On speed limiters, foreign powers and getting stuck in Wawa
June 1, 2008
A couple of matters are nagging me. The first thing is the speed limiter debate: despite all the energy expended by the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) and others to make truck speed limiters manda...
A couple of matters are nagging me. The first thing is the speed limiter debate: despite all the energy expended by the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) and others to make truck speed limiters mandatory in Ontario, the exercise oozes irony. It’s really not necessary anymore since we are running at 105 km/h! Things have changed in recent months: impaling fuel prices for one thing, and the fact that the large majority of fleet owners (80% my guess) do have their equipment electronically governed.
There’s still the odd cowboy rolling at a buck twenty but this is a rarity – and the rocket ship pilots are pretty well gone (at least on the stretch of 401 I drive between Toronto and Montreal).
The perception among some drivers that a 105 top end is going to decrease road safety is plain wrong. There are no studies to suggest governed trucks will make the roads less safe. However, random checks of the electronic settings in trucks coming across the border will be sure to piss off a lot of owner/operators. In my view, privacy issues regarding black boxes haven’t been addressed. A ministry official will tell you plainly that they won’t use any other information extracted from a truck’s CPU, but I remain skeptical.
The issue is doubly ironic as the OTA is on record as being allergic to the Kyoto Protocol but touting this as an environmental issue that will save hundreds of kilotonnes in greenhouse gas emissions.
If only the lobbyists would have spent some of their vigour on a subject that really is a scourge to public safety. Handheld phone blabbing is illegal while driving motor vehicles in provinces like Quebec and Newfoundland – why not Ontario?
No shortage of studies to show a correlation between accidents and handheld phones, and truck drivers are some of the worst offenders. You see this at the truck docks where some drivers think they can blindside better with a flip phone pressed against the side of their face. These are often 20-and 30-year-old somethings and I’m tired of mentioning it to them. They don’t care. It’s endemic to this generation of truck drivers and there ought to be a law.
Secondly, I was talking to my friend Ross Mackie the other day, patriarch of Mackie Moving Systems in Oshawa, Ont., and he was decrying the sorry state of the North American economy, particularly the loss of good manufacturing jobs.
When was the last time that you heard anyone say “Buy Canadian” – 15 years ago? Is globalism so entrenched that we don’t even hear a whimper about supporting our homegrown industries? As Mackie mentioned, “Canadians have a short memory.” And may I add, little foresight. What we’re doing is slowly choking ourselves to death.
It doesn’t matter if a company’s head office is in Bentonville, Ark. or Brampton, Ont. If 90% of the consumer goods sold at that department store are produced by an Asian nation, that company is in effect owned and controlled by that offshore power.
Have we really just given up? My opinion is that some measure of dignity and jobs could be saved if we were smarter about where we spent our money and chose to buy products still made on this continent, before there aren’t any left to buy.
Yep, things are changing fast in this old world, just look at winnowing going on in the trucking industry. Once again, carriers and transport providers have to regroup and surround the wagons. Maybe we should all pull up stakes and try growing ethanol.
Lastly, I want to ask our readers for help with a book project I’ve been working on called Stuck in Wawa: A Generation on the Road. It’s a collection of stories from people that thumbed and/or offered rides during the golden era of hitchhiking, the 1960s and 70s. I also have stories from other eras and continents but the main body is situated alongside the Trans-Canada in those decades.
Those were different times. Thousands of young people (mostly males) stuck out their thumbs and went wandering. It was one of the rare times in history when a social movement and technology came together. A system of youth hostels supported by government LIP grants made it possible to travel across the country for little or no money. I was one of those kids on the road worried about my pimples trying to catch a ride to Vancouver. Every summer I would get the urge to hit the road. Maybe that’s one reason I’ve chosen trucking as a career.
I miss those days to some degree. Unfortunately, new Canadians and young people these days don’t have the same urge to see their county and I think that’s somewhat of a shame. A lot of my contemporaries shared this experience and it influenced the way we see the world. I think the time has come to tell those stories. If you’ve got a hitchhiking story, I’d like to hear it. Please contact me at email@example.com.
– Harry Rudolfs is on-road editor with Truck News and a full-time professional driver. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.