Dropping the dime

Is it ever appropriate to call in and report a fellow truck driver? That’s the dilemma on-road editor Harry Rudolfs struggled with recently, after another trucker nearly ran him off the road.
He wrote about his account of events in this month’s issues of Truck News and Truck West. Here’s a summary:
Trying to keep my truck from dropping off the shoulder, all I could do was watch helplessly as the trailer’s taillights diminished into the distance, my heart racing and my head steaming with anger.
A few minutes before, everything had been going along swimmingly. It was a beautiful moonless night, very little traffic on the 401 at one in the morning somewhere between Brockville and Kingston, Ont.
A tractor-trailer had pulled out to pass and I thought nothing of it. He was slowly gaining on me, but about halfway past he suddenly put his right signal on. The thought struck me immediately: he’s coming over and he’s going to take out my driver’s side. I stood on the brakes while swerving violently. Time slowed almost to a standstill as I gripped the wheel and waited for a collision. Somehow, the corner of his trailer just missed clipping my front end by millimetres.
I could only get a couple of numbers off his trailer. My truck only goes 100 km/h and he was probably doing 105. Nothing I could do but watch him disappear down the road while I flashed my high beams and fumed.
That would have been the end of the story except about 20 minutes later I see him pulling into the westbound Gananoque scales, which are closed as usual that time in the morning. I couldn’t just let this thing go; it was gnawing at my insides. I had to find out why he tried to run me into the rhubarb.
I pulled over past the scales and backed up. Let me tell you, I was feeling plenty of anxiety as I approached his window…
He opened the window a crack. “You almost killed me back there,” I told him. “What’s your problem?” He was only a young man, late 20s, probably driving a broker’s truck, and evidently a new Canadian with limited abilities in English. “You…was…back?”
“Why did you cut me off?” I asked. He replied with a sheepish smile and rolled up the window. Still fuming and shaking, I walked back to my truck after memorizing the licence plate.

To summarize, Harry decided to call the driver’s company and report the incident. Next day, he gets a call from the driver himself who blamed Harry for costing him his job!
“So I have to admit to having mixed feelings about this episode,” Harry writes. “I never did find out why he cut me off and an apology in broken English would have been enough. But I certainly didn’t want to get him fired. And the owner should not have given out my phone number, but he clearly had a duty to investigate my complaint.”
Was he in the wrong to ‘drop the dime’ on another driver? Or was it the right response? Harry says he still isn’t sure, and would be interested in feedback. E-mail him at: hrudolfs@rogers.com or post your comments here.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • Was he in the wrong to ‘drop the dime’?
    Absolutely not. Much like anything in life, there are the good apples and the bad apples. Despite anyone’s personal position on the topic, take some time out to observe the mannerisms of an increasingly under qualified yet said to be professional commercial driver.
    The next time you sit behind the wheel of your rig, your SUV, your personal vehicle with plans to hit the multi lane freeways that pass through your city, pay attention to the vehicles that surround you. I am confident, as I have been commuting in excess of 100 miles daily for years, that you will see the same things seen by my eyes.
    – excessive speeds by commercial vehicles
    – improper lane management by commercial vehicles
    – insufficient following distances
    All an accident waiting to happen! Albeit some old school drivers out there that truly believe that they have an honorable profession and drive as such, the pool of drivers is rapidly growing out of inexperienced drivers forced into a job that they really had no intention of acquiring. The economy isn’t the best, we’ve seen worse. How many drivers, if asked, would truly admit that they grew up with the intent to become a professional driver?
    Dropping the dime on someone who has no business representing the good commercial drivers out there… do it! Report them every time! A professional is a professional regardless of nationality, regardless of age or sex report dangerous driving!

  • Harry: I believe you followed the appropriate steps. Where the problem arose was the lack of a company with poor followup on there part. Your phone number should never have been given out to the offending party. Also as you said a simple appology would have resolved the whole matter and all parties would have been happy.

  • You did the proper thing Harry.If only more of us dropped a dime it might clean the industry up.
    i used to be proud to say i drove a truck,not any more

  • Calling in on anyone who drives with out care should be law but some just float eh idea and snivel about it after, Harry did the right thing and any company giving out info like that should be checked out by the cops. I have had people call in on me to report me for cutting them off but the idea of cutting off someone to impact and changing lanes and slowing down smaller vehicle is 2 different things in my books. I was approached by the company about this and the simple truth is I gave them a copy of the persons plate number and told them if they wanted more info on the person I would be more than happy to find it out for them. The subject was dropped when I ID the color of the vehicle and the person driving the vehicle. When asked about why I felt I needed to write the info down I told them I have pen and paper ready all the time because it’s the way of people to grab a phone and snivel to see if you can raise cane. The driver who cut Harry off can’t see in the dark and has no depth perception, I thought this was a required need to get your license to drive truck. So it’s win-win for trucking if this guy can’t get back in a truck. Hey Harry if you read this he missed so the point goes to you, good game!

  • Harry you absolutely did the right thing. Also he may have been fired due to this being his 10th warning, does anyone know his previous record before your call. It was very unprofessional for that company to give out your number.
    Think of it this way, what if he had run you off the road and you were not around now to even worry about making that phone call. Think of this too what if you didn’t make that phone call and next time maybe for someone else it was fatal?

  • Harry you did the right thing by reporting him. Even though I am retired I still would report dangerous drivers to the company. If it was a lapse in judgment, that will wake him up I hope. If this is a habit he has, then we don’t need this type of driver out on the road. Over the years, the trucking industry has gotten a bad rap from drivers like him.
    Now, by the same token, if I see a driver that is a good driver and has good driving habits I also will phone the Companies Safety Dept and also put in a report.
    If you want to shake the Safety Dept big time, the person receiving the call is at a loss for words.
    The first time I did that I phoned a Company and was safety relieved and happy they told me not many calls of that nature are received and the drivers would be told.

  • Although we all have been in that situation, and I have to say I would be very hard-pressed not to do the same thing myself, the problem lies that the information is one-sided!
    How many drivers have hated that sign on the back of the door saying,”If you see this vehicule driving unsafely call 1-800…..”
    We now are subject to every ill tempered driver out there with a grudge or axe to grind!! The actions you took, I believe are understandable, but as a professional driver we all too often need to “Let it go!” What would we do if we reacted this way every time a 4-wheeler or semi cut us off in a place like Chicago?!
    It is really part of the job, as much as I hate to say, and I would also add that you put yourself at personal risk, by walking up to that other driver’s door.
    But between you and I,”Thank GOD that mother @#$%^er is off the road!!” Hugh Gagnon

  • Harry there should be more people like you out there. I am not sure that it was the right thing to do in approaching this driver and would not recommend anyone to do this.
    The carrier was totally out of line giving out the phone number to the driver.
    The positive point of all this is that 20 miles up the road Harry seen the truck stopped at the scales and not at the scene of a collision.
    There was a comment that the information is one sided and that drivers feel that they are getting the dirty end of the stick. Was this driver wrongfully dismissed? I am hoping that the carrier did take the proper steps prior to dismissal. No driver should be terminated for one complaint. However the carrier should document the complaint and place it in the drivers file as well as explore the option of training.
    I would like to share the opposite type of story with you. A driver this week witnessed a truck in the rush hour traffic passing on the shoulder of the road. He reported it to the carrier (well known and respected in the industry) and did not get any satisfaction back that the carrier had dealt with the driver.
    As an industry are we taking backward steps in respect to safety?

  • Harry you did the right thing to inform the company about there bad driver, but if you do it for a bad driver you should also do it for a diver that did a good job at something that would warrent a call to the company.

  • Harry, I am not a truck driver, but earlier this week a careless truck driver forced my car off the road. My car skidded, flipped and traveled on the roof for about 50 yards. The driver jumped back into his lane when I laid on the horn so I know he realized what he did. According to witnesses, he pulled over about 1/2 mile down the highway, but after about 2 minutes, he left. The police caught up with him but it doesn’t look like anything will be done. I have ultimate respect for trucks, especially since they are bigger and can kill you. I never cutover or cutoff a truck and honestly try to avoid following too close or near.
    I’m glad you reported him and he deserved to be fired. Operating any vehicle is a life or death responsbility that not everyone respects.