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Government help isn’t the solution to fuel situation

It's the transportation columnist's curse: there's simply a never-ending array of issues to rant and rave about.In the past I have focused on a number of the issues I feel are important to the industr...


DAVE HOLLEMAN: Trucker/writer
DAVE HOLLEMAN: Trucker/writer

It’s the transportation columnist’s curse: there’s simply a never-ending array of issues to rant and rave about.

In the past I have focused on a number of the issues I feel are important to the industry in general and to the Canadian owner/operator in particular. Many times I have struggled to contain my comments to the space allotted to me by the editor, affectionately referred to as “slave driver.”

However, this time, instead of discussing just one topic, there are several that I would like to briefly comment on.

The hot topic on everybody’s mind is fuel prices, the question being when will they go down. In the frenzy to convince governments to help us, it’s ironic that our “savior” is Al Palladini, Ontario’s Economic Develop Minister.

Wasn’t he the demon in our nightmares, not too long ago? Wasn’t he the transportation minister, when that province cracked down on lost truck wheels?

I would like to commend Ontario’s National Truckers Association, for its valiant fight on behlaf of its membership.

In a way, its efforts are already paying off, with many shippers – among them the Ontario government – being forced to come to the table to consider fuel surcharges.

Despite the NTA’s efforts, however, they’re the equivalent of spitting into a raging forest fire.

High fuel prices are doing exactly what this industry needs, and what no strike or shutdown could ever accomplish.

The laws of supply and demand govern our economy, including truckers, and they are finally beginning to feel the gravity of this. For too long, this industry has been too easy to enter, with dealers virtually giving away trucks. Too many people are operating their own rigs when they shouldn’t be operating a barrel. Why? Because too many carriers, even today, are far too quick to cut rates.

High fuel prices-if they remain-will ultimately change the transportation industry, and for the better.

I hope they stay high for some time. Unfortunately, though, long-term gain is often accompanied by short-term pain.

We, as an industry, have made our own bed and now have to lay in it. Scrambling for a government bailout is not only typically Canadian, but also short-sighted and naive.

Weights and dimensions

On another front, Ontario and Quebec recently signed a deal in an attempt to harmonize their commercial-vehicle weights and dimensions. This agreement was a long time in coming and-for the most part-is a very good deal with one major flaw.

Conveniently buried in the agreements’ belly, where most folks won’t look, is a paragraph or two about the now-infamous “black boxes.” The paragraphs outline how both provinces will examine on-board monitoring systems for tracking everything from hours-of-service to vehicle speeds and axle weights.

The powers-that-be just don’t seem to get it. Any attempt to invade my privacy, or that of my peers, will be fiercely resisted. I don’t give a damn how cool, breakthrough or efficient the technology is.

This research project is not supposed to start until 2003, probably in an attempt to allow disdain for any such device to subside. I assure you that my individual rights are not going to be any less important three years from now.

ICBC

Lastly, I would like to take the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) to task.

To them, it seems a trucker is guilty as hell until he, or she, proves a suspicion of innocence. This is clearly demonstrated by its desire to lay heavy fines for the most obscure and slight violation that has nothing to do with the safe operation of a vehicle.

And why isn’t the ICBC’s policy manual for commercial-vehicle enforcement available to the public, even under the Freedom of Information Act? Why? Is it because the document supports the unfair treatment of truckers and how to properly harass them?

And, adding insult to injury, with very few exceptions their compliance officers treat drivers very rudely.

I am a professional, and conduct myself in a calm and polite manner. Obviously, some ICBC officers don’t share that goal, or else haven’t been trained in basic communication skills.

The B.C. government should open the ICBC’s manual to scrutiny, and the ICBC should reign in its over-zealous compliance officers. n

– Dave Holleman is an over-the-road owner/operator and monthly columnist in Truck News.


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Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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