You can ask as many drivers as you want about driving a truck, and you will get as many opinions as there are drivers. For me, truck driving is not so much a job as it is a way of life.
We all know that not everyone in a truck is qualified to be in the profession. I don’t claim or want people to think that I have the answer to the problem. But I don’t believe any changes made in the last couple of years – since Humboldt – have made any difference. We are no closer to lessening or eliminating catastrophic truck accidents. The proof that nothing has changed can be seen in the recent accident at Cereal and Chinook, Alberta.
It is only common sense that you cannot start school in kindergarten and, within a month, try to write your grade 12 exams. In car racing, you don’t climb into a 3000-horse-powered car and compete without seat time learning the craft. In trucking, a person can apply to get their Class 1 license, and within three weeks, they can legally get into a truck and pull a 53-foot tridem, a B-train or what have you. All they need is someone desperate for drivers or have enough money to buy their own equipment.
Each province has its own requirement for qualifying to get a Class 1 licence, which in my humble opinion, is the main problem. The only way I see driver problems (qualification, experience and common sense) getting better is to have graduated licenses, incentives for companies to properly train and make the Class 1 license a Canada-wide training and testing program. Not a province-by-province ruling.
As things are now, there are too many incidents that trucks are involved in that do not even get reported or make the front page news. The following are just two such fender benders.
The first happened to my wife on the way to work. There was a loaded B-train travelling in the slow lane. The car ahead of my wife was beside the trailer when a tire blew out on the trailer. There was noise, dirt, dust and spare parts flying. The car ahead put the brakes on, pulled over, and stopped on the shoulder. My wife pulled over onto the shoulder and half onto the grass. Then a second B-train swerved right to miss the debris, and as he swung back left, his back trailer side-swiped the car on the shoulder. Neither of these trucks stopped, and no one involved got license numbers.
The second one was told to me by a lady who parked beside me at a grocery parking lot. Her car had a horizontal indentation just above the grille across from one headlight, the hood to the other fender. I am fairly timid, so I asked her what caused this. She was travelling on Highway #1 at Chilliwack, following a transport truck at a safe distance as they passed Prest Road exit when suddenly, with no warning, the truck slammed on the brakes and came to a complete stop in the slow lane. He then proceeded to back up. She and the other cars behind her blew their horns, but he didn’t stop until he backed into her car. There were four witnesses, and she got the truck and trailer license and the truck driver’s license number. His only explanation was that he had missed his exit. She reported this to the RCMP and the insurance company. The next day the insurance company phoned and told her that the truck driver’s license did not exist in their files.
I have seen more than a few of the same actions by Class 1 drivers myself. I’m sure there are other drivers out there that can relate the same things. However, until this is addressed across Canada, not province by province, there will always be the next BIG ONE.