Do no harm

by Al Goodhall

With some of the poor driving skills I’ve been exposed to at the hands of my fellow truckers on Hwys. 401 and 400 over the past year, I thought I would see if there was a code of ethics posted online for truckers.

I Googled “ethics for truckers” and “Canadian trucking ethics” and got nothing back. But when I Googled “Truckers code of ethics,” I was directed to a number of posts, mostly out of the U.S. What stood out was that these posts were more about trucking etiquette and code of conduct rather than any specific human values or moral principles.

So, I’d like to propose a code of ethics we can apply to anyone working in any capacity within the trucking industry. It’s really easy to remember because it is only three simple words: Do no harm.

I have found these three words aspirational over the years and they are especially pertinent to professional drivers.

First, do no harm to others. Safety is what we do, so this is a no-brainer – or it should be. Second, do no harm to yourself. Without self-care, without a healthy body and mind, we handicap ourselves from the outset. These are the foundational building blocks for long-term success as a commercial truck driver.

For the trucking industry as a whole, we have to recognize that we are one of the supporting structures in the society we have built, and as such we have a responsibility to not harm the society we live in. That society is global in nature for the transportation and logistics sector.

The principle of do no harm generates a range of detailed and complex conversations about our roles in the trucking industry and in broader society.

I know many of you are familiar with this principle; it is certainly nothing new. It’s a principle that lives in all major religions, recognized as the law of reciprocity to many, do unto others as you would have others do unto you. From what I can see out on the road lately, we can go a long way to improving the image of the industry and that starts with an individual commitment to conduct ourselves in an ethical manner. Do no harm.

So as an individual driver, what does do no harm look like when it comes to caring for those that we share the public space with? There are thousands of specific issues. Here are a few that stand out for me: Following too closely. A couple of months ago, Middlesex OPP in southwestern Ontario charged a semi driver with stunt driving after observing the driver tailgating for a number of kilometers on Hwy. 401 near London.

That is a big dollar fine, big demerit points, and a five-day vehicle impoundment. Look for more of that to happen. This is incredibly threatening to other drivers, especially car drivers. You know you can’t stop in time. Don’t do it.

Driving too fast for the road conditions is another example. This goes hand-in-hand with following too closely. You can’t stop in time. People get injured and killed as a result. Don’t do it.

And then there’s lack of courtesy. When I was a child, my mother always said to me, in a very kindly way, “What about your manners, Alan?”

She also demonstrated what she meant, as did my father. When you create space for yourself, there is nothing wrong with sharing that space as others need to move through it to get where they are going.

The zipper merge is the equivalent of holding open a door for a stranger while you offer up a smile. It promotes kindness. Squeezing other vehicles out at merge points and in heavy traffic doesn’t speed anything up. It promotes more friction. Friction slows everything down and raises the emotional temperature. Don’t be a jerk. Be kind. Do no harm.

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  • Basic courtesy has gone the way of the dinosaurs on our roads.
    When I am passed by another truck, I dim my lights to let them know they are clear. They slide in and 99% of the time never get any sign of thanks.
    When being passed, will slow down to let them pass as opposed to snail racing for a half a k/ph and holding traffic up. Again no thanks.
    As for allowing cars to merge, seems a case of “me first” under any circumstance. They would rather wreck you than slide in behind you. Really, your lane endef and you pull up beside me and expect a 75 foot vehicle stop to let you in? Now I’m the bad guy. Perhaps interaction with large trucks should form part of driver training. They have MELT for trucks now but nothing for car drivers. Why not? It would make our roads safer.
    I do see truck drivers doing stupid things, just the way the industry has changed. It is not like it used to be any more.