Last month, I was talking to my cousin who had just moved to beautiful Banff, Alta. from eastern Ontario.I asked him how the drive was and, having made the drive from Ontario to Alberta recently mysel...
Last month, I was talking to my cousin who had just moved to beautiful Banff, Alta. from eastern Ontario.
I asked him how the drive was and, having made the drive from Ontario to Alberta recently myself, I was floored when he told me it only took him two-and-a-half days.
It took me four full days of driving (mind you I was being chased across the country by a relentless series of snowstorms that kept my speed well below the limit.)
He accomplished this feat, not by strapping a rocket launcher to the back of his Ford Explorer, but rather by driving 17 hours straight, resting for a bit, driving another 14 hours, spending a night at a hotel and then finishing off the journey with a measly seven hour jaunt.
“Geez, you really did make good time,” I said.
But then I realized I was guilty of applying the double standard that plagues truckers when it comes to Hours-of-Service restrictions. Here I was commending my cousin for making such good time on his cross-country journey while if a trucker did the same, there’s no way he’d be fishing for compliments.
He’d be running the risk of a hefty penalty, not to mention putting his entire livelihood in jeopardy.
The ongoing debate about Hours-of-Service in the trucking industry is nothing new. Truckers have been under the microscope in recent years and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
But my cousin wasn’t breaking any laws. He stayed wide awake thanks to the cool air flowing in through the windows, the loud tunes blasting from his C.D. player and the anticipation of moving to one of the most beautiful places in Canada. Because there were four wheels underneath him as opposed to 18, he didn’t think twice about whether or not what he was doing was safe.
Truckers are used to being subject to double standards. Although it must be frustrating to see four-wheelers getting away with driving beyond the reasonable limits of fatigue, I can only imagine how angry I would be if my competition was also allowed to do so.
But that seems to be the reality these days.
A case in point is the Railway Association of Canada’s (RAC) latest Hours-of-Service proposal. This ludicrous piece of work calls for laws allowing rail employees to work up to 18 hours in a 24-hour period.
No responsible trucker I’ve ever talked to would suggest that truckers should be allowed to drive 18 hours in a 24-hour period. All they’re asking for is a bit of consistency in the rules – and some fairness.
This latest proposal is a slap in the face to truck drivers everywhere.
If you’re going to allow conductors, engineers and yard workers to put in 18 hours in a 24-hour period, then what’s the point of having Hours-of-Service regulations at all? At this point, rail workers virtually have a blank cheque to work as many hours as they feel fit. The current proposal on the table is simply rubbing salt in the wounds of truckers who have been fighting for consistency for years now.
While it’s tempting to laugh this latest proposal off, putting our faith in the government to quash the absurd suggestions and throw the proposal in RAC’s face, let’s not forget about some of the decisions this same government has made in the past.
I don’t have the space to go into specifics here, but let’s not put anything past them. The feds and the rail industry have been suspicious bed-buddies a lot lately, and this latest issue will surely test the integrity of the Canadian government and its decision-makers.
– James Menzies heads our western news bureau and he can be reached at 403-275-3160.