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Friday, June 21, 2024

The Safety Nut Behind The Wheel……. By G. Ray Gompf

I’m a safety nut and proud of it. When dispatchers would try to push me beyond my limits I ran the flag up the safety pole and made the appropriate threats.

I remember one particular trip I was to pick up a trailer in the yard in Winnipeg and have it in the Toronto yard eighteen hours later. I would usually do about a fifteen minutes inspection of the trailer every time I would hook up but this time because it was an impossible time frame, I took a half hour to do the inspection and I was particularly harsh on my inspection and forced an extra hour and a half of mechanics time to get me satisfied to pull this trailer out of the yard.

Then I drove eight hours and went to bed at Nipigon. The next morning, I phoned the Toronto dispatcher at exactly the time I was supposed to arrive. You see, in order to force us owner operators to keep THEIR schedule, if we were late, we didn’t get paid for the entire trip which made life very uncomfortable at times. This wasn’t going to be one of those uncomfortable times with 16 hours to do what needed 26 of driving time to do.

When I called the Toronto dispatcher he asked me where I was. I told him I was in Hearst. He told me I’d have to mark me late and thus I wouldn’t be getting paid for the trip. I informed him that I wouldn’t be late. Late is when he’d have to find another truck, another trailer and oh I don’t know, eight maybe ten lumpers to unload my crashed truck somewhere in some bush. So he asked me a more appropriate question. When would I be there. He was aware that I’d only had 18 hours to start with and also realized there had been repairs to the trailer that left me even less time. I told him I’d be there at midnight, exactly twelve hours after I was supposed to be there originally.

I was now well rested and ready to run the last 12 hours from Hearst on into Toronto without any problem. I arrived at about 11:30 and then sat out on the street for the half hour because I was hell bent I wasn’t going to be in the yard even one second before I had said I’d be there. By the way, the dispatcher had agreed with me on the phone that I had been given an impossible task and that he’d cover for me if I could arrive by midnight and I did.

That experience taught me, well actually confirmed to me, that a good case could always be made for operating safely one hundred percent of the time.
It upsets my sensibility when people use the safety flag when safety is not the goal but in order to make attain less than honourable goals. As you read my musings in this magazine, you will see that I have only one goal. Safety for my brother and sister truckers, be they drivers or owner operators.

That is one reason I’m writing this at this particular point in time. There has been a safety program in place for almost two decades and there is and has been a fair amount of taxpayer dollars being spent on this program. I am referring to Operation Lifesaver.

Operation Lifesaver is a program that tries to bring common sense to the interaction between people, no matter their vocation, and trains. We all know there are always serious consequences when someone does something stupid around a rail crossing or on the tracks on which the train runs. Now, we all know that trains are never going to be determined “at fault” in a wreck between a truck and a train. We also know that death and dismemberment is a real consequence of an interaction between our truck and a train. But we also know that 40 of our members in the trucking world forget what they know and there are about 40 wrecks a year that occur from one of us not being astute enough to remember that crossing rail way tracks is dangerous and must be approached with great caution.

While every sector of the population that interacts with trains have incident rates dropping, the trucking industry is not. It’s been static for many years and there has to be a reason. It’s that reason for failure to reduce the number of truck train collisions that mystifies me.

Operation Lifesaver has a committee of safety minded people and groups that help promote the safety message of Operation Lifesaver. I personally have presented the Operation Lifesaver message five times at the Fergus Truck Show. I’ve presented it twice at the Stirling Truck Show. I’ve presented at least five times each at the Ten Acre Truck Stop, 730 Truck Stop and the Cornwall Fifth Wheel Truck Stop, spending my own money to do so. All the while the Canadian Trucking Alliance and the Ontario