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London’s embracing of trucks was my Olympic moment

Like most people on the planet for a couple of weeks this past August during the London 2012 Olympics I became a fan of sports that normally I wouldn’t pay any heed too. (I am basically a hockey guy with a bit of baseball thrown in to get...


Like most people on the planet for a couple of weeks this past August during the London 2012 Olympics I became a fan of sports that normally I wouldn’t pay any heed too. (I am basically a hockey guy with a bit of baseball thrown in to get through the off-season).

Also, being a Brit-rock fan – or at least of the bands from the ’60s and ’70s – and of British toilet humour, I loved both the opening and closing ceremonies (except whenever IOC president, Jacques Rogge, gave a speech).

Having been lucky enough to visit London on numerous occasions I thought both ceremonies captured the essence and pulse of that great, vibrant city.

Indeed, we were told that the closing ceremony was an artistic portrayal of the everyday hubbub of life in London, including its traffic. So, the backdrop to the performances (by video at least) of John Lennon and Freddie Mercury were constantly moving traffic scenes which featured not only the ubiquitous London cabs and Austin mini’s, but trucks (or as the Brits call them, lorries) – lots of them.

To most people this probably didn’t even register, but to me watching all those cars and trucks sharing the world’s stage, and sharing the road (stylized but still a road), was a simple yet powerful recognition that the trucking industry is an important and accepted part of the fabric of London life. Maybe I am hypersensitive to these kinds of things but I thought “good on London.”

I couldn’t imagine that Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver or any other Canadian (or for that matter North American) city would even think to consider including trucks in such a performance.

Here, trucks and the trucking industry are still at best taken for granted, or considered a necessary evil. The “food not circuses” crowd, who no doubt would want to be heard here, don’t think we need trucks at all and I am sure that any suggestion to feature trucks in a celebration of everyday life would have been greeted by them with hostility.

I suspect I may be overstating London’s acceptance of trucks and its recognition of the importance of the industry probably didn’t even enter into the thinking of those who planned the closing ceremony, but it was nice to see anyway. Just maybe someone gets it.

It is incredible how large cities in particular, which are so dependent upon trucks for supplying their cities and businesses with the necessities of everyday life, can be so decidedly anti-truck.

New York is often held up as the best example of that sort of thinking. Fines, fees, size and weight restrictions, truck bans, are all taken to a new level in the city that doesn’t sleep. But, the Big Apple is far from alone on that front.

Transportation planners in the big cities have been and for the most part continue to be either ignorant or dismissive of goods movement needs. Perhaps that is in part because their political masters are also ignorant of the importance of goods movement and the essential role played by trucks, or they are downright hostile to the idea of accommodating truck traffic in any way.

The citizenry in large cities are also guilty of the same behaviour. Everyone wants the shelves stocked with the latest fashions in the shops; they want the markets filled with produce and meats. But they don’t want trucks on the roads (especially if it is their street); and they don’t want to provide areas where the trucks can park, or where they can be safely and quickly loaded and unloaded. The sum total of most goods movement strategies these days seems to be that by investing in transit (and indeed having trucks helping to pay for transit) that will free up space for the trucks. Ya, sure. We’ve heard that one before.

I don’t profess to have all the answers. The problems are surely more complex that I am able to portray in the space afforded me in this column. But, truckers are practical people. We don’t expect everything to be paved over to make way for our vehicles. We know that an efficient, convenient transit system is vital to a city’s economic, environmental and social health.

We know that we need to share our workplaces with motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. We know that we must be respectful of neighbourhoods. But the essential role of goods movement and of the predominant mode of freight transportation – the truck – needs and deserves recognition and respect. We need our London moment.


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