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Crossing the line

MONTREAL, Que. - Some truckers, heads plugged with horror stories, are nervous about coming into Quebec: lots of tickets, big fines, drivers chucked in jail, etc.

MONTREAL, Que. –Some truckers, heads plugged with horror stories, are nervous about coming into Quebec: lots of tickets, big fines, drivers chucked in jail, etc.

There may be a grain of truth in some of the tales swirling around truck stop coffee pots, but drivers reap roughly what they sow, according to Arnold Yetman, a carrier enforcement officer with Control Routier Quebec.

“We don’t just do things (like fine drivers and take them off the road) and let them figure out themselves what to do,” he insists.

Control Routier officers have some discretion in just what fines they levy, and how they write up tickets.

“We can give a $480 fine for not checking a box on a log book. But I don’t feel right doing that. We take each case on its own,” Yetman says. “Recently, a driver from the States was scared shitless that we stopped him. He had heard so many horror stories. We could have fined him personally for an infraction, but we did not. He was so surprised.”

In the face of a sure ticket, the best thing a driver can do is stay calm and respectful.

Asking for trouble

“We can give one infraction, none, or three or four, if the person is asking for it. I had one driver literally ask for the fines. I won’t tell you what he said before that. We try to give tickets that the trucks merit. If we fined for every infraction, we would be giving out tickets all day long,” says Yetman.

Going bonkers is useless. “Sometimes people say bad things, even make death threats. And that is a criminal infraction,” Yetman warns.

In a given year, Control Routier might stop 88,000 Quebec-plated trucks, 3,500 from Ontario, 18,000 from New Brunswick, a scattering from the other provinces and a couple thousand from the United States.

Certain problems with out-of-province rigs come up over and over, like being overweight during the spring thaw.

The biggest infraction from Ontario is having an axle overweight, or exceeding the GVW: Control Routier hands out about 5,000 overweight tickets a year.

Spring thaw

“In Ontario they do not have a thaw period for highways. (Ontario truckers) have a hard time adjusting to (our) thaw period. In Quebec, the reduced weights apply to all roads: highway and city. I have spoken to the Ontario Trucking Association repeatedly in the last couple of years, but the situation still does not seem to have changed very much,” Yetman says.

Drivers sometimes get hot-headed because their company will not send anyone out to help fix the load. They sometimes have to redistribute the load themselves, which they do not like at all.

The next biggest infraction against out-of-province trucks is for mechanical defects, resulting in about 3,800 tickets a year.

“Usually the most common infraction is a general bad mechanical condition; for example, one or two major defects and several minor defects. This shows they are not taking care of their vehicles. We usually remove these vehicles from the road. Drivers really love us for that,” Yetman says.

One truck, Yetman recalls, did not have any brakes. Sometimes he sees trucks that are literally falling apart.

Drivers frequently have problems with their log books, and this is a good time to be on your best behaviour.

“We are just doing our job, and if drivers do theirs too, they will do well by us. A lot of companies do not teach their drivers how to complete their pre-trip inspections, or how to complete their log books. We spend a lot of time explaining log books,” Yetman explains.

Unfortunately, he adds, “We take a lot of drivers out of service.

“I did have a driver from the States push it in my face that his log book was legal where he came from in the US. His book did not show where he stopped, what he was doing or his hours.”

Watch your language

It is true that some out-of-province trucks are frequent targets for enforcement officers, but not without reason: They know, for example, that some trucking companies are involved with the transport of illegal tobacco, and they get checked more often.

Drivers of out-of-province trucks hauling oversize loads often cannot get their act fully together; ie., forgetting to switch at the border to the red and white banner with the big “D” on it (that’s French for dimensional). The yellow banner “wide load” is illegal.

Getting stopped can be stressful, but there is no point in making matters worse.

“We want to get drivers back on the road. We even contact companies to come help them. We are helpful,” Yetman says. “People expect a bad time and discover that it isn’t as bad as they thought.”

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