Anti-smoking activist Heather Crowe died on Monday without ever having smoked a cigarette. You may recognize her from the TV commercial where she spoke of her battle with lung cancer – a disease she was stricken with after working in a smoky restaurant for nearly 40 years.
Meanwhile, next week Ontario will essentially become a smoke-free province – in public places at least. The Smoke-Free Ontario Act promises to “ban smoking in all enclosed public places and workplaces as of May 31, 2006, including restaurants, bars, schools, private clubs, sports arenas, entertainment venues, work vehicles and offices.”
Which brings us to trucking. Since your truck is your workplace, will the smoking ban extend to the cab of your truck?
What if you’re an owner/operator? In that case your cab is essentially your home away from home – shouldn’t you be allowed to light up in the privacy of your own cab? Will it depend on whether you’re on- or off-duty? Whether the wheels are rolling or not rolling? It appears the answers to these questions are shrouded in a cloud of smoke.
While the province of Ontario has reported in the media that its anti-smoking law should supercede any federal mandates, the Ontario Trucking Association has argued that the federal rules (which exempt vehicles) should be enforced.
I can imagine how we’ll find out the final answer. You’ll be driving along the 401, minding your own business when one of Ontario’s finest will flash his lights and pull you over. Panic will strike as you wonder if your load has somehow come loose? But nope, the officer will instead hand you a hefty ticket for driving along with the window down with a cirgarette butt dangling from your fingers.
Just what this industry needs – more regulation! Of course, there are times when smoking in trucks should be forbidden. If you’re a company driver and share your vehicle with others, for instance. No amount of air freshener will remove the smell of smoke from the upholstery and non-smokers shouldn’t have to deal with that while on the job. It’s also not unreasonable for a company to enforce a strict no-smoking policy in all its own trucks – after all, who can blame them from wanting to protect the interior from burn marks and smokestains?
As far as the owner/operator is concerned, however, I hope they don’t get burned by this new rule. Stopping on the side of the road several times a day to have a cigarette is not only inefficient – it’s downright dangerous. While the intentions of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act are admirable, I’m of the opinion longhaul truckers should be exempt from this rule.
And this is coming from a non-smoker.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies