Truck News


Clear Shot: Driven to Distraction

Transport Canada's recently published discussion paper linking on-board telematics with driver distraction and collisions is enough to trigger foul-mouthed fits reminiscent of Old Testament demon poss...

Transport Canada’s recently published discussion paper linking on-board telematics with driver distraction and collisions is enough to trigger foul-mouthed fits reminiscent of Old Testament demon possession in even the most religiously-inclined trucker.

It certainly got a rise out of the Canadian Trucking Alliance. The CTA lost no time in rejecting the report and soliciting industry response regarding the relationship between on-board telematics and collisions.

The report, which sneakily suggests tighter regulatory controls for telematics, without, of course, actually having the balls to come right out and suggest anything outright, takes the ignorance or negligence, call it what you will, of government bureaucracy to a whole new level.

And most disturbingly, the report sets the scene for the demonization/government regulation of any technological gizmo that could conceivably distract drivers.

Of course, lipstick and kids jumping around in the back seat are not mentioned. Nor is there any mention made of drivers who like to put their seats all the way back so they can barely see over the hood, much less check their side and rear view mirrors.

Nope, in fact, besides cell phones and route finders, very few of the myriad distractions witnessed by truckers on the roads every day actually make the pages of the so-called discussion paper.

One wonders, with whom exactly did the author of this discussion paper actually discuss anything? Yes, yes – we understand it’s supposed to promote discussion, but is this really the best the author could do? In short, there’s nothing new there and what is there is ridiculously behind the times and potentially harmful to the trucking industry in particular.

Nowhere was this more in evidence than at the 2003 Challenge Bibendum, held this September in and around California.

During the course of the three-day sustainable mobility conference for automotive and trucking manufacturers, sponsored by Michelin, companies showcased their latest developments, many of which incorporated on-board telematics that clearly increase vehicle safety.

Take for example the anti-rollover technology featured in a Freightliner truck that not only kicks in when the driver is in danger of a rollover by triggering the engine brake, then the throttle, then the service brakes (if necessary) but also sets off a loud beep and tells the driver (by means of a tiny screen directly over the steering wheel) exactly how much slower he or she should have been going to take that curve. The same truck also featured a lane departure warning system.

And what about the feature from Volvo Trucks, which automatically shuts off certain on board telematic devices (eg. the in-cab cinema) when the truck is in operation? Not to mention the headset that allows the driver to communicate with his or her dispatcher while keeping both hands on the wheel.

Manufacturers are clearly more in tune with what makes a vehicle safe than is the government of Canada. You’d think the author of this report would at least have given them a call. Apparently not.

To view the latest in on board safety telematics, visit the Challenge Bibendum Web site at See a copy of Transport Canada’s paper on driver distraction, visit

(Warning: reading the Transport Canada paper could trigger unpredictable fits of rage for an unspecified period of time. Driving or operating heavy machinery after reading the report is not recommended.)

– Ingrid Phaneuf can be reached at 416-442-2091 or by e-mail at


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