When an OPP officer pulled over a truck driver near Windsor recently and fined him for smoking a cigarette in his rig, he couldn’t possibly have known the fire-storm he’d ignite. Or maybe he did.
Maybe it was a slow day and he wanted to shake up a hornet’s nest and create some headlines. Maybe Ontario’s speed limiter law has been so effective at slowing down the big rigs that he had to find another way to get his trucker-ticketing fix.
Or perhaps he was acting upon a directive from some bureaucrat in Toronto who wanted to enforce the letter of the law and make an example out of some unsuspecting trucker.
Whatever the case, the ticket spurred the ire of not only many professional drivers, but also gained national attention in the mainstream media.
Dare I say the prevailing sentiment from the media and most readers was that of empathy? For once the trucker wasn’t portrayed as the villain.
In what has become a dinner table discussion, it seems most would agree that the OPP had no business charging the truck driver for smoking in his truck.
However, according to the Smoke Free Ontario Act, it is, in fact, against the law to smoke in any workplace -and that includes a truck cab.
Now there are exceptions to every rule. An owner/operator is still able to smoke in his cab -provided he or she is the only person to drive and work in that vehicle. Federally-regulated carriers are also exempt. They must instead adhere to the federal Non-Smoker’s Health Act, which allows for ‘smoking areas’ within workplaces. So theoretically, a truck can be deemed a smoking area -provided non-smokers are not required to work within that truck.
But drivers working for intraprovincial carriers operating company-owned vehicles can in fact be fined $305 per offence, and the company that owns the rig can be smacked with a fine as high as $10,000 if it knowingly allows smoking in its vehicles.
So what’s a driver to do? Does the province really want a truck driver who smokes to pull over on the side of the road to light up? That’s far more dangerous than smoking in the cab -and you better not linger too long or the police will soon be along to fine you for illegal parking.
Is a driver expected to pull entirely off the highway and park at a rest area before having a smoke? Wait a minute, most of those have been closed by the province and may remain closed for years (see story on pg. 8).
And besides, just imagine what would happen to delivery times and the trucking industry’s productivity should this occur.
The sad thing is, there was no need to enforce the letter of the law in the first place. In my opinion, some overzealous cop chose to do so and as a result, the professional driver has been beaten down even further by an ever-longer regulatory billystick.
Many professional drivers got into this business because they’re independent spirits and enjoyed the chance to work alone on the open road without anyone looking over their shoulder.
Those days are long gone. Is it any wonder, as Lou writes below, that driver satisfaction is on a steady decline? •
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 Truck News