I can be critical of certain groups. No kidding. Most of my criticism is usually aimed at either large carriers, or the provincial, state or national trucking associations. Arguably, this is the same group, since large carriers and the prominent associations tend to be joined at the hip anyway.
I try to be fair, though. I believe no one has a right to criticize if they can’t offer alternative ideas. Blindly condemning the actions of others requires no thought, and shouldn’t be taken seriously.
I’ve tried to play fair, offering alternative solutions to issues such as driver pay, new technologies, etc. I think far too much time is spent lobbying for things such as speed limiters and electronic logs.
If your fleet wants them, use them. Stop trying to make your personal business practices national law.
With that in mind, I’d like to offer – from the small company perspective – some rarely discussed issues that lobbying efforts may help; that are easier to attain, and affect almost everybody favourably, regardless of company size.
Educating the general public about large trucks is often discussed. Excellent idea.
Now let’s extend that education to shippers and receivers – primarily large retailers.
Have you noticed how many retail operations you deliver to – large retailers being most guilty – seem poorly designed to handle the trucks that are required to service their business?
In their efforts to make their facilities undesirable to drivers wanting to utilize their huge parking area for overnight rest, they construct entranceways that also make the job of their own several delivery trucks difficult, if not dangerous.
Design continuity would also be a large help. We frequently deliver to Home Depot. Our flatbeds don’t deliver to the main loading docks; rather we are handled in a corner of the front parking lot.
Trailers of a longer wheelbase than B-trains can rarely enter the parking area without running over curbing.
As for the actual dry van docks and receiving office, very few stores have the same floor plan, so this area will almost certainly not be in the same area of the building as your last store delivery, usually requiring a walk halfway around the building just to check in.
I can only speak to the province of Ontario with this next issue. Hopefully other provinces are more sensible. I’ve noticed a safety issue with provincial signage, which is inexcusable.
Exit a secondary road (county or township, or small town street) onto a provincial highway, and what do you see? A signboard on the shoulder of the main highway strategically placed right in the line of vision you require for a safe entrance to the roadway.
Either move it further back, or closer to the ditch. Considering the cab height of the truck the MTO crew used to get equipment on site is the same as a typical highway tractor, there’s no valid excuse for this. Highway signage that’s more truck-friendly would also be welcome.
More than 30 years ago, the largest town in my area wanted the signs around the perimeter of the city changed.
At the time, they were labeled as the “bypass” around town. The city thought they were losing tourist money because of this (a ridiculous thought; everyone obviously knew the town was there if they wanted to enter it) so the signs were changed to read “alternate route.”
Now, especially when many people don’t even own a map anymore, the main route through town is nearly always jammed from one end of town to the other. It includes unnecessary truck traffic that must descend an 8% grade into town and climb an 8% grade leaving town with, you guessed it, a traffic light top and bottom. Numerous expensive and ineffective traffic studies haven’t made this observation.
We have a serious driver shortage, obviously. I’m not revisiting driver treatment and pay, because I’ve beaten that horse to death and nobody’s listening.
Try eliminating one driver issue before it arises. How often does a large fleet hire a newly licensed driver, only to have them quit in a matter of weeks or months, sometimes abandoning the truck? This driver usually leaves not just that employer, but the industry.
Most large fleets must have at least a few drivers who are very personable, and eager for ‘in-cab’ company. Why not advocate “free ride” programs, or even better, charge for the experience?
A potential driver, not yet licensed, could ride around for a week or two with a seasoned industry veteran and see what the real trucking world is like. Don’t candy-coat it, either, with some simple line-haul route like Toronto to Indianapolis. Throw in a trip to Chicago, and maybe Boston.
If the potential driver is scared off, he was going to be scared away later anyway. You’ve saved him/her a huge expense of driver training and saved yourself a wasted orientation course, and possibly the expense of picking up that (possibly damaged) abandoned truck. As a side bonus, we have another member of the general public that has more respect for trucks and drivers.
Okay lobbyists, get to work! These are enough constructive, potentially beneficial ideas to keep you busy for a while and they weren’t even controversial; just common sense. I’m obviously losing my edge.
Bill Cameron and his wife Nancy own and operate Parks Transportation, a small flatdeck trucking company. Bill can be reached at email@example.com.
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