Last Monday’s Queen’s Park protest was too little too late. One time I arrived at Ford Talbotville and all the gates were locked. The security guard told me someone had just stolen a car and driven it right off the assembly floor.. Clearly a case of locking the gate after the horse had gone.
Spokesperson Scott Mooney looked like he was held up to dry, waiting for reinforcements to come from Cambridge that never arrived, and the handful of trucks that did show up weren’t enough to block College Street, let alone ring the legislature.
But I’m not sure an enthusiastic turnout of cheesed-off owner operators would have done much to change public opinion either. However I was categorically wrong stating last year speed limiting Class 8 vehicles could only be safer. How could slowing down velocity result in more accidents?
The epiphany I’ve had is that limiting top ends means you can’t break away from a pack, or speed up in some cases to get in front of merging traffic. Most drivers set the cruise as high as it goes so we get quantum lumps of trucks and four wheelers backed up for kilometres while two rigs spar with each other, gaining and losing millimeters at a time.
However speeds on the 401 have come down since the new year, and few trucks pass me between Toronto and Montreal (those that do aren’t doing any great chore either). But all my driving is at night, so maybe the high ballers are still running during the daytime hours.
A driver for Maritime Ontario told me he hadn’t had his speed backed off yet, but he’s keeping to 104 kph, wary of the bears who seem to be out on the big road thicker than ever these last weeks. Another driver was wondering if there weren’t a toggle switch he could install that would take off the limiter when he gets in the States, where trucks are allowed to run at some good clips. No is the answer, though I suppose a mechanic might be able to show you how to access the electronics and set the limit yourself. Anybody know if this is possible? At least we don’t have to run tachometers as well, like they do in Europe (remember those things, with the big round clock face and the round graphs?)
The other night, somewhere around the Big Apple (Brighton, Ont., not NYC) another tractor trailer pulls out to pass me. It seems to take awhile, but he or she is nudging up. So when buddy is halfway past, maybe going 101.7 kph, and I’m doing 101.34 kph..so just coming up to my door—I flip off the cruise and buddy is suddenly sliding by like he’s a highway superhero…like the old days….but behind me a the bunch in the right lane tailing me closely suddenly they have to adjust their speed, hit their brakes and start cramming into the hammer lane.
Except there’s a big hill in front of us, and the guy passing me with all his weight is suddenly dying faster than me backing off the throttle. I’m thinking, better to goose it than have to hit the brakes and really mess up the flow. So suddenly I’m flying up the hill while my new friend is struggling to hold on to high gear.
I see him in the rearview finally getting back into the right lane, but not before a couple of four wheelers pull fabulous NASCAR maneuvers and come roaring by. We get to the top of the next hill and start down the other side and sure enough, here he comes again slipstreaming onto my back door and we start the process all over again.
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