As I write this, hundreds of dump truck operators are planning rolling protests throughout the GTA. They plan to slow down traffic on well-travelled routes to bring attention to their concerns: stagnant rates; dangerous working conditions; and escalating costs.
While I can certainly empathize with their plight, members of the Ontario Dump Truck Association are making a terrible mistake.
According to the drivers, they are routinely overloaded and given no opportunity to resist, as they are not allowed to exit their cab while being loaded. Those who do protest are banned from the work site, dump truck operators say. They are worked long hours at rates that haven’t changed in five years, despite surging fuel costs. They say they’re subjected to “inhumane” working conditions, according to an article in the Toronto Star. However, all these issues are business issues, which need to be resolved with their employers.
They will not find the motoring public to be very sympathetic if they choose to cause major traffic disruptions. These drivers are already walking a very fine line with the public, which has villainized them in recent months following some high-profile accidents involving unsafe dump trucks.
If you really want to get the public’s support, don’t cause them to be late for work, or their doctor’s appointment, or getting home to their family. What does this accomplish? If you really want to get them on-board, then it’s important to educate them through other means. Let them know that the practices of the companies you’re working for are putting them and their families at risk. There are ways to raise awareness without inconveniencing thousands of people who aren’t to blame for your problems.
And in the meantime, take these issues up with your employers. I would suspect there have been attempts to do this already, but I find it unlikely that all avenues have been pursued. There’s strength in numbers, and this group seems to have some pretty impressive numbers. The Star reported more than 400 trucks congregated in a Mississauga parking lot on Wednesday to talk strategy. If all of those trucks remained parked for a day, or a week, or a month, how long would it take before the companies that rely on their services have to revisit some of their policies? (And think of the fuel you’d save, not having to motor slowly along the 400-series highways).
I’m very hopeful this planned protest is called off. Not because I fear being inconvenienced myself, but because I think dump truck operators will do their cause irreparable harm if they follow through with it. It is a cause worth fighting for, but the battle plan is flawed.
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