cash. I can confirm today that, while we prefer that our customers opt to use debit and credit, all our 23 locations are accepting cash.”

She said the company has also installed cash dispensers at some locations for customer convenience.

Pilot Co.
Pilot Co. says it is focused on providing consistent and elevated experience regardless of the location. (Photo. Pilot Co.)

Pilot Co., which operates the Pilot Flying J brand of travel centers in the U.S. and Canada, said its mission is to make the road experience for all drivers the best it can be.

“We continue to be focused on growing our network, updating our facilities and innovating food and other in-store offerings across the U.S. and Canada to deliver a consistent, elevated experience to all drivers on the interstate no matter which Pilot or Flying J location they may visit,” the company said.

Pilot has 60 locations in Canada.

Northern Ontario

Driver Arun Jose is frustrated by the lack of truck stops on his dedicated Ontario-Manitoba-B.C. route, especially along Hwy. 17.

He said the sites are hundreds of kilometers apart, and in “terrible” condition.

“So, if you are going in a team and you want to change shift, you will have to do it in the middle of nowhere,” Jose said.

That may change soon, thanks to a major program announced by Ontario.

Transport Minister Caroline Mulroney announced earlier this month that province will build four new rest areas and repair or expand 10 existing facilities in Northern Ontario.

They will include more bathrooms, improved lighting and increased parking.

Northern rest areas
The province will build four new rest areas and repair or expand 10 existing facilities in Northern Ontario. (Source: Ministry of Transportation)

“In these extraordinary times, we recognize that there is a significant need for better facilities at rest areas in Northern Ontario for our province’s travelers and truck drivers,” Mulroney said.

“Building more rest areas with better facilities will make traveling safer and more comfortable, especially for those who need to drive long distances. Through these improvements we are also taking steps to raise awareness of human trafficking to help put an end to this serious problem.”

Eight of the projects, most of them along Hwy. 17, are slated for completion next year.

Have your say

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  • While Onroute areas are so called truck stops, they are ANYTHING BUT. They are over expanded rip off retail arenas. We drivers need true trucker friendly stops. Not every vehicle driver pushing into lines for a coffee.
    *We need to be recognized as the heartbeat of society.* This absolutely must be addressed by the government and Miss Mulroney NEEDS to work on making property available to Flying J and others in many many places across our country.
    Work on that.
    Where in the world this became a human trafficking issue is beyond me. Rest areas in the US are easy in and out, grab a vending machine snack, get back on the road. Easy. Work on that.
    Northern Ontario is a disaster in the making for lack of stopping availability and nothing to eat.
    Work on that.

  • On route has no clue what a truckstop is. First of all on route is not a truckstop, for more education the people that run on route need to go down to the USA and look at what a real truckstop is. What a pathetic joke. They think serving pizza and a cold sandwich out of a vending machine is the answer, you’ve got to be kidding me. But then again I’m not surprised at all.

  • The extra parking is badly needed and we thanks for that The Ont gov and the O T A needs to work together to make more truck parking with wi fi and bathrooms every 80 km across northern Ont before E logs come in and a minimum of 60 parking spots and 20 percent of the spots with 110 plugs with a cost of not more than $5.00 per night for the hydro to reduce greenhouse gases.

  • I am from Manitoba I see no rest area in Manitoba anywhere only two at each end of Manitoba east and west none at the borders across Manitoba or up northern Manitoba and diffenly in Saskatchewan anywhere i would see more truck stop and rest area with Ontario

  • To the ONRoute Operators, YOU DON”T OFFER FOOD 24/7!! We have been to OnRoutes after midnight, lucky if you can get a cold sandwich with a lukewarm coffee. It is a hodgepodge of services depending on the time of day. As a truck driver, I don’t expect to get anything of VALUE after 10:00 pm at night regardless of the day of the week. Tim Horton’s limits their options, there is no baker on the scene 24/7, everything is brought in from somewhere. As for “The Market”, overpriced food and usually cold. If there is a Harvey’s, Burger King they don’t open until 11:00 am and close at 10:00 or earlier. You now have Subways, to replace your overpriced ONRoute Fast food stalls. So you fail in providing round the clock decent food. I don’t expect gourmet meals at an ONRoute, but I would like something HOT, nourish, at a reasonable price. I realize that it may be difficult to get the staff that wants to work over the evening but come on, provide some incentive to employees to work the overnight hours. And why can’t you offer some type of limited dining in option? You have cleaners 24/7. These are not Truck Stops, they are commercialized rest areas. You could be providing need employment in the North of Ontario if you were to develop one large enough to hold a hundred trucks. There are several small businesses within certain areas that would probably love the idea of being exposed to the transportation industry. Stop relying, the large chains, lets go local.

  • Besides the planned improvements, how about showers? One reason for me not to stop is they don’t have showers. After a long day behind the wheel I’m desperate for a nice hot shower and if I see how busy the shower facilities in other truck stops are, I’m not the only one.

  • I am Interested in developing a full service truck stop, I need more information on best location to establish this stop, can any one suggest locations or direct me to how to get information?

    • Hi Basil an associate of mine and myself have done some research including time /distance traffic studies etc . We have an ideal location on transCanada highway aprox 2.5 miles east of Brandon Mb or 2 hours west of Winnipeg .It is a perfect location as its also at the 1a intersection which is the bypass around Brandon for trucks heading to the USA and the dangerous goods route .I maybe interested in a partnership or a long term lease on the property or possibly sell the property which is 6 acres aprox 780’ of frontage and has a service road . We have a building layout ,survey plan , pumps etc and parking for 66 semi trucks and trailers . I have the blessing of the RM and planning department . My plan includes 24 /7 restaurant,,showers ,laundromat, some small rooms as you would have in some airports a small theatre etc my email is hope to hear from you good luck in your venture !

  • It seems we are being pushed more and more to use a kiosk. The machine replaces a person who would accept a food order and allow payment by debit or credit. Only cash is accepted at the till of the individual food vendors. I refuse to use the kiosk. I’m sure I am not alone in my thoughts and behaviour. I therefore will only use the wash rooms, which is disgusting, at the Onroutes then move on down the road to get food. I really feel corporations are trying to disconnect themselves more and more from the people they may say they are serving. I am sure there is no discount for anyone using the kiosk as they provide the service for themselves. Tim Hortons is not using the kiosk and, as I have observed, is getting large amounts of traffic while the other food vendors poorly attended. Bring back debit and credit to the order till and I believe there will be better food sales for the food vendors. It is not a blip in the radar as people eventually give in to the corporate greed.