Truck News


reality check

Any vehicle accident on the 401, even a relatively minor one, is quite capable of causing havoc, traffic chaos, and disrupting business of all sorts. The delays cannot be replaced, and the tempers and frustration of drivers take their toll.

Any vehicle accident on the 401, even a relatively minor one, is quite capable of causing havoc, traffic chaos, and disrupting business of all sorts. The delays cannot be replaced, and the tempers and frustration of drivers take their toll.

And when the accident involves another truck, the news reports and talk shows devote considerable time searching for the cause, and seeking to lay blame or raise those issues that tend to point to the trucking industry or the driver as the culprit. Let’s face it, both are easy targets. A large contingent of the public, particularly the motoring public, just doesn’t like trucks or truck drivers.

When a trash hauler bound for a dumping ground in Michigan collided with another truck on Toronto’s 401 in late September, traffic ground to a halt for hours. Appointments were missed, wages lost, deliveries delayed and businesses shut down. And it didn’t take long for the radio talk shows and other commentators to get in on the action.

Well here’s my commentary with regard to several of the callers and comments (paraphrased), on the radio and in the press:

“I think it’s high time we get these trucks off the road and their massive loads where they belong….on rail. And if Government has to subsidize or give tax incentives to those who switch to rail from truck, or tax the truckers so be it.”

Great, just what I want, more government handouts, (your money and mine) to artificially prop up yet another industry sector, induce others to do business a certain way or tax the trucking industry out of existence. And as far as getting trucks off the road, I certainly recall my early years where fresh fruit and vegetables for example, were not as abundant on the shelves during the winter months as they are now. Credit this abundance to the highway infrastructure in North America, particularly the US Interstate System. Besides, I don’t feel like picking up my oranges at a rail siding in January. Whatever the transportation mode, each plays an important role. It is simply impractical to think in terms of moving highway freight to rail. Best the market sort that out as it does.

“There are too many companies out there with too tight schedules, and I’ve heard that they often take pills to keep them awake”

Sorry, I don’t believe for one minute that pill popping in the trucking industry to stay awake even hits the radar as a problem of any significance. What I would agree with is that the industry, truck drivers, and in fact all of us have tight schedules to meet in an increasingly busy world, and with congested traffic to boot. There are heavy demands placed on all business, not just trucking, in a highly competitive world. And yes, there are occasions where this may compromise safety. To point blame at tight schedules is one thing, but solving it is quite another.

“Initial reports are that the driver of the garbage truck may have been fatigued. That investigation is continuing.”

Ah, the old “may” word. It tends to stir up a certain group who automatically assume that is the case. While I have no idea what caused the accident, I’ll accept the statement from the company to the press that the driver had spoken with dispatch by phone approximately 20 minutes prior to the event, and that he was well within the hours of work limitations. Two back-to-backs Toronto to London as I understand it? That wouldn’t fit my definition of excessive hours.

There seems to be a notion out there, that if there were no hours of work controls that drivers would run up and down the road ’till they drop. No doubt some would, but it is that group that would shun the rules in any event along with the limited handful of companies that would allow it to happen. Remember, Ontario didn’t have an hours of work regulation prior to 1988, and I’ll suggest the evidence that there was a fatigue problem on the highways as an accident factor was as limited then as it is now.

“We have the safest highways in North America, and will take all steps necessary to ensure a high level of safety on our roads.”

I would be the first to agree that over the years, the highway safety environment has improved. It would be my sense that the three areas that have led to the greatest safety improvement in order have been: the CVOR system despite its flaws, increased controls and vigilance in driver and company vehicle inspection and maintenance, including roadside inspections, and the facility audit program.

“It would have been one heck of a public relations gesture had the 407 announced that during the course of the massive disruption its road would be offered toll-free.”

Had the 407 stepped up to the plate when a Toronto talk show host made this suggestion, and offered use of its highway free of charge for haggard commuters, it just might have allayed some of the animosities felt by many. The 407 missed a golden opportunity, but at least in its case there will be a second chance at some point.

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