A growing trend in van life — combined with summer vacationers at the wheels of recreational vehicles (RVs) and campers — is adding to the struggles of truck drivers who are already competing for limited parking spaces in rest areas and truck stops.
Manitoba owner-operator Joshua Giesbrecht, known as Trucker Josh on YouTube and other social media channels, says the situation leaves him frustrated.
“We don’t have a choice we have to stop. They can go a little further and find a spot if they have to. Maybe they are unaware of the parking situation for us. They don’t have to stop legally,” Giesbrecht says, referring to Hours of Service rules. “It is frustrating when people on vacation take up a spot.”
Compounding challenges, Giesbrecht says recreational vehicles and campers with trailers are grouped with commercial vehicles at rest areas. “It would be nice if that could be changed to commercial trucks only. Get the RVs to park somewhere else,” he says.
Driver Lee Wood underscores the issue. “It’s not marked as ‘truck parking only’. It’s a free for all, and that is half the problem,” the veteran trucker says.
Campers taking two or three spots
Wood says the Pine Grove rest area outside Reynolds, Man., is full of RVs this time of the year until the weather turns colder. “You might [get] two trucks in there because there might be 10 campers in there, or people sleeping in their cars.”
He adds that the problem also sometimes spills into truck stops. Campers will open their trailer canopies and take up two spots. Sometimes they park their vehicles in a third spot. “So now, one guy with a 25-foot trailer is taking up three spots. If there’s three of them, that’s nine spots. There’s nine truck drivers that don’t get to park.”
Leah Gorham, a New Brunswick owner-operator who drives as part of a team for an Ontario carrier, says she sees RVs parked all the time at ONroute rest areas. The Barrie location on Hwy. 400 north of Toronto, and the Cambridge and Port Hope locations along Hwy. 401, are among the worst.
“We can’t even stop to use the bathroom.”
Leah Gorham, truck driver
“It is bad after 6 p.m. as people in RVs and vehicles with trailers pull into truck parking spots. We can’t even stop to use the bathroom,” Gorham says. If there are towels and clothes hanging from windows, they most probably have been there awhile, she adds.
The problem is exacerbated on the West Coast, where the housing crisis has forced people to live in vehicles and occupy truck parking spots for months at a time.
A recent CTV News report indicated that provincial rest stops have become makeshift RV parks and encampments, creating a safety hazard for drivers in B.C.
The Bradner rest area, the last major rest stop for truckers before Metro Vancouver, is in the spotlight as dozens of vehicles have been camped in parking spots for months.
Longer-term camping not permitted
The B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure told TruckNews.com it is aware of people using some public highway rest areas for longer-term camping. While overnight rest for travelers is permitted, longer-term camping is not permitted.
The ministry said it “continues to work with Ministry of Housing though their outreach program and with local enforcement to keep the current rest area a safe place to temporarily stop and use the facilities. The ministry has also been working closely with the City of Abbotsford, sharing relevant information, concerns and decisions that relate to the Bradner rest area.”
Dave Earle, president and CEO of B.C. Trucking Association (BCTA), says the several dozens of “residents” at the Bradner rest area are either homeless, displaced people or recreational campers. The site has hot and cold running water and free Wi-Fi.
Seeking solutions in B.C.
The BCTA has met with ministry officials and is calling on the province and municipalities to act.
“How do we address the needs of those using these facilities improperly? There’s no simple solution,” Earle said.
The B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure recently announced it is prioritizing improvements at rest areas through a new $100-million Safety Rest Area Improvement Program over the next nine years. Of that, $28 million will be spent over the next three years to support the trucking industry and other travelers. The ministry is also exploring upgrades to the Bradner rest area.
Truck drivers who must deal with this throughout the country on a daily basis are left wondering if there will ever be a solution.
“Whose responsibility is it to make sure I have somewhere to stop?”
Joshua Giesbrecht, truck driver
“The government is telling me I have to stop. It is the law. Whose responsibility is it to make sure I have somewhere to stop? Give me the ability to obey the law because I want to obey the law,” Giesbrecht says.
He adds there is no one to call when a truck parking spot has been taken by a non-commercial vehicle. “We just swear at the windshield and move on.”
Longhaul driver Wood takes the non-confrontational approach, “trying to reduce as much drama in my life as I can.” He says many of the trailers and campers are occupied by families and it is not worth the confrontation.
He moves along and looks for another parking spot if he can find one.
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