ONroute operates 23 travel plazas across Ontario, but many truck drivers are not satisfied with what they offer.
They have long complained that Canadian truck stops lag behind their American counterparts, and most don’t offer the same facilities as those in the U.S.
“The American truck stops are full-service facilities 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which means you can buy hot food day or night and you can service or repair your truck 24 hours a day, seven days a week as well,” said veteran cross-border trucker John Giunta.
In Canada, he said, the truck stops are open but they don’t serve hot food all night long and they do not offer full-service facilities.
“It seems Canada doesn’t realize trucking runs 24 hours a day,” Giunta wrote in an email.
Teed-Murch said ONroute takes customer feedback very seriously, and that the company has been working diligently over the past year to improve its food offerings.
“We do offer food 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” she said.
“Over the coming six-to-12 months, what our trucking community will see is more offerings at ONroute that are perhaps frozen that they can take and bake, and/or items that are already prepared that are just ready to eat,” Teed-Murch said.
The company is also testing vending machines that will provide salads and hot pizzas, she said.
“I think we’ve been very conscious of looking at our own offerings and making sure that we have a gamut of quick-service restaurants, food, but also healthier offerings,” said Teed-Murch.
She said ONroute has also resumed accepting cash at its sites. Many businesses including truck stops had stopped accepting cash, opting for debit/credit card transactions, following the Covid-19 outbreak.
“One of the pain points we heard from our trucking community was that we weren’t accepting cash. I can confirm today that, while we prefer that our customers opt to use debit and credit, all our 23 locations are accepting cash.”
She said the company has also installed cash dispensers at some locations for customer convenience.
Pilot Co., which operates the Pilot Flying J brand of travel centers in the U.S. and Canada, said its mission is to make the road experience for all drivers the best it can be.
“We continue to be focused on growing our network, updating our facilities and innovating food and other in-store offerings across the U.S. and Canada to deliver a consistent, elevated experience to all drivers on the interstate no matter which Pilot or Flying J location they may visit,” the company said.
Pilot has 60 locations in Canada.
Driver Arun Jose is frustrated by the lack of truck stops on his dedicated Ontario-Manitoba-B.C. route, especially along Hwy. 17.
He said the sites are hundreds of kilometers apart, and in “terrible” condition.
“So, if you are going in a team and you want to change shift, you will have to do it in the middle of nowhere,” Jose said.
That may change soon, thanks to a major program announced by Ontario.
Transport Minister Caroline Mulroney announced earlier this month that province will build four new rest areas and repair or expand 10 existing facilities in Northern Ontario.
They will include more bathrooms, improved lighting and increased parking.
“In these extraordinary times, we recognize that there is a significant need for better facilities at rest areas in Northern Ontario for our province’s travelers and truck drivers,” Mulroney said.
“Building more rest areas with better facilities will make traveling safer and more comfortable, especially for those who need to drive long distances. Through these improvements we are also taking steps to raise awareness of human trafficking to help put an end to this serious problem.”
Eight of the projects, most of them along Hwy. 17, are slated for completion next year.