Truck News


Patience is a virtue on the highway

With tourist season upon us - and the sun beating down on the hood of the truck - I could probably fill a column with notes about how I'm ticked off by slow-moving RV drivers who decide to make left t...


With tourist season upon us – and the sun beating down on the hood of the truck – I could probably fill a column with notes about how I’m ticked off by slow-moving RV drivers who decide to make left turns just before heading up long grades. But I won’t.

I simply mention tourists and RVs as an example of something that can invoke frustration among drivers of all sorts, because I want to address the problem of impatience.

RVs, farm implements, four-wheelers and even slow trucks can certainly test the patience of a professional driver, especially one who is behind schedule or under any other time-related stress. But if there is any single thing that can separate a truly experienced professional from a not-so-professional counterpart, it is the level of patience.

After all, patience accounts for much of what makes a professional a professional in the first place. This time of year, more than any other, our professionalism (or lack thereof) is what separates us from other drivers on the road.

Granted, the trucking industry is notorious for having to wait. Wait to get loaded, wait to get unload, wait to fuel, wait to get paid, wait your turn at the scalehouse, etc., etc.

In my career as a driver, I have had to wait for more than two days to clear Customs, in North Portal, Sask. of all places. (Talk about the frustration that comes with that.)

With all the waiting we do as drivers, you might figure we would become pretty good at exercising patience. But this is not always the case.

Human nature is one of impatience. Society wants everything now, if not yesterday, and the trucking industry is certainly not immune from this.

Heck, half of the trucks on the road are running Just In Time (JIT) freight, dispatchers tend to have a 100-mph distance chart, and customers are always eager for their product. After waiting all day to get loaded, waiting to buy fuel at a busy truck stop and then waiting to have a shower while you are waiting to be served your hard-earned dinner, you may think that the last thing a driver can be expected to have is patience for tourists.

But patience is exactly what a rushed driver needs – very simply because impatience kills. A good example of the deadly nature of that can be found in the wreckage of last September’s fog-bound accident that involved 87 vehicles.

The inquest jury looking into that fatal crash has made its recommendations, but through it all, this was the result of nothing but ignorance, arrogance and impatience. I say ignorance because very few Canadian drivers are adequately educated and/or trained in the proper operation and attitude that you need to control a motor vehicle. I say arrogance because many folks jeopardize lives with their unsafe driving practices. And I say impatience because everyone who has ever driven way too fast in fog because they’re five minutes late is an idiot!

Certainly, this accident was a chain of events with many variables, but the 25 recommendations made by the inquest jury appear to have touched all the variables except one.

Drivers that caused this crash exhibited a lack of patience.

At the risk of oversimplifying a large event, it is likely that one or two drivers caused this accident. All it takes is one person with an improper attitude, not bothering to adjust their speed when entering the fog and rear-ending another vehicle.

The rest is history.

We can blame the weather, the road and the government for this accident all we want, but what ultimately caused this tragic event and many others was driver error, and more than likely an error in driver attitude.

A road in and of itself is never unsafe, regardless of weather conditions. It is the drivers on that road that make it unsafe. And that goes for the 401 in Ontario, the 101 in Nova Scotia and the Trans-Canada that cuts through the grain fields of Saskatchewan.

Drivers, especially four wheelers, have to be taught the importance of having the proper attitude when driving. Patience can and should be taught because it saves lives. Aggressive driving, speeding and road rage are more often than not linked to a lack of patience.

Our driving attitude is what determines our driving record and how safely we drive down the road. The trucking industry’s enviable safety record is not a result of a jury’s inquest, better enforcement or more harassment by the law, but it is a result of trucking companies and their employees continually striving to do a safe job with an abundance of patience.

When driving, I encourage all drivers to be very patient with your fellow motorists. They are your fellow Canadians, your neighbors on the highway of life. The very least you can do is give them the time of day and show some courtesy.

Insomuch as they are not always deserving of common courtesy, remember it is your patience that makes you a better driver. n

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

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