'You get a feeling of shame': Truckers fight for improved access to restrooms during pandemic
KITCHENER -- Truckers who deliver essential goods during the pandemic continue to struggle with washroom access, and these challenges are often compounded for female drivers.
"I think the worst thing is, you get a feeling of shame," said truck driver Cheryl Wyatt.
Wyatt has been driving a semi-truck for more than two years, but wasn't prepared for the emotions tied to losing access to restrooms.
"I thought about putting in some kind of a portable unit, but I eat and sleep here," she explained.
It is a common dilemma many truckers are facing as businesses close their doors during the lockdown, with facility options few and far between. Many restaurants close for the night before truckers finish their shifts.
While the bathroom closures affect both men and women, female drivers face a unique set of challenges.
"Can you imagine trying to, as a woman, go to a washroom under a trailer, or if it's that time of the month trying to change sanitary supplies?" said Shelley Uvanile-Hesch, CEO of the Women's Trucking Federation of Canada.
It's something that Uvanile-Hesch has also been working to bring to the attention of the government.
According to the province, there are currently 50 truck stop locations open and 23 ONroute centres.
"Our 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 a spokesperson for the transportation minister in an email to CTV News.
Uvanile-Hesch has this message for business owners that are choosing to keep restrooms closed.
"I want you to take a good look at yourself in the mirror and really ask yourself if you would do that to any of your own family members. It's that simple," she said.
"It all goes down to respect, and when you start to feel you're losing that, then you start to lose love for your job," explained Wyatt.
There's also concerns these closures could lead to long-term health effects down the road as truckers continue to fight to have their basic needs met.