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Truckers say they're denied bathrooms on the job, forcing female drivers to take creative measures to relieve themselves

Business Insider logo Business Insider 2022-02-07 htowey@insider.com (Hannah Towey,Grace Kay)
Semi trucks head to the truck parking lot at the Love's Travel Stop truck stop in Virginia. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster © AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster Semi trucks head to the truck parking lot at the Love's Travel Stop truck stop in Virginia. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
  • Shippers and receivers often don't allow truck drivers to use their warehouse bathrooms. 
  • The lack of facilities is particularly tough for female drivers, who make up 10% of truckers.
  • Women truckers told Insider they're forced to use buckets filled with kitty litter or bring their own porta-potties. 

Female truck drivers are often forced to take creative — and some say degrading — measures to relieve themselves on the road, as shippers and receivers often bar truckers' access to warehouse restrooms. 

Eight truckers told Insider they often face difficulty finding bathrooms on the road whether at warehouses, shipping yards, ports, or along the highway. Some say facilities provide outdoor porta-potties as an alternative, but they're not always well kept or ideal for extreme temperatures.

Multiple male truckers told Insider it's not uncommon for them to relieve themselves in bottles or buckets in their trucks. But for female drivers, the lack of bathroom access can pose a more significant inconvenience, 6 women said in interviews with Insider.

Carmen Anderson, who has been driving long-haul solo since the 1980s, said she limits her liquid intake throughout the day to avoid getting stuck without a restroom. She previously carried a porta-potty in the truck with her but no longer has enough room. Now, Anderson said she urinates in a cup or bucket filled with kitty litter.

"It's really sad that we have to do that," she said. "It's like they're treating us like second-class citizens."

26-year trucker Sally Feinen said many drivers started buying in-cab commodes when the pandemic started, because social-distancing measures often meant they weren't allowed to exit their vehicle.

"We may have been treated like animals, but we didn't want to act like them," Feinen said. "I throw the remains in dumpsters and use hand sanitizer after. It's the best I can do." 

Carla Holmes, who started team trucking with her husband last year, said the lack of restroom access is particularly frustrating during her menstrual cycle. She said she frequently changes her tampon in the two-by-three-foot space between the driver's seat and sleeper cab. 

"That whole situation is just embarrassing and it sucks," she told Insider. "Men don't have to go through that."

The trucking industry anticipates a shortage of 100,000 drivers by 2023, and many recruiters are hoping women will fill the empty seats. Women drivers account for approximately 10% of the trucking workforce, according to a 2019 survey.

Ellen Voie, founder of the non-profit Women in Trucking, told Insider that she doesn't believe the lack of bathrooms is impacting the recruitment of women drivers, but it contributes to an overall feeling of disrespect that affects retention. 

"It's about respecting the driver and allowing them to use your facilities because it's a basic human need," she said. 

At a recent industry conference, Voie said said she asked warehouse managers why they don't allow drivers to use their restrooms.

Their answer? "They want the drivers in and out," she said. "They don't want to provide accommodations for drivers because they don't want them to be there very long." Drivers typically wait at least two hours at shipping and receiving centers.

The lack of bathrooms on the road is also an infrastructure and hygiene issue. Multiple truckers told Insider they've spent days on the road without access to a shower and waited in lines as long as 6 hours for a shower stall to open up at a truck stop. Veteran trucker Trish Bennett said some truck stop facilities have significantly cut back their hours in response to the national labor shortage.

"Sometimes it's a choice between taking a shower, staying on the road, or getting sleep," Bennett said. 

There are currently no laws requiring that warehouses provide truckers bathrooms. However, a Washington State legislator introduced a bill in early January that would make it mandatory for "retail establishments" to provide restrooms for their drivers. 

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