Summer 2019 is but a memory. Indian Summer, while it lasted, was very welcome, but now it is finally winter just one of the natural four seasons that make up Canada’s weather. The other three are 1. More Winter, 2. Road Construction and 3. Early Winter. If the Weather were an Olympic Sport, Canada would bring home Gold every year.
Sadly the first blast from the lips of Old Man Winter witnesses the convening of the Summer Tire Association’s Annual Meeting in the middle of our highways. Alberta seems to have a higher membership than all the other provinces for some silly reason.
I am currently driving back and forth between Vernon, where I have taken up residence, and Enderby and Salmon Arm, where most of my activities take place, such as the radio show every Saturday morning. I’m not sure what “retirement” actually means…it’s not a word I can find anywhere in my dictionary. After our first taste of what’s on the menu for us over the next few months, I witnessed a few vehicles in the ditch in the North Okanagan, including one fatality just north of Armstrong where the highway narrows to two lanes. And then last week was the horrifying head-on crash of two semis near Albert Canyon east of Revelstoke. Both drivers were taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. Hopefully, they both will make it home for Christmas.
It has occurred to me that in today’s business environment of rush, rush, rush, JIT (just in time delivery) and the indiscriminate use of a carrier’s trailer as a warehouse, drivers are pushed to the limit and often drive when they ought to be parked. Newbies and veterans have different skillsets, and to ask a new-hire to keep going as a vet might, is not, in my opinion, proceeding with due care and caution. No one, not even a crusty old gear jammer, ought to be forced to keep going when the going is unsafe. In other words, to operate outside of one’s comfort zone. People in the dispatch office or operations room aren’t in the cab with you, so they are not in a position to tell you if it is safe or not. But don’t use that as an excuse to slack off - they’re usually not dumb either. Kudos to the carrier who notifies all its customers, both shippers and receivers, that their drivers are instructed to shut down when the weather turns nasty. And hats off to the drivers young or old, male or female, gay or straight who know when they have reached the upper limit of their comfort zones and take the appropriate action.
Back in the good old days when I was an O/O pulling flat decks, I came upon extremely treacherous freezing rain west of Cochrane ON, and it was so slippery that I was barely able to make it to the first empty service station. No sooner had I dynamited my rig when the CB crackled, and a passing trucker cried, “C’mon Birddawg, ya ain’t gonna make any money sitting there!” Well, he was right, but wisdom prevailed, and I replied, “It’s okay brother, I’ll see ya down the road.” And I certainly did. Once the sand and salt wagons went by, about 5 miles down the highway, I saw him. Actually, I only saw the rear end of his trailer sticking out of the bush, where he tried to build a new shortcut. It cost him $750 for the tow, and that was 35 years ago, plus he lost a day and a half of revenue while I enjoyed productivity for most of that day and all of the next one. If I had kept going, I would have been driving outside of my comfort zone. I cannot convince myself or too many others, for that matter, that I was a coward for stopping when I did.
On another occasion, when I was hauling the Royal Mail from the Montréal Canada Post Distribution Centre, the road was closed at Revelstoke for 48 hours. There was another carrier there also carrying mail but with two drivers who were not friends and did not wish to share a single bunk, so in their wisdom, they decided to go south on Hwy. 23 to Nakusp and take the two ferries to get to Vernon and then go south on 97 to Hwy. 3, not the best choice in inclement weather, especially with a front lift axle on the drivers. Automobiles naturally got priority, and they had to wait at each ferry for room to cross. To add insult to injury, they had to apply jewelry to the one drive axle to get enough traction to get up the ferry ramps. And of course, Paulson Summit and Allison Pass required chains too.
After two days of reading, relaxing, sipping a modicum amount of strong drink while consuming some of the best Chinese cuisine on the planet, we were released from our bondage, and when I exited the Coq at Hope, who did I pass but these two beleaguered souls. On top of that, I was first to unload at the Annex in Burnaby before waiting until morning to get on the ferry to Victoria. Boy, they were some bummed…Patience is a virtue…it just wasn’t one of theirs.
So if you wish to arrive home safely to be with your friends and loved ones, determine the range of your comfort zone and please have the discipline to stay within it. It doesn’t matter how long one has been an asphalt engineer, comfort zones change over time. Know what yours is and do not exceed it. By the same token, no driver ought to be penalized for parking when he/she is not comfortable with conditions … no matter what others are doing. You don’t know if they will reach their destination safely or not, but you know that you will … 10-4!