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).
She told Today’s Trucking on Wednesday that several drivers had reported problem accessing rest rooms 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.
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.
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.