“Trucker Bombs” Problem Isn’t Limited To North Dakota


The media’s quest to leave no negative story about North Dakota’s oil boom uncovered manifests itself today in a AP article about litter along western highways, most notably “trucker bombs” which are containers filled with urine from truckers too busy to pull over and use a restroom.

The truckers throw these containers out their windows and into the ditches, creating a disgusting problem for public works employees and cleanup volunteers.

The problem has local leaders and rural residents scratching their heads. There’s no money to build new rest stops, and once-eager community volunteers are less willing to pick up junk now because they don’t want to handle human waste. So little has been done to address the problem, save for upgrading mowing tractors with cabs to protect operators from getting sprayed with urine when the jugs are hit by a wheel or blade.

“I don’t know if it can be solved other than by people having some respect because right now the countryside is being taken for granted,” said Tioga Mayor Nathan Germundson. “It’s a growing problem and it’s sad.” …

There are only three rest stops along the hundreds of miles of highway in western North Dakota, and all are well outside the busiest areas of the state’s oil patch. Until there are more truck stops or rest areas on the much-traveled route, the jugs will probably still be tossed by truckers, said Tom Balzer, executive vice president of the North Dakota Motor Carriers Association.

“It is a huge issue, but one of the biggest problems is there isn’t lot of places for these guys stop to properly dispose of the receptacles,” Balzer said. “I don’t know that it’s a case of being disrespectful but of the unbelievable growth out there.”

The idea that North Dakota can’t afford rest stops is a little ridiculous. The state, flush with funds, could afford them. The problem is that that the oil boom has grown so fast there really hasn’t been time to build them. And would they even help?

The oil boom has certainly brought more trucks to western North Dakota, transporting supplies in and oil out, but the “trucker bombs” problem isn’t unique to the Bakken. It’s a problem wherever there is a lot of truck traffic.

According to this 2005 article, one small county in Washington found 2,666 bottles of urine in their ditches in one year.

Sadly, it seems more traffic means more litter (including trucker bombs) no matter where the traffic happens or why.

Really, this is just another argument for building the Keystone XL pipeline (along with other oil infrastructure). More pipeline capacity means fewer trucks on the road and less litter.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • Econwarrior

    In the meantime, more law enforcement(ticketing the truckers who “bomb”) would help.  The Highway Patrol in CA does a pretty good job of preventing this problem.

    • The Fighting Czech

      I dont know if this would work here….Driving on those roads,  I cant imagine it too difficult to find a spot where there is no traffic, and toss it out the window.  California probably has a lot more traffic….  Perhaps,  what is needed to be done,  it when ever a Truch driver gets a moving violation,  instead of a fine,  he has to do community service,   8 hrs of picking up Piss bottles,  on his day off of course… 

      • http://realitybasedbob.sayanythingblog.com/ realitybasedbob

        That is an excellent idea.

      • sbark

        echo the good idea,  but heck I’d make it in addition to the fine—-need the money for the “roads” you know……

        the repercussions have to be enough to change their behavior. 

           Remember with the loads they are carrying, its the combination of speed and the load weights which gets the semi tires bouncing like a jack hammer.   Keeping the speed down goes along way toward preserving the roads…….

        ……almost, just almost would be curious if the Law enforcement would be interested in taking radom samples to see the extent of alchol and drug use in the number of bombs they collect at streches of time…..

        would tell them alot…….

    • EcoTort Theatre

       how about BIO-DEGRADABLE bottles, made from PLANT CELULOSE instead of oil based plastics, they turn to compost after a couple of weeks . . .

      • sbark

        I believe they already make milk jugs etc out of corn that biodegrade much better than oil based plastics

  • The Fighting Czech

    Im willing to bet there are  Porta-Potties both at the sites where they pick up their load, as well as where they leave it…. These drivers arent over the road drivers… they are basically route drivers..Back and forth between points A and B.    the Piss bottles are more because of laziness then anything. Dont want to get out of a nice warm truck to go into a freezing cold porta-pottie.   what really would scare me is meeting some guy driving 80,000 lbs down the road, at 65 mph on a 2 lane highway,  trying to whiz in a plastic jug…  and they think Texting is distracting????

  • awfulorv

    When all else fails the workers could try a pair of sturdy, liquid proof, gloves.

  • Cherz1967

    Rest areas will not stop trucker bombs, but what will is disposal sites, like for RV’s where truckers can safely drop their bombs.  Something akin to a port-a-potty, but in the shape of a big garbage can.  They can be placed at crossroads, truckstops, etc. where the truck will be stopped anyway.  It is just too easy to open your window and chuck out a gallon jug at 3am.  Making it easier for them to dispose of them safely would reduce the problem dramaticaly.

    • borborygmi

      Good Common sense Idea if they are used.  Truckers  have been tossing bombs or ages. Time is money for them.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RVIS42ZJEXB6TWZQHYCZF247II Willis Forster

       Yours is the only good idea that i have seen here, also if they took the caps off the only thing left would be a degradable plastic bottle. Some pee on the ground doesn’t hurt a pasture.

    • two_amber_lamps

       Uh, it’s urine….  if they won’t just dump it in the grass why would they bother to find a “proper” disposal site to pour it out?

      Laziness, pure and simple.

  • Conservative_Egghead

    My wife is from Burke County (100 miles northwest of Minot).  I’ve heard my father-in-law talk about this phenomenon for at least 20 years (they live right near the corner where Hwys 52 and 5 split, where truck drivers going between Minot and the border station at Portal turn), long before the oil boom.  This is just truck drivers being lazy, regardless of what commodity they’re hauling or what industry they’re working for.

    • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

      This is just truck drivers being lazy, regardless of what commodity they’re hauling or what industry they’re working for.

      I think that’s exactly right.

      • Cherz1967

        So if there was a recepticle there the truckers could drop it their bomb and it could be disposed of properly.

        • Jimmypop

          no, they’d still skip it. if we built public rest stops, per the story, i can only imagine the issues that would result between campers and messes. then they’d do a story about the millions wasted on them as they will get trashed in a week.

          im not sure there is a ‘right’ solution with something like this.

        • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

          There are plenty of places to stop and either use a rest room or dispose of these “bombs” appropriately.  I used to make the Minot-Williston trip at least once a week, and traveled extensively to Watford, etc.

          They’re just too lazy.

          • TexasJew

            If the Fargo and Grand Forks folks don’t like the oil boom, they should stop parasitizing the oil industry and western North Dakota.

          • 2hotel9

             Oh, there you go again!!!! Your hate for Mother Gaea is permi,,,,,,,DAMNIT. Almost made it through typing that without laughing.

  • borborygmi

    “The media’s quest to leave no negative story about North Dakota’s oil boom uncovered”
       In the quest for transperancy in Gov’t the champion of such transperancy Rob Port ,  would rather have the news media censored when it comes to the oil boom, because you know to much transperancy in big oil is a bad thing.    Hypocrisy thy name is Rob ‘if you can’t say anything nice about the oil boom don’t say anything at all’ Port.   Beautiful Rob, beautiful.

    • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

      I’m not saying anyone should be censored.  I just think their relentlessly negative story selection is unfair.

      • Cherz1967

        Not that I disagree with you, but at the beginning of the boom their were “millionare a minute” stories all over.  You can only print so much good news.

        • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

          A fair point, but some of the stuff they come up with is ridiculous.  This “trucker bomb” thing is a problem all over the country.  They make it sound like it’s some new development in the oil patch.

      • borborygmi

        Well  cheer up Rob,  I heard a story on PBR that was for the most part positive.
        Good money,  able to pay off bills,  companies treating everyone right, promoting quickly.   Tough living conditions but reality sometimes bites.  

        • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

          Prairie Public does a great job.  They’re the ones who pointed out that the email forward, used for oil-bashing by KFGO and the Fargo Forum, was false.

  • Robertfrost


    Trucker bombs are no excuse to limit oil development in the west:  agree strongly

    The story in the west is being sensationalized by over-zealous media and citizens opposed to change:  agree strongly

    The state has the money, but hasn’t had the time to build rest stop:  agree, although porta potties would be a solution in the short term.  I think the state could also at least be moving on this issue, and they are not.  The state has some fault here.

    The issue isn’t really a problem because it happens elsewhere:  disagree strongly.  You seem to take the side of inaction in all of these stories.  While residents need to get used to change in life in the west, there are some things that need serious action there also.  You can’t just point somewhere else and say, “See, not really a problem, because it happens in Washington too.” 

    Why aren’t you demanding some action on the part of the state to develop some additional resources there?  If your Measure 2 passes, they’d have to do it all anyway.

    • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

      A) I’m not taking the side of inaction.  Clearly, someone has to clean this stuff up.  I just oppose the hysteria.  “Trucker bombs” are nothing new in ND, or anywhere else.  Making a stink about them now smacks of looking for ways to cast the oil boom in a bad light.

      B) As for Measure 2, you might want to consider that highway maintenance is already, for the most part, a state responsibility.

      By the way, the state just appropriated over $1 billion for western infrastructure, most of which hasn’t actually been spent yet.  There is plenty of spending.

      • 2hotel9

         I remember this issue being big in the late 80s and early 90s, and the push from media was that it was tied to coyotes moving illegal aliens around the country. Can’t stop at rest areas and truckstops and let them all out, don’t ya know.

        Also remember this from the 70s when I worked for my dad doing 24 hour onroad truck service calls. We would smell urine along stretches of highway, especially the 1 mile or so before interstate weigh station pulloffs and the exits where there were multiple truck company terminals. Weigh stations didn’t have public restrooms and most truck terminals didn’t have restrooms open 24/7.

        It comes down to truckers not stopping at available restrooms in order to stay on schedule and plain old laziness.

      • 2hotel9

         Oh, and as for cleaning it up? Ain’t y’all got any convicts?

        • two_amber_lamps


          Ain’t y’all got any convicts?

          Oh we’ve got plenty!

          One of the things I miss about Arizona….  chain gangs. 

          Perfect use for em….  and the nice thing about ND is it’s nice and flat, great sightlines and no place for convicts to run and hide… 

          • 2hotel9

             Time to put their a$$es to work. That would solve ALL the political left’s supposed “problems”.

  • Guest

    There’s a music video on the issue by the great Mike Watt…

  • Pete

    Easy Solution. Pass a law that all truck drivers have a DNA sample taken. Twenty to thirty bucks and they pay. Then enforce the littering laws and fine them for each bomb.

  • TexasJew

    Instead of pissing (no pun intended) money on a third tier university system that mainly services other states, money should be prioritized for the west and let the rest remain in people’s pockets