Overnight parking where there are no toilets. It’s unavoidable for many, so should there be official guidance for drivers?

Some councils are having a crackdown on people urinating in laybys, with HGV drivers monitored and targeted first thing in the morning after parking overnight with operatives lurking ready to capture video evidence and issue a fine. This determined and well organised focus on truck drivers seems over the top – okay you aren’t meant to go 10-100 in a layby but they’ll have been there all night and we’d like to know what official advice there is, if any, about the only alternative of using a bottle.

It’s not just lorry drivers who pee in laybys; all types of people travelling the road network do it, drivers and passengers in all types of vehicle. Male and female. Yes, ladies do it as well, but the chances are for them it’s a last resort or emergency. A Hertfordhsire Council issued 762 £150 fines over a 12 month period for one layby. That’s a lot of pee.

Many people are choosing to just stop for a slash at the roadside these days. Bad habits are contagious and the councils and local residents have noticed the problem getting worse with saturated grass and overpowering stench of urine noticable even when driving past in the car. It’s another symptom of the modern world where people are getting lazier and more anti-social; look at the amount of litter and fly tipping.

For most folk it’s not an emergency and they could use their car or van to get to a toilet at a petrol station, supermarket, fast food outlet and possibly even a good old fashioned public toilet, some do still exist. They shouldn’t be doing it and should indeed be fined if caught. It’s not difficult, but for lorry drivers it can be; the places where you can park a truck and use a toilet are much less prevalent.

The layby is often unfortunately the only parking option available for trucks at night

Then you have overnight parking. There is nowhere near enough dedicated truck parking facilities in parts of the country and very little is being done about it. Enormous business parks shoot up alongside motorways and no provision is made for the trucks that’ll be required to go there. The humble layby is an essential provider of truck parking, but it offers no security, and no facilities.

Drivers are parked there for at least nine hours, so they’re going to have to urinate. Many laybys stink of urine and while it’s not only HGV drivers, they play a part. Some drivers carry a bottle to pee in (fabric softener ones are well designed for the purpose), and will dispose of its contents and clean it for re-use. It’s an almost essential piece of equipment these days but one that’s not spoken about openly, there’s a stigma attached. It’s not exactly nice to have to pee in the same area you eat and sleep, but what alternative is there?

Other drivers will pee in whatever bottle they may have available; from 500ml cola bottles to sport cap bottles, 2-litre water bottles and even 5 litre screenwash bottles – a proper piss jug (the way of the road, Bubs). How do we know this? Because they are unfortunately discarded… everywhere. Slip roads, roundabouts, central reservations, hard shoulders, diesel pumps, you name it.

If you’re brave, next time you’re parked in a layby have a look in the undergrowth and you’ll almost certainly find a collection of urine filled containers – many of which are alarmingly dark in colour, drivers are rarely well hydrated – and worse, the tied off carrier bags. Leaving bottles of urine and bags of shite for someone else to clean up is one of the most anti-social and unpleasant things you can do.

Yes, those carrier bags. While many laybys smell of wee, many also reek of shite. I always say to anyone getting out the passenger side into a layby to watch their feet as people do crap right there on the ground and leave it there, sometimes with a bog roll garnish. On the road there is the possibility that one day you might suddenly come down with a stomach bug and have to stop as soon as possible and perform a highly unfortunate and embarassing function.

What’s a driver supposed to do in an emergency? Discarded bottles of urine are sadly all too commonplace. Wonder what the council would do if they caught you squatting over a bucket at 5am?

You get the impression that the tiny minority of humans (borderline humans) who leave turds on the tarmac are in no such crisis situation though, they’re just filthy, lazy and selfish. Look, it’s a fact of life; when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go and you have to do what you have to do. There is no dignified solution if you find yourself caught out like that.

If it involves a carrier bag, or your Tupperware lunch box (take the lunch out first) then so be it, you’ll probably want to double – triple – bag or ideally use bin liners. But don’t just chuck it into a bush with the rest of the festering mess. Quintuple wrap it, stick it in a side locker and fire it in the first suitable bin. Any better ideas? Speaking to the traffic police recently they said that some areas are so notorious for the quantity of raw sewage that it’s effectively a biohazard and it’s so bad nobody is willing to clean it up.

Those sorts of  10-200 incidents are, for most people, going to be incredibly rare – once in a lifetime perhaps. But peeing is a different matter. Councils in places such as Essex have decided they’re going to crack down on public urinators.

With lorry drivers parking overnight going to have to pee, the only real option therefore is to use a bottle. Which made me think, as this is an unavoidable situation, should there be official guidance on it? What should the correct procedure be and should there be recommended equipment? If you think about it, it’s illegal to urinate in public, authorities are seeking to catch people in the act and drivers have to park in places where there are no facilities and no possibility there ever will be.

This being the case, what do the authorities want us to do when the fact is trucks have to park for a minimum of nine hours in places where there are no toilets? We deserve to be provided with an official, approved solution. I think there should be a “Guidance for drivers parked overnight with no toilet facilities” leaflet/PDF and a list of approved equipment.

A foldaway toilet from Popaloo could be a wise investment for some drivers

What’s the Health and Safety Exec’s view on using random bottles and bin bags? Where’s the approved containers and PP PPE? There are portable toilets available such as the Popaloo which uses a dry powder system and can be packed away neatly; nobody has ever mentioned to us they own one (it’s not something you’d want to shout about to be fair) but drivers must be buying them as they advertise in T&D. Could items such as this become inreasingly commonplace in the future?

A permanent in-cab toilet would only really be suitable for an owner-driver or truck driven by only one person. We know exactly what would happen in a shared truck, For many though, a toilet in the cab is a solid NO.

It’s about time this issue was addressed properly. If councils are going to target lorry drivers for peeing in laybys where they often have no choice to spend the night and there are no toilets, we deserve to be told what exactly it is they want us to do. Can you imagine any other industry having to contend with no access to a toilet and the only solution being a bottle? 

Dougie Rankine, Editor at Large, Truck & Driver

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