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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The 401


Another 401 death, another trucker charged and in jail awaiting a bail hearing. The armchair quarterbacks one and all, nodding in agreement that something has to be done but not a single soul anywhere that could solve the problem with the knowledge, the experience, to solve the problem.

The government created this problem, only the government can solve it, and since the government refuses to listen to those of us with even a smattering of knowledge and experience, we, the knowledgeable and experienced, have to resort to other means to be heard.

OK, so how did the government create the problem? Well let me count the ways.

First, they allowed trucks, in Ontario, to load to much more than the 37,000 kilograms gross weight. Ontario trucks are often and regularly at nearly double that. Just add another axle and shove on more weight. The United States has steadfastly, and correctly, refused to allow trucks to be more than 80,000 pounds which is just over 36,000 kilos. As a result, their highways don’t have ditches the entire length of the highway where truck wheels have grooved out the road surface.

In Ontario, these grooves in the Highway, some so deep all vehicles have difficulty changing lanes. But this couldn’t possibly have any bearing on the wrecks that are taking lives.

Then, they gutted trucks with speed limiters forcing a maximum of 105 KmPH. Truck manufacturers had speed limited trucks to 120 a long time ago anyway. Granted the speed limit on these highways is 100 but when a driver is faced with these heavy loads having the ability to gain momentum on the down side of the hill to be able to make the upside with as little disruption on traffic flow as possible is simply now a wish.

Truckers haven’t been over-speeding for decades because they know the roads and they want to get home to their families whenever that’s possible.

Then the government messes with the hours of service. Before the government messed with Hours of service, truckers could and would avoid going into rush hour traffic in the major metropolitan areas, because they had control over their hours. They had rules within each 24 hour period, but they could drive in shorter blocks of time with significant rest periods between. In other words they could do four hours on and four hours off to achieve 12 hours in 24. Now they have to do 14 hours straight with a half hour break sometime after six hours but not past seven.

Where the truck driver could once achieve an average speed close to 100 KmPH while moving, now that average speed is impacted by the stop and go traffic in and around metropolitan areas subjected to heavy volume. Mix many more trucks into rush hour is a recipe for disaster, especially when car drivers, none of which have the skill level even close to the trucker, don’t know how to drive in a respectful manner around large vehicles.

Too many people, in too many cars with drivers having little or no respect for their surrounding fellow travellers. But it’s all the fault of the trucker.

The government has not learned the law of unintended consequences.

Now, the truck driver is being hounded to produce more miles in less time. The rest period is too short to be effective. The driving times are too long. In short, the hours of service cripple rather than enhance safety.

The infrastructure isn’t properly maintained. Yet there isn’t a truck that could go the entire length of the 401 without having at least two government inspections, plus the mandated inspections done by the driver, while cars are allowed on the highway without any sort of inspection the entire length of ownership. There simply has to be a better way.

Truck drivers have mandatory entry level training that is significant. They are constantly monitored electronically by their employers, by governments, by the people whose goods they transport. Car drivers have no such monitoring other than the odd radar trap that might catch them for excessive speed.

Now add to this already toxic mix of danger and you give everyone the ability to check their Facebook page at 140 kliks.

In the space of two decades we’ve made impaired driving socially unacceptable and rightly so. Is it possible that in the next week, we can teach everyone to drive by the rules and make it socially unacceptable to do otherwise?