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Winnipeg Free Press misrepresents safety record of trucking industry

The following is an excerpt from a lengthy letter sent in response to a Winnipeg Free Press article entitled "Time in a Bottle" about urine bottles along the side of highways:


The following is an excerpt from a lengthy letter sent in response to a Winnipeg Free Press article entitled “Time in a Bottle” about urine bottles along the side of highways:

The headline says it all: “Highway-safety activists are concerned about semi-trailer drivers who keep on truckin’ under tight delivery deadlines; it’s not hard to find evidence scattered in ditches along North American roads.” While the article begins with a supposed focus on urine bottles on the side of the highway, it quickly shifts to an attempt to question truck safety in Canada.

The reality is that the article has little to do with bottles along the highway, but more about an attempt to bash the trucking industry. But why? Well, if we take a look at the quotes within Selena Hinds’ article, the usual suspects have crawled out of the woodwork: Canadians for Responsible and Safe Highways (CRASH) -a so-called grassroots group, who has admitted publically that it received funding from the Rail Association of Canada and the railways; Transport 2000, a pro-railway organization, which according to its Web site believes, “transportation is a tool to curtail the growth of road and highway spending;”Truck Safety Coalition, which includes in its membership US versions of organizations such as CRASH; and Dr. Barry Wellar, “transportation expert,” who has a relationship with both Transport 2000 and CRASH.

These organizations should be recognized as pro-railway, anti-truck activists rather than as “highway safety activists.”

It was not surprising to note that the statistics provided by CRASH only tell part of the story. As an example, CRASH states that the rate of deaths in accidents involving trucks has held firm at 540 each year for a decade up to 2004.While I cannot comment on the source or accuracy, I do know, according to Transport Canada, that the total traffic handled by trucks (measured in tonne-kilometres) in the last 10 years (1994-2003) has increased by 81% and the tonnes of raw freight carried by trucks has increased by 56%. During the same period, Transport Canada reported fatalities resulting from commercial vehicle collisions decreased from 639 to 578.

However, Transport Canada also reports, “Drivers of automobiles, light trucks and vans were recorded as having a driver condition ‘other than apparently normal’ 4.25 times more frequently than the drivers of heavy trucks in fatal collisions,” and,”In fatal crashes, drivers of automobiles, light trucks and vans were recorded as having a driver action ‘other than driving properly’ 2.74 times more frequently than the drivers of heavy trucks.”

So, while the trucking industry has experienced significant and dramatic growth, the number of fatalities has not increased, but has actually decreased. Somewhat of a different story!

The article refers to the new (2007) Hours-of-Service regulations that commercial drivers and trucking companies must comply with. It quotes Mr. Gow, president of CRASH and former president of Transport 2000: “The change wasn’t much of a reform.” In spite of Gow’s view, the new regulations require drivers to take a minimum of 25% more rest time each day and reduced the number of hours a commercial driver can be on duty.

On the same day that this article was published, 42 of Manitoba’s finest professional drivers were competing in the 2008 Manitoba Professional Truck Driver Championships. To participate, the individuals must meet certain safety and experience requirements. The competitors undergo a challenging practical test in the form of an obstacle course, a pre-trip inspection, and a written test. The champions of each category will represent Manitoba at the National Championships. During the awards banquet that evening, the Manitoba Driver of the Year was announced and recognized. The recipient is an individual with 41 years of experience as a professional driver. He has travelled our highways, city and winter roads and has accumulated 6.5 million accident-free kilometres. The 2007 Manitoba Drivers of the Month were also recognized and they collectively represent 30 million kilometres driven and over 210 years of experience.

Bob Dolyniuk General Manager

Manitoba Trucking Association


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