Sometimes silence really is golden

by Bill Cameron

Other than to regular readers of this column, my opinion really doesn’t matter. By owning only a small trucking company and not belonging to any group or organization – although regularly disagreeing with most of them – my opinion is never requested. 

Although my financial investment and involvement is higher, a company driver likely has as much influence as I do. 

Large carrier representatives are constantly interviewed and quoted, mostly due to easy access. 

There seems to be an “elder statesman” attitude at large, where their opinions must surely be the ‘fit-all’ answer to industry issues, and the outlook that we all should adopt. 

At least on a personal level, I consider my position to be sort of an advantage. 

As an outsider, I tend to think outside the traditional box, because I’m usually not pleased with what’s inside that box. 

I’d like to give some examples that show why those of us who are traditionally ignored shouldn’t be.

A lot of industries suffer from communication problems, usually, a lack thereof. 

In our industry, I think we may have too much communication. In short, a lot of associations, lobby groups, and certain outspoken individuals need to, occasionally, do the rest of us a favour and shut up. 

The week following the New Jersey wreck involving a Walmart truck and a limo, comedian/radio host Mike Bullard devoted his one-hour show to calls from truck drivers and safety managers.

 He was already horrified that any line of work allowed 14-hour workdays (a point that I increasingly agree with), but he wanted to hear more, straight from the horse’s mouth. 

Most of his callers were closer to another orifice on the animal, I believe. 

One fool or braggart after another called with their horror stories of sitting all day at a shipper/receiver, then starting the logbook so they could drive 500 miles. 

One driver claimed he was ordered, on a Friday afternoon, to leave Toronto and be in California Sunday evening. 

One caller blamed every industry shortcoming on deregulation. 

I didn’t call in; hoping someone with sensible industry knowledge would call. 

I thought it would sound unprofessional for a company owner to call from a cell phone, but it seems this was the only time that my silence wasn’t a good thing. His huge listening audience was besieged with industry horror stories.

When the Ontario speed limiter issue arose, numerous high-profile industry members verbally attacked anyone not in favour. 

The end result was a lot of damaging rhetoric which would lead the general public to believe that many of us were simply uncontrollable, lead-footed renegades, and mechanical limitations were the only thing that would slow us down. 

For the record, I’m against the whole issue. 

My own cruise speed though, where legal, is 102 km/h.

Next issue: electronic logs, something else I’m firmly against. 

Our small company rarely travels more than 500 miles each way, with freight that loads/unloads relatively quickly. An inaccurate logbook usually requires a conscientious effort, so I fail to see why this expense needs to be legislated across the board. 

I’ve spoken with drivers working for larger carriers endorsing electronic logs. 

Most trucks have been equipped with them, but often, the trucks assigned to the ‘hard runners’ haven’t been. Hmmm… 

The federal and provincial associations have been lobbying vigorously for electronic logs. 

The first argument claimed increased productivity. 

If productivity increases with electronic logs, we’re not dealing with a safety issue, we’re dealing with drivers whose training with paperwork is lacking. 

When that argument didn’t catch fire, accusations of rampant logbook tampering began, again, to the point of fear-mongering and foolishness. 

Seriously, if I hear the phrase “level the playing field” in relation to legislation once more, I’ll be in a padded cell. 

With these three examples in mind, imagine you have no connection to the trucking industry, and have listened to these stories as you drove your Prius to your factory job. 

Your impression of this industry would be that of a group of lawless, dangerous hooligans, carelessly piloting 40-70 ton death machines. 

After all, when the associations who claim to represent the entire industry, joined by individual industry members, describe conditions that make the actions of Wyatt Earp and Butch Cassidy look like a Euchre party at a retirement home, what are they supposed to think? 

In their urge to make their points publicly heard, which is in itself within their right, these groups and individuals have seriously damaged the reputation and image of the industry they claim to support. 

For every step forward with their intended actions, they’ve sent the industry’s reputation and morale two steps back. 

How exactly was this productive for anybody?  

Under the pretense of promoting safety, the industry has been made to look terribly unsafe, chasing away even more good drivers, because really, who wants to be painted with that particular brush? 

Maybe occasional silence would be nice.

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  • Bill, Great column! I didn’t hear the program but it’s reminiscent of the days when the media would pick a “driver” who had been stopped in the blitz to get his opinion , usually it was someone who hadn’t been close to a shower in a long time and was on a vendetta against everything in the trucking industry.
    I always made it my policy to not listen too long to the BMW’s (bitchers , moaners & whiners ) because they all had the same story….a “truckers story”.
    In 30+ years I had a few bad days too, and back in the “good old days” I ran a few trips with the log book a few hours off, but the last years were much better with all the electronics its almost impossible for a company to force drivers to over extend themselves.
    But there are still some who will stay home on weekends till Sunday evening and then run over night to Chicago and when they tell the story it somehow becomes someone else’s fault.
    When I hear these stories I think I must not have been running the same routes over the years because I missed out on a lot of excitement.
    If these drivers think their job is so bad why don’t they retrain for something they will like. With all the time they say they spend waiting they could take courses on internet or CD’s….. or even read the reg book.
    No its not the perfect job but neither is standing on the line at a factory,
    If these drivers want things to change the first thing they need to look at is a mirror.
    Keep up the good work,

    Bev Plummer
    Prof. Driver Ret