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Opinion: Going hog wild

I'm a firm believer trucking is one of the most demanding and challenging professions out there today.The landscape of the industry is constantly changing, thanks to new technology, always evolving re...


I’m a firm believer trucking is one of the most demanding and challenging professions out there today.

The landscape of the industry is constantly changing, thanks to new technology, always evolving regulations and a host of other variables which are ever in a state of flux.

When you’re hauling live freight, a whole new set of different challenges present themselves.

Getting your load to its destination on time isn’t just good business, it could be a matter of life or death – for the animals that is.

Because of the unique challenges faced by livestock haulers, it’s somewhat surprising they have had little representation to date.

Many associations lump them into the carrier category, where their concerns are overshadowed by those of the more visible players such as general freight haulers.

The Ontario Trucking Association has a livestock division, but other associations have lagged behind in recognizing the unique needs of this niche trucking group.

Finally, that seems to be changing in Western Canada.

Cattle expert Tim O’Byrne has formed the Livestock Transport Association of North America (LTANA) to address the industry’s concerns right across the continent.

Meanwhile, on a regional level, the Alberta Motor Transport Association is in the process of forming a committee to work closely with LTANA while representing member livestock carriers.

Both groups should be commended for bringing the concerns common to livestock carriers to the forefront and ensuring they have a strong voice.

There’s no shortage of issues that need to be addressed.

Hours-of-Service is a concern in all areas of trucking, but when you have live animals on board, sometimes it would make sense to allow the odd exception to the rule for animal carriers.

Finding acceptable areas to clean out trailers is another issue.

When a livestock hauler tells you he’s hauling a load of crap, he’s probably not joking.

Yet auction markets and processing plants are still refusing to allow truckers to unload waste at their facilities.

Another area of concern regards humane transportation. Truckers are being told to refuse to load unhealthy animals, but take a stand, and you lose a customer.

I’ve always had a great deal of empathy for livestock haulers. As a teenager I decided to dip my feet into farming, by raising some hogs.

I didn’t listen to my elders and refused to believe there was no money to be made by raising hogs through such a small-scale operation.

I deducted that anytime an animal is capable of producing 10 offspring, twice a year, making money is a foregone conclusion. The math seemed simple.

Well, I learned several lessons during my brief foray into hog raising, not the least of which is that hauling animals – even just up the road to the local auction – is tricky business.

One boar, in particular, proved this point.

Boris was an ornery old hog, but he was a fantastic breeder.

The two sows he bred yielded 27 piglets between them. But when his work was done and it was time to get rid of old Boris, I soon realized that hauling animals is slightly more demanding than I anticipated.

Mind you, I didn’t have the luxury of a hog trailer with easily negotiable ramps at my disposal. Instead, I was relying on a half-ton pickup truck with racks.

For three consecutive weeks, I spent hours each day trying to coax Boris into the back of that truck, without success.

Finally, after enlisting the help of several broad-shouldered friends and relatives, I was able to get Boris to market on the third week of attempts.

Hogs are one thing, but I can only imagine the challenges presented when hauling a load of energetic young steers – or worse yet, rodeo bulls.

You think the cowboys at the Calgary Stampede are tough?

Let’s not overlook the cowboys of a very different nature – the ones who are responsible for delivering these beasts to the ring.

All things considered, there are lots of factors that motivate truckers to drive.

And I’m sure there are just as many factors driving truckers to specialize in hauling livestock.

It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

Hopefully the formation of these fledgling groups will make it a lot easier for them when dealing with government over key issues. n

James Menzies heads our western news bureau and he can be reached at 403-275-3160.

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