CALGARY, Alta. - In a back room of the Calgary Police Service facility in the city's northeast, is the headquarters for the boys in blue who are responsible for enforcing the commercial vehicle laws w...
SPECIALIZED FORCE: Const. Blaine Guertin is part of the Calgary Police Truck Unit, dedicated to enforcing trucking regs.Photo by Steven Macleod
CALGARY, Alta. – In a back room of the Calgary Police Service facility in the city’s northeast, is the headquarters for the boys in blue who are responsible for enforcing the commercial vehicle laws within the Calgary city limits.
With posters of semi-trucks plastered to the walls, the five-desk room is only a stone’s throw away from Deerfoot Trail and serves as a home base to the police service’s Truck Unit.
But for the five constables who make up the Truck Unit, much of the workday is spent out in the field.
“We work out of the truck more than we do at the office,” says Cst. Blaine Guertin, a three-year member of the unit. “We work when the industry works.”
The Truck Unit deals with regulations in respect to all commercial vehicles, but the officers undergo special training to be able to enforce legislation that pertains to the transportation industry.
“The department budgets a lot of money for us to stay up-to-date on all the technology improvements and on the law-side of things as well,” explained Guertin. “We’re here as a service. The city itself, I feel along with the industry likes us there. It allows us to work with the industry and the city, and its citizens expect that expertise to work with the industry.”
The prime focus for the Truck Unit is safety. Much of the calls the officers field are for information gathering, from both the general public and from members within the trucking industry.
“We give lectures to police personnel on dealing with the industry and give insight on how the industry works,” says Guertin. “We do safety lectures to industry personnel as well, companies will phone us to set up lectures with their drivers.”
The Truck Unit also provides escorts for oversize loads travelling through the city. Usually the escorts are handled after 9 p.m. when non-commercial traffic is minimal.
“We ensure all the permits are in place and ensure other city companies that are required to be there are, like Enmax because they have to turn lights,” says Guertin. “Our prime function is for the safety of the vessel to get through the city.”
Guertin is a 20-year veteran of the Calgary Police Service. The personnel in the Truck Unit tend to be senior members of the police force with the officers putting in their time in the Traffic Unit prior to acceptance.
Once transferred into the Truck Unit, an officer takes a number of industry courses to gain familiarity with weights, hours of service, dangerous goods and other industry regulations. One of the initial tasks a new recruit to the unit undergoes is to become a trained Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) inspector.
“We basically deal with CVSA and are naturally strong supporters of that program,” says Guertin.
The unit sets up CVSA stops throughout Calgary on a regular basis and all the three-quarter tonne trucks the unit drives are fully equipped to deal with monitoring all regulations, which include portable scales.
Twice a year the Truck Unit will team up with DOT personnel, other police departments and surrounding counties to set up major checkstops over a three-day period.
“Out of service for us can range from 25 to 35 per cent. That number is high but those are the trucks we look for to take off the road,” explains Guertin. “These trucks have just been let go to the point where they shouldn’t be on the road. It’s not everybody, on the whole the industry looks after itself pretty good. It’s a small percentage but still a big problem. The industry is pretty persistent in dealing with their vehicles.”
“A lot of it is visual, like anything else, when you see something that may look like it has issues,” adds Cst. Grant Brownell, a 17-year veteran of the Calgary Police Service. “If a vehicle passes the inspection they get issued a sticker which is dated and put on the windshield. If we are doing a stop we generally won’t pull those guys over because it has been checked in the last three months.”
Each member of the Truck Unit has driven a truck and all members carry a Class 1 licence.
“We do understand the trials and tribulations drivers go through and take that into account when dealing with drivers,” says Guertin.
With the complexity of the Calgary landscape and being a hub for the trucking industry, the Calgary Police Service established the Truck Unit in 1964. Throughout the ’60s and ’70s about 10 to 12 members made up the unit. Over time the number of officers has fallen, but the Truck Unit tries to maintain the same level of service, notes Guertin.
The unit is not exclusive to Calgary, but many cities have gone away from having a dedicated Truck Unit.
“Not too many other cities have truck units,” notes Guertin. “Lethbridge has one officer and Edmonton doesn’t have a unit anymore.”
It’s the constant growth of the city that has kept the Truck Unit busy, says Brownell.
The unit constantly monitors the truck routes in Calgary, but should see a bit of relief once construction of the proposed ring road is complete, which will create a greater ease in navigating around the city.
With the specialized training and the time it takes to become familiar with the industry, many members of the Calgary Police Truck Unit will see their days in uniform played out at CVSA inspectors and that suits Guertin just fine.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s nice working with the industry, the city and other agencies,” he explains. “It’s basically a group effort to better their services, they’re caught up right now in the business where there isn’t enough people, so they’re very busy and it’s a lot easier to work with the industry then it is to work against it.”