Truck News


The view from Europe

I visited my cousin in Canada in the fall of 2005 and as a trucker with 40 years over the road experience I naturally visited the Husky truck stop on Hwy. 400 to get a closer look at Canadian trucks p...

I visited my cousin in Canada in the fall of 2005 and as a trucker with 40 years over the road experience I naturally visited the Husky truck stop on Hwy. 400 to get a closer look at Canadian trucks parked there.

I spoke to a few drivers, took a few pictures, and picked up a copy of Truck News.

I might live in Glasgow, Scotland, but after reading your magazine and talking to Canadian drivers, I have to tell you folks that you have the same problems that I and my fellow drivers do, I suspect for the same reasons.

Lack of respect from other road users for one – on our congested roads, truckers are regarded as a mobile disease. The car driver has many complaints about us, these boil down to the basic three: 1) Trucks go too fast; 2) Trucks go too slow; and 3) Trucks should not be on the highway, all freight should go by rail.

If there is an accident between a truck and a car, it’s got to be the trucker’s fault. Anti-truck campaigners talk of the amount of people killed in collisions with trucks but don’t seem to keep figures of collisions between cars and trees!

In the U.K., own-account operators (I believe you call them private carriers, they haul their own goods) like supermarkets Asda (part of Wal-Mart) and Tesco to name a few are members of a trade body called the Freight Transport Association (FTA).

The FTA has a trucker-bashing scheme called ‘WELL DRIVEN?’ This scheme encourages car drivers to complain about what they see as bad driving by truckers. If you get reported, you, the trucker, get investigated.

They don’t investigate the complainer, you are guilty until proven innocent. Over 90 per cent of complaints are from people who do not know the ‘Highway Code,’ a book published by the government that is supposed to be read, and practised, by every driver on the road regardless of what you drive.

These complainers also display remarkable ignorance of the fact that if a truck is long and wide it does not make a turn in the same space as a car. You have met these people yourselves, I’m sure. I was accused of ‘dangerous driving’ on a main highway when I was inside a Customs-approved terminal moving trailers around! Did I get an apology, not on your life!

When they re-introduced this scheme a few years ago they issued a press release to newspapers telling them about the thousands of people who had called their WELL DRIVEN? phone number.

The press wrote articles entitled ‘Thousands complain about truckers’! In the mail section of the October issue of Truck News, Ed Wesselius says the headlines if speed limiters are introduced would be ‘Trucking Association Acknowledges Speeding Trucks are a Problem and Need to be Controlled.’ How right you are, my friend!

I read with interest the letters from truckers discussing speed limiters. Here in the U.K., there are various speed limits. On a ‘motorway’ (freeway like the 401) cars travel 70 mph, buses 70 mph and trucks 60 mph. On a ‘dual carriageway’ (divided highway) cars can travel 70 mph, buses 60 mph and trucks 50 mph. On a ‘single carriageway’ (like Hwy. 9) cars can go 60 mph, buses 50 mph and trucks 40 mph. Not to mention 30 or 40 mph limits in built-up areas. Add to this mess, speed limiters on all trucks and buses over 7.5 tonnes gross weight, set at 56 mph for trucks and 65 mph for buses.

The U.K. government has said recently that it considers 40 mph a safe speed for trucks on single carriageway roads, this is not a sentiment shared by truckers who frequently get abused by members of the public for driving too slow on these roads, but truckers do get a ticket for driving 43 mph.

The limiter, of course, only works at the maximum speed set for that vehicle. If you drive a tractor-trailer like I do, it wont stop you speeding on a road with a 30 mph limit. I stick strictly to the limits, I am not in the business of working to pay fines to the government.

Out on the motorways, overtaking takes a long time, unless you do what I do and slow down to 50 mph to let someone pass. It would be nice if my fellow professionals acknowledged my courtesy, sadly, few do. Employers pay lip service to safety, instead they pressure drivers to do the job quickly, as they too are under pressure from their customers to get a move on and deliver the load.

Every day you see long lines of trucks all running at the same speed, more or less. This bright idea, like thousands of other bright and dumb ideas came from the European Government – years ago we had logbooks, now we have tachographs.

They told us that bad operators would go out of business as every law enforcement agency would be able to see what every driver did out on the highway. Nowadays renegade operators simply change from British registration and become Dutch-registered, operating from the same place in Britain.

Now they are telling us we have to have electronic boxes in our trucks to record our work and that we need a personal ‘smart-card’ to meet new regulations, we, of course, will have to pay the government for this privilege – 30 to be exact (about CDN$60). My own opinion is that, as usual, the majority suffer because of the minority. I agree with Ken Vickerd (another Truck News letter writer), speed limiters are a really bad idea, more enforcement against inconsiderate drivers, whoever they may be is a better solution. If you don’t want to pay the fine, don’t do the crime!

Here in the UK we get paid by the hour, mileage payments would be illegal under European law as (they claim) that it would encourage speeding. Elsewhere in the EEC, truckers from what used to be the Eastern (ex-communist) block do get paid by the mile.

Enforcement in Europe depends on what country you are in. Some are not bothered by what truckers do, some, like the U.K. enforce the law rigidly without mercy to their own nationals. If you drive a foreign truck then you stand a good chance of being left alone.

Since Spring 2005, we also have to comply with the Working Time Directive (WTD). This is a Euro law that says you must average 48 hours work over a period of 17 weeks (although a local agreement between employers and employees can extend this to 26 weeks). Under the previous rules, drivers could work 84 hours a week, but the WTD reduced this to 60 hours.

The U.K. government had meetings with the FTA & RHA (Road Haulage Association, I believe you call them common carriers). They told the politicians that there was a desperate shortage of drivers in the industry, that the WTD would mean hardship for transport businesses and was not in Britain’s best interest. The Government came up with ‘Periods of Availability.’

This was a loophole in the WTD regulations that you could drive a truck through. My own union, The United Road Transport Union along with the Transport & General Workers Union immediately protested this decision.

The employers, meanwhile, were delighted about the decision, they knew drivers were divided on the subject. It would be fair to say that most drivers would have preferred to have an average 48 hours a week if pay was increased to compensate for the reduced hours.

On the one hand, employers have a truck driver-bashing scheme called WELL DRIVEN? and on the other they want drivers to work 84 hours a week, how responsible is that?

There will always be people who will work all the hours they can get away with.

When the tachograph was introduced they told us that those who worked outside the law would be put out of business. I will tell you that there are more of these people around today than were there when we ran with logbooks.

The maximum period of work is 15 hours a day and that’s not enough for many in road haulage. What puzzles me is that drivers are stupid enough to work these hours and then complain when they get caught, fined or imprisoned. Yes, they do go to jail if the offence is serious enough. These fools complain that their only crime is that they are guilty of working hard to keep their families, if they fall asleep and kill someone else’s family, that excuse is not acceptable.

When that happens the majority of decent men and women who drive safely and responsibly get to be tarred with the same brush!

I mentioned earlier the shortage of drivers, there are many reasons for this, mostly because young men and women do not want to enter an industry with long hours, low pay and no respect culture. Older drivers like me look forward to retirement; I am 59 and have six years to go. I will miss the pay – I won’t miss driving trucks!

Please take care of each other out there on the Highway, if we don’t, no one else will.

May the wind always be at your back!

Goodbye from Scotland!

Alex Saville is a Scottish truck driver who recently visited Canada. This is a special guest column for Truck West.

Truck News

Truck News

Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
All posts by

Print this page

Have your say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *