Washrooms: That’s still a problem

by Abdul Latheef

Truck drivers in Ontario are still facing a problem that they thought had gone away in spring – access to clean washrooms.

In fact, the situation has gotten worse under the new Covid lockdown, according to Shelley Uvanile-Hesch, CEO of the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada (WTFC).

Truck drivers say they are being denied access to washrooms at stores still open under the lockdown. (Photo: iStock)

She told Today’s Trucking on Wednesday that several drivers had reported problem accessing restrooms at stores still open.

In one incident, a business in Woodstock, Ont., told a female driver to go behind a trailer, Uvanile-Hesch said.

“A person has a hard time focusing when they have to go or just had a fight with someone over it. This, in my opinion, is a human rights issue,” said the driver, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Uvanile-Hesch said the WTFC had raised the problem with Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney.

Government: It’s unacceptable

A spokesperson for Mulroney said the government is committed to supporting the trucking industry.

“It is unacceptable to have washroom services denied to truck drivers and commercial carriers, who are working hard to keep goods moving for the people of Ontario,” said Natasha Tremblay.

“Since the beginning of this pandemic, Minister Mulroney has met regularly with stakeholders and industry partners to determine how to address this issue,” she said in an email.

Caroline Mulroney. (Photo: MTO)

She said Ontario has taken concrete steps to support the trucking industry.

Currently, 50 locations with toilet service are available for truckers on the provincial highway network.

Ontario is keeping 18 seasonal rest areas open. Thirty-one truck inspection stations and one Tourist Information Centre are also open.

These sites are in addition to 23 ONroute centres that are open for fuel, takeout, and restrooms, Tremblay said.

“Our government will continue to work with the industry to support truck drivers and commercial carriers, and we thank them for their essential work,” the statement said.

The washroom issue first surfaced in late March when some businesses started barring truck drivers from using their restrooms during the first wave of the pandemic, sparking outrage.

“These companies that are not letting people in these washrooms need to be held accountable,” said Uvanile-Hesch.

A stay-at-home order took effect in Ontario early Thursday as part of efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Mid-morning, the government sent out an emergency alert on all broadcast platforms and cellphones, reminding residents to stay home.

Screen grab

The order also limits store opening hours across the province.

Uvanile-Hesch believes the latest restrictions would have an even worse effect on drivers.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize that we drive 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Last week, the province announced plans for improving 14 rest areas and building 10 new sites. The move was welcomed by trucking associations.

Have your say

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  • It would be a different story if all truck drivers stayed open then these stores that refuse drivers their restrooms wouldn’t have to worry cause no trucks no goods to sell, if trucks stop so does everything else! Think about it, everything we have comes on a truck at some point!

  • I work for a trucking company in northern Ontario that doesn’t let their own drivers use the wash room and shower facilities. It’s horrible

  • I agree that access to clean washrooms is essential.
    Public washrooms are an essential service.
    Several supermarkets in my area are open, yet refuse to open their washrooms to the public.
    I drink a lot of water.
    I am not a truck driver. Yet, several times I have had “almost accidents” because I “had to go” while grocery shopping, only to be denied access and told “washrooms closed due to covid”.
    This is ridiculous. It seems like a quick cop out to save dollars on janitorial services, or complete laziness (store staff who do not want to clean bathrooms).
    I now shop at Superstore, because right through the pandemic, they have kept their washrooms open to the public.
    I cannot imagine the nightmare of moms or dads of young children, having nowhere to take their young child who suddenly must use the washroom, as well as older adults with incontinence issues.

  • Good Morning,

    Shelley has brought up a very good point but it doesn’t stop there. The washroom conditions at some customer locations are porta johns at the far end of the parking lot, poorly maintained and rather discusting.

    I find it slightly disturbing to think WE (Carriers/Drivers) are considered an essential service and a vital link to food, fuel and the overall economy yet we are not allowed to use sanitary washrooms at shippers and receivers.

    Wear your mask, wash your hands and sanitize a very simple rule now allow us to use your washrooms.

    Be Safe


    SG Hibbert

  • Yes, I totally agree on a good decent washroom for women and men
    in remote areas of Canada. Dryden Ont for example is only a one way westbound or one way eastbound. There’s only one Husky location that
    provides access to travelers who need faculty of some nature.
    My point is “there’s” no cleanliness there period. I travel monthly through
    that area and have seen all types of people squatting down because
    those washrooms are either a pig mess or simply closed for some reason.
    Unless you have a Petro pass card, you can’t get into those type of rest area
    to fresh up.
    The washbasin is deteriorated so bad, that your old outhouse on some farm looked better.
    I had complained to fix them 3 different times, but the personal worker just says it’s in the works. Well, it’s been 5 months under different management, but still, nothing was done. Where are the government health officials?

  • What about Northern Ontario there is only one area to to stop north of Barrie which is exit 214 the Georgian Bay rest area which is thank God the cleanest spot to stop north of Barrie it is the only spot to stop north of Barrie maybe the minister of Transportation being a woman should get in the truck and follow a truck driver schedule and maybe go to the bathroom on the side of the road like we are forced to and then and only then would action be taken when she has to take her pants down on the side of the road in the winter and do her business

  • This has been going on for years, it’s nothing new. I think it’s funny that it takes something like Covid to bring this issue to the forefront. Nobody cares about what drivers have to cope with, the only time we are thought of is when items aren’t on the shelf. I will be retiring from this miserable industry soon after 35 years of abuse and exploitation.