Voice of the O/O: Loud and Clear

by Don Robertston

If your truck is equipped with a CB or VHF radio, and you have tuned in to your local road channel lately, you will undoubtedly be aware of a disturbing trend of misuse of the airwaves by many of our fellow truckers.

In fact, during any given 12-hour shift on the road, it would be highly unlikely that one would not encounter conversations between drivers that contain profanity and/or racial slurs directed at various minority groups within the industry.

Many drivers are intolerant of this “sewer rat” behavior from their so-called peers, and struggle to raise the bar of professionalism rather than lower it, but feel helpless to get it under control.

They often choose to simply leave their radios turned off, rather than endure embarrassment and disgust when they listen, especially if they’ve brought the kids along for a ride.

It’s not only the steering wheel crowd that might be listening, however. Public radio systems are used and monitored widely outside trucking circles.

There are over 738,000 licensed mobile radios in use in Canada today, and a far larger number of unlicensed ones.

These radios are used in a wide range of industrial applications, including forestry, mining, oil and gas, and transportation, just to mention a few.

Variable High Frequency, or VHF as we know it, is common in the trucking industry, and is regulated federally by Industry Canada.

To ensure their proper and responsible use, these airways come complete with policies, guidelines, and penalties for abusers.

Citizens Band, or CB, even more common in the trucking industry than VHF, while not licensed, is bound by the same code of ethics and guidelines for use, as are the licensed systems.

I noticed the radio-monitoring device missing from a scale house on a recent trip, and when I asked the enforcement officer why they had removed it, he told me they could no longer stomach the disgusting vocabulary that comes from the cabs of some trucks that roll through the facility on a daily basis.

He also mentioned lots of “whining and complaining” and although that’s not illegal, it’s a signal that a clean up of the airwaves is long overdue in the trucking industry.

Many who misuse the radio waves have a false sense of security, thinking the radio system in Canada is not monitored, and they need not worry about their use of profanity.

Some even believe it is their right to say anything they want on the CB, as it is an unlicensed system.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Monitoring of radio usage in Canada by regulators is commonplace practice.

In the northern sections of British Columbia for instance, there are six locations where monitoring takes place with the user’s knowledge.

In other words, you may want to be very careful choosing the language you use on the radio, no matter where you are.

Complaints of misuse of radio systems – serious offences of profanity, obscenity, and racism – are on the rise in this country.

Some minority groups have even approached regulators requesting their own private frequencies as a method of avoiding the increasingly degrading and slanderous talk on the radio directed at them.

That is a sad commentary on the state of affairs involving this issue.

Regulators are diligent in ensuring proper guidelines are adhered to, and are prepared to take whatever action is available to them when dealing with offenders.

There are stiff penalties for breaking the rules. Serious or repeat offenders can be slapped with a fine of up to $5,000, a one-year jail term, or both.

And corporations aren’t off the hook either – they share responsibility for proper use of radio equipment in the cabs of their trucks, and face fines of up to $25,000 if convicted of a punishable offence.

The radio is an important and useful tool for a trucker.

With it we keep in touch, we exchange information – and it plays a vital role in monitoring road conditions or hazards that could put us at risk.

Relaxing conversation with fellow truckers is also a great way to pass the long hours on the road.

If the only way you can avoid the scum you’re hearing is to turn off your radio, then you are surely disadvantaged.

Public perception of who we are is affected by how we behave.

If some of us drive too fast, we’re all seen as menacing maniacs wielding a 40,000 kilogram weapon.

If some of us are foul mouthed on the radio, we’re all seen as lowly, disgusting life forms that others want to keep their children away from.

Sadly, this industry has taken a turn in the road that we all need to recognize as a wrong turn.

Get back on track by starting where it’s easiest to deal with this issue in depth – in the cab of our trucks, not in the courtroom. n

– Don Robertson is vice-president of OBAC. He can be reached at drobertson@obac.ca

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