The Great Canadian Truck Chase–anything else on TV?

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Nothing like a polite and courteous truck chase to liven up a Monday morning. People are still talking about it in coffee shops days later. The five hour drama was followed across North America as a Toronto television station had its helicopter filming the pursuit in real time.
I turned on the television to find out the weather and instantly became riveted like everyone else—for a while. It wasn’t really a chase since the driver generally obeyed the rules and even signalled turns, and couldn’t get the rig over 105 kph thanks to David Bradley and speed limiter legislation. CP24 also offered commentary from its resident announcer, former OPP officer Cam Wooley.
By the time I tuned in, the cops had already been following the stolen truck for hours, from Burlington where it was spotted empty of its cargo of particle board, to Woodstock and back to Toronto, where it took the 427 south and subsequently the QEW towards Niagara. The TV announcer speculated that the driver might be heading for the border, and I pictured the National Guard setting up howitzers on the Queenston Bridge.
I went for a shower and by the time I got back the driver was in Niagara Falls and turning around at McLeod Road, heading back toward St. Kitts. By the time I’d finished changing and brushing my teeth, the driver had pulled over in Burlington and the event was over.
But what I really like is that it got the public talking and thinking about trucks and our trade. Trucking is the second biggest profession for men in North America, yet we’re almost invisible. This incident, however, put the cross-hairs right on the industry. Cargo theft and speed limiters in one day got more coverage than thousands of press releases and seminars from the OTA.
Jonathan Kay wrote a story for the National Post explaining the high tech intricacies of contemporary trucking, telling us the days of Smokie and the Bandit are over. The Canadian Trucking Alliance, always quick with a press release, called for tougher penalties for cargo theft crime.
Indeed, although hijackings are fairly rare, trailer and tractor theft are not uncommon. One truck stop owner admitted that about one trailer per month goes missing from his lot. As far as thefts go, this one is small potatoes. What would he get for a load of particle board, a few thousand dollars?
Most people were asking, why does he keep on driving, why doesn’t he stop? Well, he was going to jail and this was his 15 minutes of fame I suppose. And it was such an orderly pursuit-come-escort. A phalanx of OPP cars riding behind and in front with purple lights flashing, almost like watching the Snowbirds doing some precision flying.
At one time I watched a rig pull alongside and squeeze the flatbed over into the hammer lane. This was the fellow on the radio who wanted to take him out. “Let me do it, I can cut him off,” but as quickly another OPP got in front of this vigilante and backed him out of the scene. No shots fired, no one injured, no property damage. That’s the way to run a truck chase. True to our credo: Peace, Order and Good Government, way to go you Canucks!

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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.

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  • As a retired long-haul trucker, I know that the public has always had a poor outlook towards truckers, both in Canada as well as the States. Now, just when things are starting to get a wee bit better for truckers,(in the public’s eye),this “clown” comes along, steals a unit and sends the public-opinion poll back 15 years. It’s really too bad that this “clown” wasn’t a trucker so that he’d know just how hard things are (in trucking) to get a good reputation and keep it. I truly hope that the courts finally hand out a decent sentence instead of “slapping one’s wrists”!!