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Tool talk


Many times in the past, I have commented on how technology has changed our industry.

Mostly, I have complained about the negative impact it has had on our equipment, and today is no different. There is one item of technology that has appeared on my list of things I despise, and it is right at the top of that list too: numero uno.

It is the cordless wrench or screwdriver. Not the traditional manual version, but the new one. I have a couple myself, as they are useful for getting into the tight spots around an engine.

However, they are no substitute for a traditional tool when it comes to doing a job properly. I am sick and tired of having to re-tighten things after my truck has had a visit to the shop and these cordless tools are the cause of my frustration. They don’t do the job properly, it’s as simple as that.

My new policy is to inspect any work done outside and then use traditional tools to make sure everything is fastened correctly. So far, I have been alarmed at how loose things are.

I can usually get at least a quarter turn on everything they’ve touched, and often much more. On a properly tightened 5/8-inch bolt you shouldn’t be able to move a wrench without considerable force, yet I have had instances where I can turn a wrench with my fingertips. That is just not
good enough.

Which leads into my next area of concern, roadside inspections, or rather the complete lack of them. I have been trucking here in Canada for more than 10 years now and in all that time I have had only one Level 1 inspection.

And that was within the first couple of months of arriving here, so I’ve done well over a million miles since my last roadside inspection and that is not good enough.

Now some of you may be thinking I’m crazy. Why would I be complaining about that? Well, I’ll tell you, it allows unscrupulous operators to cut corners on maintenance and allows shops to get away with shoddy workmanship, as there are almost no checks and balances on the condition of the trucks running up and down the road.

It is my firm belief that it’s too easy to start as a new operator; all you need are a few bucks for a deposit, or a carrier willing to lease you a truck, and you’re an operator.

There are no requirements for you to have any knowledge about running a business, no requirements for available funds to ensure you can afford to maintain your equipment, no set schedule for safety inspections, no requirement to have knowledge of labor laws if you have employees, and nobody checking any of that to ensure you’re operating within the law.

Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone is using this lack of a standard to cut corners, but a working knowledge of these things will help a new start become a better operator and prevent those that shouldn’t be operators from making a big mistake and buying or leasing a truck when they really shouldn’t.

There are far too many of those out there, and I believe that they drag the industry down. There should be a qualification for lease-operators and there should definitely be a standard that has to be met before being granted your own authority.

At present, the owner of a brand new authority is let loose after paying for the required permits. Their trucks may get pulled in for inspection more frequently, if the inspection stations are even open, which they’re often not.

This may catch a few out, but surely it would be better to prevent them from ever operating a truck in the first place and it would raise standards within our industry – standards which are in desperate need of improving.

***

A fourth generation trucker and trucking journalist, Mark Lee uses his 25 years of transcontinental trucking in Europe, Asia, North Africa and now North America to provide an alternative view of life on the road.


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