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a different perspective

There's nothing quite like travelling half way around the world for providing a fresh perspective on things. That's exactly what happened to me last month when I spent a week in Japan as the guest of ...


There’s nothing quite like travelling half way around the world for providing a fresh perspective on things. That’s exactly what happened to me last month when I spent a week in Japan as the guest of Mitsubishi Fuso Trucks North America and its parent company Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus Co.

Over the last few years I’ve noticed what I think is a troubling trend in our industry. Despite the fact we are enjoying the longest economic growth spurt in Canada’s history – something that should make doing business that much more enjoyable for all parties involved – there seems to be a definite erosion in the relationships among carriers, their owner/operators, and customers. The owner/operator protests that continue to flare up across central and eastern Canada as well as in B.C. are a testament to this as is the increasingly hostile environment of carrier-shipper relations.

I want to be careful not to commit the sin of many a tourist who spends a week in a foreign country and thinks that makes him an expert on its culture. But I can’t help thinking that the Japanese culture has a few things to teach us.

It was the little things I noticed during my week in Japan that got me thinking this way. Little things such as the absence of blaring car and truck horns. I spent several days travelling about the Tokyo metropolitan area, which with a population of about 12 million is almost four times the size of our biggest city and has traffic that needs to be seen to be believed, yet in all that time I heard only two people honking their horns.

Little things such as walking through shopping and entertainment areas frequented by teenagers and college kids yet not hearing one car stereo blaring or one teenager shouting obscenities out the back window.

Little things such as the fact most of the truck, bus and car manufacturers at the 34th annual Tokyo Motor Show which I attended had vehicles on display which featured designs for easy accessibility by the disabled. Yet Japanese laws don’t mandate such barrier-free vehicle designs. Rather the Japanese seem to see the need to take care of such special needs as part of their social responsibility.

All little things, yes. But in the end I think they mean a lot and are indications of a society that places a greater value on responsibility and courteousness than does our own.

That’s the kind of courteousness and sense of social responsibility – on both sides – that could repair the tattered relationships among carriers, owner/operators and shippers.

The Ontario Trucking Association’s Professional Driver & Operator Forum recently published a booklet of guidelines for developing business contracts between carriers and owner/ operators. The guidelines, which stress key issues such as the need to clearly detail how payment to owner/operators will be calculated and agreeing in advance on how compensation will be adjusted to cover unusual increases in operating costs, have been approved by representatives from both groups and can certainly help reduce current tensions. There is no legal requirement for carriers to use the guidelines, of course, but I hope they do. Not because it’s the most profitable thing to do, but because it’s the right and responsible thing to do.

A sense of fairness and responsibility is also required in dealing with the fuel crisis. Shippers being miserly with the surcharges they will accept must stop thinking only of themselves and understand the precarious situation they are placing carriers and their owner/operators in. Again, because it’s the right and responsible thing to do.

Will any of this come to pass? Hey, it’s Christmas and even adults can wish.

Lou Smyrlis, Editor
smyrlis@msn.com


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