Ontario truck parking initiatives an ‘insult’, says study author

John G Smith

The author of a report into Ontario truck parking is accusing the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) of a “decade of inaction” on the issue – and is calling recent initiatives nothing less than an insult to truck drivers.

“MTO’s response to date on the parking shortage is insufficient to solve the problem, an insult to the thousands of drivers who have aided Ontario during Covid-19, and ignores the important issue of public safety as seen in risk of collisions,” says a statement issued by SPR Associates of Toronto.

“MTO staff have provided some temporary improvements, but not the more dramatic remedies needed.”

Ontario truck parking
The author of a report into truck parking says Ontario’s response to the issue is an insult to the truck drivers who remained on the road during Covid-19. (Photo: istock)

The consultancy was behind a $280,000 study in 2018 that explored longhaul truck parking and rest areas along southern Ontario highways.

“It is easy to criticize and harder to create solutions. However, after three years, MTO’s response to SPR’s report must be regarded as token or symbolic only, and insufficient given the importance of this issue to the economy and public safety,” SPR says. “The weak response might be attributed to a tendency of the MTO bureaucracy to ignore such problems, concentrating on its engineering and planning studies, as it has under Liberal governments (2003-2018) and the current Tory government.”

The study called for more than 350 new parking spots per year, and recommended emergency measures such as partnering with municipalities and repurposing public lands including the existing Downsview airport, off-season CNE grounds, and a yet-built Pickering airport.

MTO identifies parking gains

The unusual critique from a study author comes just weeks after the ministry issued a bulletin highlighting recent parking-related investments including portable washrooms at lay-bys and truck inspection stations, work with Metrolinx to open select Park n’ Ride lots and commuter carpool lots in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area, and keeping all 23 ONroute travel plazas open with washrooms and enhanced cleaning.

“Rest areas play a key role in supporting the safe movement of goods across the province,” the MTO reported. “The expansion and improvement of rest areas in Ontario is currently underway as part of a five-year strategy that will see the addition of 10 new sites and the rehabilitation of more than 14 sites across the province, including 178 additional truck parking spaces to be added at four existing ONroute travel plazas.”

All the examples had been previously announced.

“This is part of our emphasis on improving public policy, not just taking the government’s money and publishing,” says Ted Harvey, the lead author on the SPR report, explaining why the critique was issued.

“They should be given credit for doing the most they can, within the envelope of their current infrastructure and resources, but the needs go beyond that.”

Many challenges could be addressed through partnerships with municipalities, he stressed.

‘Not well-received’

Harvey says the report “was not well-received by MTO staff” who at one point told him it was unlikely to be shared publicly.

“This is typical of government. They often hesitate to do things and often sit on top of research,” Harvey says. “I felt particularly it was important to try to push this because we had the researched understanding of what was going on.”

The SPR study focused primarily along the Highway 401 corridor between the international border at Detroit and the Quebec border. It is traveled by about 40,000 trucks per day.

“SPR’s study confirmed that the longstanding truck parking shortage is a major issue for Ontario, resulting in extremely negative impacts on drivers and the trucking industry in general,” the consulting firm says in its statement. “The study demonstrated that driver fatigue from not being able to find a safe place to park to rest or sleep results in a higher risk of collisions and risks to public safety.”

The research identified a shortage of 1,200 to 2,600 truck parking spaces in Southern Ontario, where there are currently about 3,900 spots available. The most intense shortage of parking was around Toronto, although a “still noteworthy” shortage of parking was identified in zones around Highway 401.

“MTO’s efforts to create truck parking at ONroute centres in the three years preceding the study are regarded as ineffective by truck drivers and trucking companies,” SPR says. “Improvements to ONroute parking areas were seen as mostly aesthetic, creating prettier parking, with no real increase in truck parking spots.”

While the government announced plans to create “much needed” parking in northern Ontario, there are needs in central, southwestern and eastern Ontario, SPR adds.

“The 28 locations identified by MTO for the redevelopment of parking are mostly located in remote areas where land values are low, with existing tourist stops. These will help in the north, east and southwest, but do not fix the urgent shortages in central Ontario.”  

John G Smith

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, Inside Logistics, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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  • The M T O in Ontario is not concerned about truck drivers well being. The Ford gov needs to provide parking with spots for people ( truck drivers Bus) to soak and treatment of feet and other sickness on the road. Trench foot is a big problem with truck drivers with E -logs and people living on the street. The cost to people health and meaning many people including myself are not able to drive truck much and living in homeless shelters.

  • The minister Maloney never has done her job from the start. She is a waste of taxpayers money.
    You call her office they don’t answer you send emails she doesn’t respond. This parking problem is not just in the south but far greater in the north.
    This has been going on for years but the PC government said they were going to add parking they have done nothing but blow smoke.
    You can park in the scales no real amenities no running water to wash your face. So sad we live in a country with plenty, but we can’t even offer the proper tools to comfort the driver that brings your food.
    As for the MTO the just waste money but these big lobbyists are the number one problem TFI challenger this is only two of the many big companies that don’t pay jack _____ . But they want drivers to eat and sleep out of a box. But do nothing to help the parking, washroom and shower problem across the province.
    They should be out of business do to stealing from the o/os and not giving back to industry.

  • I’m a professional truck driver,even though my current job is in a day cab(but I too too have done long haul). There are times I need to use one of the few in routes along the 401 corridor
    And its impossible to find a parking spot in early am hrs/ daytime hrs especially at Cambridge/Woodstock/West Lorne
    On routes.
    So if you’re one these long haul truck drivers it’s even worse,these Onroutes that put barrier posts on run outs coming out of Onroutes is pure ignorance so no trucks can park there.
    And secondly all talk about increase parking areas for trucks but with portable out houses on site!
    Seriously! These men and women deserve a wash room with running hot and cold water. Not a porta pottie that can use that is filthy at best of times,have to use in dead winter and it’s -35 out .
    People’s dogs are treated better then these men and women who are ones responsible for keeping this country moving.
    Time for all level of governments to wake up and listen .
    Again this is a complete insult to truck drivers that

    • No but they should provide overnight parking with bathroom or pay $50 per delivery to a parking fund.

  • Transport ministry doesn’t care about truckers , they just want to keep scales open and distribute tickets to drivers so that there should be some jobs for a particular group of people . Truckers are being treated like slaves . Look at at USA, trucks can be parked at scales 24*7 but our scales in Canada looks at truckers like we are criminals because we drive trucks . Portable washrooms are the dirtiest thing to use ever in the life but truckers are not humans

    • Exactly. We need a person in Ont who only job to improve things for transport drivers including school bus before anymore foreign people come to Ont to drive truck. We also need places for sick truck drivers to live and get proper medical care and proper food with showers and can get around in wheelchairs.

  • The MTO is a joke
    Not only are they not interested in truck driver safety they are not interested In public safety.
    They spend millions of dollars on tuck inspection stations and there never open. I guess it’s a place for the inspectors to hide.
    Anyone that drives on the highway should take notice of these stations and the trucks driving past.

  • The sad thing is this study is 3 years oldthe province has had time to start to correct. But parking isn’t JUST a GTA issue. Itravel the 401 corridor weekly.. Bad weather and accidents add to the problem.

    So what do we do? Put in Starbucks stand alone shops,reducing the parking.

  • I don’t blame the younger generation for not taking any interest in trucking .because we are only needed in times of crisis. When the older truck drivers retired there will be a lot of problem getting goods and services around this province. Please treat truck Drivers better than this we bring your food clothing parts for your car every thing that has to get from piont a to b .all we ask for is deal with us in a respectable way. Give place to park and get a good rest after our shifts.

  • Let us get this straight. Companies that operate for profit do not invest in an infrastructure so their employees have facilities for what is a basic health and safety issue of employment. Then turn around and blame someone else for the issue. And, before you go the tax route, your dollars went on the highway. If shipping by truck has so many issues, the business should look at alternatives,. Closer manufacturing facilities, ship by train, plane, storage facilities. Oh, that’s right, those were all abandoned for more profits. Easier to blame someone else for lack of employee respect and basic safety requirements.

  • As a driver for 30 + years I have noticed the parking problem grow worse. When the “On Route” started to get refurbished I thought ” Oh good they are finally thinking of us and adding parking”! What a joke! There is actually less parking in most those areas now than before!. They had perfect opportunity to fix the problem. Unfortunately billions more will be spent needlessly. If the MTO would only listen for a change rather than dictate. We would have a much better transportation system. Take look at service areas on the Ohio turnpike for example.. They have 5 times the parking we do. As a last thought the speed limiter law for trucks in Ontario is simply dangerous! You get clusters of trucks on the major highways that have great difficulty separating from each other and cause problems for other traffic. Get rid of the stored limiters and test us with respect not children.

    • Right! Speed limiters are the reason trucks block 2/3 of highway lanes!

      …not idiot truck drivers who know they can’t pass at a rate to make it a worthwhile maneuver…but block traffic, because…”I’m bigger”….

      Automation is coming, and sadly not quickly enough.

  • Show me a on route with a shower and then we can talk about whats available for “truck drivers” along the corridor.

  • The Ford government is converting the old weigh scales on the 402 outside of Sarnia into a parking area for maybe 10 trucks.
    The space is not correct and the spaces for parking are too small .
    It’s a total waste of money from the start. Only a bandaid on the real problem for parking.
    The funny part is that there were construction trucks in there. They could have used them to make the parking spaces the correct size .

  • Your reporting on truck parking is biased. You only report on the shortage of truck parking spots and how that affects (long haul) drivers.
    Please write some articles about all those truck drivers that want to eliminate all truck parking, through their habit of just throwing their personal garbage out of the cab door.
    Is this a generational problem, a race problem, a ethnicity problem, a nationality problem, or another type of problem.
    Although I am a long haul driver, I would not allow truck parking on my property, until this issue is addressed and cleared up. These drivers must be called out.

  • Well, what do you expect from the Ford Government, they are flailing on the COVID issue. The Minister of Transport has no experience in the transportation industry, wouldn’t know a truck unless it was pointed out to her and her last name is Mulroney. This industry gets crapped on regularly, if it ain’t bending the rules to satisfy some minority that does not want to comply with the rules for fear of the “R” word. We are more regulated than an airline pilot, we get no respect. These drivers have no where to park thats safe and secure. MTO figures we are dumb, so if they do what they did it would keep us “Happy”. Maybe Caroline would like to go for a ride for a week and see what her lack of knowledge is doing to drivers. Better yet, hire a truck driver to do her job, cant do any worse. And things might get done.

  • It’s been a joke for a long time u.s. citizens come up to Canada and have to laugh at it all the time you guys down nights chase you find areas to go into not just for truckers but people are travelling through the night States into areas where there’s Washington and places they knew only you pick up snacks to eat here in Canada it’s garbage garbage and more garbage if you find a place and has done pulling an outhouse who want to use an old hoe I wouldn’t want to take my girls son into another house but that’s Canada for us we’ve always been treated the third fourth people who really wants to travel in Canada if you want to use washrooms you got to pay something so you can use their washers that’s not the way it is a nice case you need to use your washing you use it they don’t expect you to pay anyting but Canada it’s a joke you got to pay are you can’t use their working even in town you know you got to go to work them bad kidneys can’t use eye wash round trying to stick with it all no wonder it smells like urine all people have to go up against the wall and get rid of it pictures not just a provincial this is a federal issue truckers shouldn’t be stuck on the side of the road to get some sleep when a poor guy like last week drives out the ass end of a trucker and dies I remember 50 years ago a friend of mine did the same thing your trucker was sleeping in his truck Sunny morning you didn’t see the back end of the truck and drove into it and died because we don’t have no spots for these truckers apart and tell him to park there write the best as you have seen for a long time sorry for my English language I’ve complained about this myself I have weak kidneys there is nowhere to go to work tonight in no small town well it’s not right I should be facility so people can use it and safe facilities you think truckers have a bad talk to the bus drivers they don’t want to make those long all this is no place to stop to go to wash in neither or in the middle of town of Toronto sometimes they get in real trouble with some of the places where they used to wash them they have to learn which place is accepting which places they don’t are not accepted

  • There is absolutely no where to park/rest along the QEW except at scales where they provide portable toilets. Horrible attempt at pretending anyone cares about us.

  • Wholeheartedly agree. When the MTO announced their plan to rehabilitate a westbound parking area with roughly a dozen spots – at a cost of multiple millions – I had to laugh. Ontario’s ONRoute travel plazas are a joke when compared to the rest areas of our southern neighbours. While an ONRoute may have 10-40 spots for trucks, fully occupied year-round, there are hundreds of car parking spots that are largely empty except for summertime long weekends. The opposite is true to the south of us; rest areas are placed roughly one hour’s drive apart and aimed at truck drivers who are on the road every day of the year, and not at the average motorist who uses them once every few months.