OTA poster campaign a great idea, but begs a question

As reported on Trucknews.com last week, the OTA is spearheading a road safety initiative that will urge motorists to call police to report reckless drivers. It’s a great idea, and should result in a lot of phone calls, based on my own personal observations on a daily basis.
The program’s spokesperson is Debbie Virgoe, wife of heroic truck driver, David Virgoe, who died when he steered his tractor-trailer off Hwy. 400 last year to avoid harming other motorists. On-hand for the photo-op were Virgoe, various representatives of the enforcement community, the Ministry of Transportation and the OTA.
The campaign involves applying a 12″x20″decal to tractor-trailers which displays the message: ‘Help Keep Our Workplace Safe – Report Aggressive Motorists, Call Police.’
While I’m proud the trucking industry is once again being proactive in its promotion of highway safety, the cynic in me wonders how effective this campaign will be. After all, we’ve been told the OPP lack the resources to control speeding trucks, hence the need for mandatory speed limiters which will mechanically limit all trucks in the province to 105 km/h.
How is it then, that the OPP is suddenly able to follow up on the hundreds, maybe even thousands of complaints about unsafe driving practices on our roads, that these posters will generate? Has their been a sudden influx of cash into the police force? Or will police resources be stretched too thin to follow up on complaints?
The OTA’s poster campaign is a noble concept, but whether or not this initiative has enough teeth to alter driver behaviour remains to be seen.
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Organizers launched the OTA poster campaign at a press conference just off Hwy. 400 last week.

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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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  • This appears to me to be another public relations prop due to the loss of integrity regarding the speed limiters armtwisting fiasco (amoung other things). Having their (OTA) authority and integrity questioned they barreled on with their propoganda (maybe a little too strong a word). The OTA, one of Canada’s most powerful lobby groups, needs to perpetuate the perception of “concern for the public” to retain political support. Practicality in inforcement and impact is irrelevant (ie. speed limiters). If the OPP isn’t capable or even interested in stopping aggresive drivers today (truckers included) its just a meaningless sticker that protects rear doors from rusting. The OTA’s mandate is to service the needs of its members. It just cannot be done without the perception of public interest. Unfortunately Debbie Virgoe’s personal integrity and her husbands heroism is used as a means to an end. Though individuals within OTA undoubtebly have sympathy to her cause, the stickers are a simple and inexpensive Public Relation tool in order to associate with a worthy public cause. Its not wrong or evil, its just part of their job to serve the OTA memberships needs. My only concern is that a true hero may be associated with an empty political game. I trust the average trucker will retain Mr. Virgoe’s honor regardless of Ontario politics.

  • Friday, August 22, 2008
    Obviously the OPP did not get the memo when this happened to the comuters on the 401.
    While driving my usual route from work I noticed a transport truck darting from lane to lane. I take heed of transport trucks because I am a Safety & Compliance officer for a well-known transport company. While having my license for over three decades and involved in the Safety aspect of the industry, I appreciate the trucks around me and respect them.
    I was heading westbound, travelling the hour drive on the 401 highway, something that I have been doing for almost two years. Yes sir there is nothing like getting on the 401, at or, around Hurontario Rd and getting off again at the Cedar Creek exit. And 12 and a half-hours later, doing it again in the other direction.
    Today was a little different though. I witnessed a transport truck in the far-left lane. At first it seemed a little strange that a transport truck would be in the far-left lane, knowing that it is against the law. Then it became surreal when the big rig put his right blinker on to return to the center lane. The drivers all around the big rig new that this guy was in a hurry and looking for an accident. As I watched with horror, this big rig pulling in and out of traffic and occupying the far left lane again. The only thing going through my mind was, “ I wonder what was so important to travel at such dangerous speeds and reckless disregard for the lives around him”.
    As I watch this driver ruin every other driver’s reputation, it occurred to me that I would have to be in touch with his Safety & Compliance personnel or his Operations Manager, to notify them about the habits of one particular driver. After travelling about 5 miles, I was astonished how long it took me to catch up to this thrill seeker. When I did finally make it to observe his trailer number and plate number, I did something that I have always preached. DO NOT TALK ON THE PHONE OR WRITE ANYTHING DOWN WHILE DRIVING.
    As I pulled beside the trucker, he noticed that I was writing down his unit number. Usually this action alone will deter a driver from continuing on his path to destruction. But not the speedster. He just dropped a gear and started off again.
    I had to do something that I would normally not do. I had to call the OPP and notify them of the re-incarnation of Dale Ernhardt and he was Westbound on the 401 almost at the Cambridge Townline Rd, exit. The OPP have a detachment on Beaverdale Rd, just off of the 401 in Cambridge. Surely they would come to the rescue of the commuters.
    When I was connected to the OPP via my cell phone, which, again is a no-no in my book? I identified myself and my position, as a Safety and Compliance officer of a rather large company. This officer treated me so condescendingly that I lost my train of thought as he hung up on me half way through identifying the speedster. The officer asked me for a description and markings of the vehicle. I was giving him the trailer number and the license plate number, I was about to give him the company name and city with the tractor number, and he rudely interrupted me said thank you for the call and disconnected our conversation. Now I have two wrongs and they are not making a right.
    I believe we live in a society that demands justice, sometimes instantly, and when justice is not served we feel empty, let down, discarded with the other garbage. I now know why the lady in the courts of the USA has a blind fold over her eyes. As I continued down the road with the thrill seeker it occurred to me that he was now slowing down. I looked all around for an OPP cruiser. Then I saw why he slowed down; he had caught up to his trucking partner. Same name on the truck as his and both headed back home to Windsor, On. The highway was back flowing again in the norm.
    While I struggled to understand why the police were not interested in slowing down this marauder, it occurred to me that this morning while listening to the radio news there was a story of a construction worker who shoved a cat, yes a cat, into his toolbox. Some one called police and the construction worker was charged with Cruelty to Animals. Made me wonder how many police it took to give the construction worker a summons for that incident. Maybe I should have looked for a cat in the trucker’s passenger seat. Surely the OPP would have come to slow down the speeding trucker, knowing that there was a feline’s life at stake. Or maybe I can use the ol’ cliché; the police were too busy sitting in Timmy’s having a coffee and a donut discussing the problem of why construction workers have to be so cruel to cats.
    Martin has three decades of over-the-road experience. He has over three years as a Manager and Instructor of a Driving School. Training Safety & Compliance theory to students through a Private Career College. He carries an impressive number of certifications to his name including NATMI CSS & CDS. He manages 6 terminals as a Safety & Compliance Supervisor and works for a “50 Best Employers in Canada”.
    Martin Cowie
    Supervisor, Safety & Compliance

  • Like Marty I am a driver trainer with over 36 years as an AZ driver. About a year ago I witnessed a driver of a tractor trailer travel in the 3rd lane all the way from Dixie Rd in Toronto to highway 24 in Cambridge. They had a company phone number displayed on the trailer which I called. I got no satisfaction from the person that answered the phone and was unable to be passed onto anyone in a management role.
    I called *OPP and was treated in the same manner as Marty and got no more satisfaction from the OPP that anything would be done.
    I do know in the past as a fleet safety manager I received letters from the OPP complaining about one of the company drivers. With that in mind I do know that they will follow up on complaints.
    I also experienced a situation where I seen 3 young people in an SUV driving erractic and contacted the OPP. The following day they returned the call and told me that they have addressed the issue with the owner of the vehicle who lived in a small hamlet. I just happened to work with a resident of the hamlet and told them the story. They told me that the SUV has not had many miles on it the last few weeks and she sees the kids around more than previously. The OPP have followed up in the past and I do know they to are short manpower at the best of times.
    I cannot make excuses for the OPP and I will not make excuses for the owners of transport companies. I will not give up and will continue to make calls when I see a driver out there damaging the reputation of the true professional truck driver.
    Drive safe.

  • Martin: Like yourself i have been in the same situtation and found to have the total oposite responce from the POLICE. You said it in your letter that you did’nt want to call the opp,i take that you did’nt want to call so that all truck drivers would not be grouped together. I too would do the same because i’am a safety officer for a trucking company and have a great deal of respect for the drivers that work for the company that i do. How ever we can not label the POLICE as you have because of one officer, they dont all eat donuts and drink coffee all day,but they do protect us from as many of the bad drivers as they can. As safety and compliance officers we most not get into that frame of mind, because if we do we have now became the TRUCKER in the left lane.
    Keep on truckin and drive safe