The old saying ‘There’s no such thing as bad press’ doesn’t necessarily ring true in the trucking industry. This is an industry that has a bad rap – and for the most part, undeservingly so. Negative stories about the trucking industry appear regularly in mainstream newspapers, and unfortunately many of them are not warranted.
A reader (thanks, Aaron Sweet!) recently forwarded me a column published in the St. Catharines Standard. I was shocked to read the scathing attack on our industry.
Written by Roy Scott, the column blasted truck drivers, categorizing them along with ‘inebriated drivers.’ He suggested law enforcement begin targeting “the jockeys that race these mammoth machines.”
“Regular travel throughout the Golden Horseshoe will provide any driver with ample opportunity to witness the insanity on our major arteries,” he blasted. He went onto say he’s dodged “garbage, stones, metal and large sheets of ice flying from these rigs.” And he also claimed he routinely has to weave through large chunks of rubber from exploded truck tires.
The author must have pretty bad luck. I spend over two hours per day commuting on major highways and only once in my life have I had to dodge anything coming from a transport truck (a tie-down strap that broke off in front of me). At the time that happened, I refused to paint the entire industry with the same brush due to an isolated incident, and I still do today.
“On dark, rainy nights, we’ve all experienced oversized trucks flying past at breakneck speed when we can barely see the pavement. In good weather, it’s worse,” Scott wrote.
When the weather’s bad, I find myself looking for a transport truck to tuck in behind, knowing the professional driver behind the wheel will help guide me to safety through fog, rain or snow. Driving through Saskatchewan on a foggy October morning last fall, a Bison Transport driver helped me carve through particularly dense fog at a safe and reasonable speed.
“They own the road. Trucks follow so closely, it’s not safe to make a lane change, or they cut you off making improper lane changes. Then you’re blind to anything ahead of you as they have just created a wall on wheels,” Scott wrote. “In the recent past, I have been cut off numerous times, at least twice causing me to swerve to the left to avoid a collision. Fortunately, my diversion did not cause one, but these narrow escapes cause enormous stress.”
The tirade went on and on and on. Perhaps I should just shrug off such drivel and accept the fact Johnny Four-Wheeler will never come to accept the fact truck drivers are, for the most part, the safest drivers on the highway and the drivers of our economy. But I take these attacks personally, and never get sick of throwing the following stats out there: Accidents involving heavy-duty trucks have decreased over 20% in the past 10 years (despite a steady increase in truck traffic); Only 2% of highway crashes involve tractor-trailers – and of those, the truck driver is at fault less than 20% of the time.
But unfortunately, sometimes the facts get in the way of a good story. I thought about responding directly to the author of the article, but was unable to locate his e-mail address. I once e-mailed the editor of the Calgary Sun after that paper published an equally unfounded column berating truckers and the industry in general. To her credit, the editor ran my response in the next day’s paper, along with the comment ‘Thanks for offering a different perspective.’ Not only that, but she took me up on an offer to spend a few hours in a truck to see what you folks have to go through on a daily basis.
My buddy Ron Singer of Ron Singer Truck Lines took her out in his Western Star gravel truck for an afternoon and she stepped out of that truck with a new appreciation for professional drivers. It’s often been said that all motorists should be required to spend some time in a transport truck before they get their licence. Maybe that holds true for journalists as well.
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