The 80s were profitable, dangerous: Lacasse

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BOMANVILLE, Ont. – Yvan Lacasse realizes the trucking industry of the 1980s made a lot of people good money, but he thinks trading some of the profits for safety awareness has probably saved his life.

“We’ve got better equipment, more enforcement and better mechanics,” says the Ivaco Rolling Mills company driver. “It’s a good thing (otherwise) I’d probably be dead.”

Lacasse can remember running thousands of miles hauling coils of steel wire on old tires and quickly points out, “That doesn’t happen today.”

While he thinks the regulations have gone too far, Lacasse sees enforcement levels as the driving force behind improvements.

“If you were driving from Montreal to Toronto there was only one scale and most of the time you’d try and miss it,” says Lacasse. “Most of the time the thing wasn’t even open.”

He says both companies and truck drivers had very different attitudes in the ’80s.

“Back then we ran three trips a week down to somewhere like Pittsburgh, Cleveland or Baltimore,” explains Lacasse. “Now it’s only two trips a week and the company has a whole system set up with a spare driver.”

He’s glad to see the truck stops have improved over the past 20 years, both in Canada and especially in the U.S.

“They’re cleaner now and you’ve got a lot more choices,” says Lacasse. “Just along the 401, I always used the Fifth Wheels in Cornwall and Bomanville, and they’re better now, plus the 10 Acre in Belleville has grown a lot.”

He says that it’s a good job that rest areas are better and more numerous, because truckers today are forced to spend a lot more time hanging around them than in the ’80s.

“Fuel was a lot cheaper in the early ’80s, so fleets had you run more empty miles,” remembers Lacasse. “Now they lay you over… guys end up going to California for three weeks because they’re waiting for a backhaul.”

The change in equipment designs is one change the trucker for L’Orignal, Ont. can’t complain about.

“My first truck was an old cabover and it was cold,” he says, chuckling. “You had to wear your snowsuit to drive in the winter.” n

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