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Friday, February 26, 2021

Governments working at cross-purposes. By G. Ray Gompf

The other day I went to Toronto from Ottawa and back. The entire trip was done on 400 series highways, the 416 and 401 to be exact and the return was the same.
All along the way on the 401, it was virtually a steady stream of road trains. Well, they don’t call them road trains in Canada because that’s an Australian thing and certainly no laws allow more than three full size trailers but two is quite fine making these rolling road blocks more than 120 feet long – oh sorry, I need to quote that in metric terms, so 36.5 metres with these behemoths running along at 90 kilometres per hour while surrounding traffic, illegally is trying to run 120. Who in their right mind would drive through a parking lot at 30 kilometres an hour? Yet those same right minded people think nothing of running 30 kilometres an hour of speed differential on the highway and think it’s reasonable. But I digress.
All of these super long doubles have a big yellow sign on the back indicating – if you can read the picture – that it’s two trailers being pulled by one tractor. Then as you pass along the side of these trailers is a trailer skirt announcing how green this company is by using one truck to pull two trailers. Wow. Oh, I guess if you tell the lie enough, those who don’t know any better will continue spreading the lie so much that it becomes a truth. I’m not one of those that believes two trailers being pulled by one truck is green.
Do I think that money is being saved? Oh certainly, in wages for the second driver that would be required if the two trailers were being pulled by one truck each. That’s not even an argument, wages, benefits and allowances being saved is big on the corporate agenda but it certainly has nothing to do with being green.
Is fuel being saved by pulling these behemoths? My experiences in the trucking industry tell me that not one drop of fuel is being saved, in fact, I rather suspect that more fuel is being used by that one truck pulling the two trailers than if two trucks were pulling one trailer each. So does that make the exercise green? I don’t think so. It makes it look like it to the uninitiated but certainly doesn’t represent any truth in saving the planet from those dastardly greenhouse gases.
Does one truck pulling two trailers make the world any safer than two trucks pulling one trailer each? Well, that can certainly be debated. With the one truck two trailer scenario you have only one human mind that controls the situation rather than two but again, is that any safer?
It’s not safer when you see five cars bumper to bumper passing the behemoth at thirty kilometres faster than the behemoth. Those cars weren’t tailgating each other before or after they pass the behemoth – well they weren’t leaving a good safety margin but they weren’t bumper to bumper. The problem is that as the cars blended into the passing lane to get past the behemoth, they slowed slightly bunching up beside the truck.
Now as any of you know when truck tires blow out they blow out with a vengeance. Rubber flies and these huge chunks of rubber that blow apart can cause serious damage. Even running over one of these big pieces of rubber can tear a car apart. All of us that drive long haul for a living have seen it happen at one time or another. It can happen with such suddenness that even the most experienced driver can lose control even if the rubber doesn’t strike the car. Yet here will be five cars waiting for disaster to befall them and then they would wonder what happened. Oh, it must have been that the trucker didn’t inspect his vehicle rendering it unsafe. Couldn’t possibly be that the car drivers were being less than brilliant. These possibilities aren’t the slightest bit predicable?
But all the above doesn’t tell you why governments work at cross-purposes.
The other day a wonderful piece of literature came across my desk from the Federal government talking about teaching truckers how to save fuel by driving properly. It was part of the Fleet Smart program and the propaganda was so condescending it made me sick. Here is one government claiming they have all the answers to saving fuel and they are directing their efforts at teaching truckers to be fuel efficient. That’s all well and good and while it’s wonderful to teach truckers to be fuel efficient – as fuel efficient as possible, having another government – in this case a provincial government work at cross purposes to convince the general public that all the problems of fuel usage is caused by trucks therefore must be controlled at all cost and so what if in the process of passing vote getting legislation that the green factor is lost.
And why isn’t the Federal government fleet smart program directing resources in teaching the general public drivers how to conserve fuel? Because it won’t work anyway and won’t win any votes?
So here we have one government wasting money on telling the most fuel efficient segment of the road users how to be fuel efficient while another government is wasting money hobbling that same fuel efficient segment of road users from being as fuel efficient as they could be. Cross-purposes! Wasting money on both ends of the green argument.
The green argument is sexy and vote getting. Saving money, saving lives, saving anything doesn’t get votes and confuses voters and a confused electorate is a happy electorate.
While safety is the absolute goal for any trucker with very few exceptions, safety is the least considered factor in the minds of all those four wheelers out there on the four nuthin’ one at twenty five or thirty (or more) kilometres above the speed limit. Those drivers are just too good, too important, too highly skilled to accept that speed limits are set for a reason; that safety amongst the other road users is paramount to their need for speed.
If these lead foots got to their destination essentially any faster then speeding might and I really mean “MIGHT” make sense but essentially what difference does fifteen minutes make on a three hundred kilometre trip. If you need to be there fifteen minutes earlier, then leave fifteen minutes earlier or don’t stop at “Timmies” five times along the way.
What my point is that we need to have much more co-operation between levels of governments with similar responsibilities to coordinate their efforts so they don’t squander money – our hard earned taxed money – on working at cross-purposes. But I’ll not hold my breath.
All we can do is point the inconsistencies out to those that are “in charge” and hope and pray they actually take heed. One of the problems is that these programs don’t take a large percentage of government budgets so they don’t really look at these small amounts as if millions is small. With governments spending billions, even trillions, the millions is just chump change. Well all that chump changes mounts up to huge dollars. It’s time for all of us to let our elected representatives at all levels that wasting even one penny is wasting too much.
G. Ray Gompf, CD