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Washington state lawmakers pass bill giving drivers access to seaport bathrooms

The Washington State Legislature has unanimously passed bills requiring the state’s seaports to allow drivers to use restroom facilities, and directing the state Department of Transportation to keep all 47 state-owned and -operated rest areas open to allow truck drivers to rest safely.

However, lawmakers did not extend the bathroom access requirement (HB 1706) to grant drivers’ bathroom access at retail establishments where they conduct business. Advocates of the provision said it was too controversial among shippers and receivers to get it passed in this legislative session. 

The rest area legislation was docketed as HB 1655. Both bills await Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature. The governor has 20 working days to sign legislation; otherwise it automatically becomes law. The bills passed both state houses nearly two weeks ago.

The Washington Trucking Association, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) lobbied for the bathroom access provisions, as well as the requirement to keep open the state’s rest areas. Under the law, rest areas can be subject to seasonal closures and can be closed for cleaning, maintenance and repairs.

HB 1706 would require terminal operators to “provide a sufficient number of restrooms” for use by draymen in terminal areas where operators typically have access. Areas covered in the bill include inside the gate and truck queuing lots. Restrooms could include fixed bathrooms or portable toilets.

No state allows drivers bathroom access at retail locations where goods are being picked up or delivered. The language in HB 1706 did not specifically reference warehouses and distribution centers, the areas where drivers nationwide mostly encounter problems gaining access to restrooms.

A FreightWaves story in January highlighted the issue of a lack of bathroom access for drivers at warehouses and DCs.