Every few years someone proposes a general strike by truck drivers. Call in sick, book off, make the public realize how crucial this profession is for the common good. The idea gains some traction and a few independent drivers book off on a designated day. The whole issue blows over immediately and nothing much comes of these actions.
The strategy may be sound: everything moves by truck on this continent and even a minor kink causes repercussions down the line. But if I recall correctly, blockades by Quebec owner ops in the year 2000 caused frightening disruptions in the food chain—grocery shelves were empty in days—and the Quebec legislature, in response, passed laws providing extremely stiff punishments to anyone who blocks a highway or road with a vehicle. In these parts of Ontario, it’s been awhile since we’ve seen those rolling blockades on the 401.
So the point is well taken. If truckers stopped trucking, collectively, the binders would lock up the wheels of commerce quite quickly. But obtaining that kind of consensus is near impossible. Truckers are autonomous creatures, some are entrepreneurs with contracts to fulfill, and company drivers whether non-union or union have service obligations. Other than a few rogue independents, no working driver much bothers with these actions.
But there’s a new effort underway, this one south of the border. The call is for all transport workers to cease working between Oct 11 and 13, and a spin-off movement is suggesting rigs roll on Washington D.C to “stop the corruption.” The goals are vague but apparently initiated by with the right wing ultra-conservative whacko-fringe—less government interference, don’t mess with the constitution, make Muslims pledge allegiance, and stop Obama-care. I can find no indication that any bona fide truckers are behind this. With all the public safety issues in Washington D.C. lately (just yesterday a woman took at run at the White House barricades, with a baby in the back no less, and was shot dead by security officers), you can bet they’re not gonna let those good ol’ boys and their rolling iron anywhere near Pennsylvania Ave.
As far as I can tell no one has taken up the mantel in the Dominion. In Canada we don’t want to hear about the constitution having survived two Quebec referendii, plus the fact that our constitution was generated by somewhat stodgy types compared to the more compelling father-figures in the US. We’ve got Sir John A. MacDonald, Louis Papineau and Sir Farley Mowat, and they’ve got George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.
And of course you know there is no fifth amendment in Canada. Canadians have every right to incriminate themselves in our legal system. Plus we have socialized medicine already! Obama-care double plus. I suspect there are many truckers driving around without medical insurance so why wouldn’t Joe and Joesephine truck driver not want affordable health care?
So I can’t see this idea gaining much traction in the great white north. Of course a convoy sounds like fun, and this is over Canadian Thanksgiving so we can take the Monday off, too. The protest is spread over a weekend, so shippers, if they think they are going to be affected, can get their product out Thursday night, close for the weekend and come back in Monday morning. It will be interesting to see what becomes of this action—it got some viral action via Facebook before a link was taken down.
If any truck drivers do show up for this thing, I suspect it will be the radical fringe that has been manipulated by their tea party overseers.
Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.
With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude. All posts by Harry Rudolfs