Truckers face fines with lack of facilities

NANAIMO – Long haul truckers forced to pull over and risk fines in Nanaimo or drive long distances between pit stops.

Phil Dutton, owner of Parkway Driving Academy, says Nanaimo is asleep at the wheel when it comes to providing rest stops for truckers passing through town.

“I have a question for you – where in Nanaimo can a truck driver pull over to go to the bathroom?” Dutton asked.

The question was prompted by a phone call he received in September from the wife of a trucker who was fined for pulling his truck over on a main thoroughfare in Nanaimo to take care of personal needs, which included a badly needed bathroom break.

Delivery drivers around town can find relief most anywhere they make stops, but finding a place to pee can be a wee bit of a problem for big-rig drivers on routes up and down the Island because of a shortage of rest stops and safe places to pull over on the highway and municipal roads.

The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure lists three rest areas on the Island Highway between Duncan and Parksville – one at Cassidy for north and southbound traffic, one at Nanoose Bay for southbound drivers, plus the rest stop and tourism information centre at the Nanaimo Parkway and Northfield Road intersection.

Depending on traffic, it’s about a 30-minute drive between Cassidy and Nanoose.

“That’s a long time for someone to have to wait to go to the bathroom,” Dutton said. “Distracted driving? You can imagine how that affects how you drive – and what do women drivers do? There are a lot of women driving trucks and when they have to relieve themselves they can’t just pull over anywhere.”

One major problem with those rest areas, Dutton said, is you can’t turn a tractor-trailer rig around in any of them.

It’s not illegal to pull a rig to the side of the road in town, but if its wheels are over the left side of the fog line the driver can be fined.

“Rigs cannot stop on the travel portion of any roadway for a break,” Cpl. Norm Smith, head of Nanaimo Traffic Services, said in an e-mail.  “[The] Motor Vehicle Act does not allow it. They can stop off the roadway if there is sufficient room and it is not prohibited by signs.”

Road shoulders practically everywhere in Nanaimo aren’t wide enough for rigs to pull off legally.

“Usually the driver will get a warning and be directed to move his rig immediately,” Smith said.

“On occasion, a fine for parking obstructing traffic will be issued. [It’s an] $81 fine. [There are] no real designated spots in town, but there is a card lock gas station nearby (at Maki Road) where they can park and a short walk to local coffee shops, etc.”

Chevron card lock stations have their own restrictions. Truckers without Chevron cards can’t use those facilities, Dutton said, and the Chevron card lock fuel station at Boban Drive in north Nanaimo banned truckers from parking their rigs in the lot even to use the bathroom because a parked rig blocks other rigs from turning around in the lot.

Dutton cites Chilliwack and other communities where large commercial truck stops have fuel stations, restaurants, stores, rest facilities and, above all, plenty of space for trucks.

The province lists 170 rest areas on B.C. highways, some of which accommodate commercial vehicles. Commercial enterprises are left to meet the needs of rigs and drivers within municipalities.

Tom Hickey, the city’s general manager of community services, said truck routes and commercial transportation are on the list of items being looked at in the Nanaimo Transportation Master Plan.

“Through the transportation master planning process we’re proposing to expand some of the truck routes,” Hickey said. “By expanding truck routes that may help trucks better access more commercial areas and that way they can pull into some of those a little easier and that might help out.”

Hickey said city staff will present an update on the draft plan to city council in November, followed by a series of open houses. He said truckers were consulted during the development of the draft.