Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Road side blitz finds 13 of 30 trucks checked unsafe

with 5 comments


This is not news. Every time there is a spot check of truckers – or taxis – there are vehicles pulled off the road

for defects that, police said, should have been detected during the pre-trip inspection.

Some of the trucks didn’t have brake fluid. Some had bald tires or tires with loose nuts. Others were considered overloaded.

In fact this is actually a better result than some others that I have seen in recent years. What worries me is that only 30 trucks were pulled over, and that inspection stations seem to be closing. At one time there was a weigh scale at the north end of the Massey Tunnel. That has been closed for some time and the roadway is now used as an exclusive bus lane as the HOV (now 2 plus) is cut back to the Steveston Highway off ramp.

And since I was on the road in the last few days I have had far too much opportunity to see trucks driven in a way that would be dangerous even if everything was working properly. Poorly secured loads seem to be very common, especially for grossly overloaded farm trucks. Unsheeted loads spraying gravel – and worse – on following vehicles were also common. And much of the road was littered with truck tire treads. These are shed when retreads are used on improperly inflated tires.

What is new is the excuse

But with the cost of fuel rising, some owner-operators or small trucking companies may put off minor repairs in order to save money, he said. It could be the choice between new tires or eating, he said,

He, in this case being a trucker Gord Foster who works for Reimer Express Lines. And it must be stressed says that there is “no excuse for putting off safety”

Sgt. Tim Kravjanski of the West Vancouver police traffic section said

“Our current system isn’t a deterrent to these drivers and we need new tools to deal with this …One of the things that was being looked at is the ability to impound repeat offenders.”

I think he means impound the trucks of repeat offenders. I am amazed that this is not already the case. I would also suggest that licenses be cancelled of truckers who have more than a certain number of penalty points for ill mainitained trucks.

Trucks already get very generous treatment. They do not pay for the roads or the right of way the roads are built on. And the cost of damage that they do to the roads and bridges far exceeds the revenue that is collected from them. The amount of damage rising geometrically to the axle weight. Enough! It is time to take action to reduce the costs that the truckers impose on society – and to stop pretending that building more and faster roads will make matters any better

Written by Stephen Rees

September 12, 2008 at 11:16 am

Posted in freight transport, Road safety

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5 Responses

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  1. I’ve heard it said before that trucks don’t pay for the roads they use- but I hesitate to use this in disccusion because I don’t have any way to back it up. Can you point me in the right direction?

    Andy in Germany

    September 12, 2008 at 1:14 pm

  2. Actually in Germany they do. I was more concerned with Canada.

    Here the argument is usually framed in a way that presumes that every cent of gas (motor fuel) tax ought to be spent on roads – becuase that used to be the case in the US for federal gas tax. Here all taxes go to the consolidated revenue fund from which all government spending is allocated. We have very few specifically dedicated taxes at the federal level.

    The damage trucks do to existing roads is disproportionate. But the social costs of trucking are much greater than that – especially the health impact of diesel exhaust, the impacts of noise and vibration and of course the heavy costs of collisions especially when dangerous goods are involved.

    Stephen Rees

    September 12, 2008 at 2:19 pm

  3. Truckers say they don’t properly maintain their trucks because they can’t afford to. Yet they can’t raise prices because there is too much competition. So what does this mean? We have too many trucks on our roads! Safety standards should be rigorously enforced. Truckers who can’t make it should leave the business and find work elsewhere. What should happen is that these costs should be passed on to consumers. That is not happening because there are too many truckers under cutting each other, taking profits out of the industry so much so that safety is now routinely compromised for the sake of the business.

    As for truckers paying more for road infrastructure, that would be a very good thing. Yes, consumers would have to pay in the end, but it may be the final impetus needed to force the industry to shrink its fleet so that supply is lowered and the remaining truckers can operate safely and profitably.

    As for safety, the fine structure should be sufficient that no trucker would find it desirable to compromise safety in favour of a few extra dollars of profit. Unfortunately with the BC Trucking Association seems to have the ear of the BC Liberals so I doubt you will ever see any legislation that would in effect be a medicine for what has become a very sick industry.


    September 13, 2008 at 11:06 am

  4. While some of what you say is true I find it abhorent that so many of those who are outside of the trucking industry consider themselves experts enough to comment on the trucking industry, and truckers in general.

    I would like to point out the strides that the transportation industry have made, to improve safety and emission controls in just the last decade. The costs of which are born almost exclusively by the individual companies and owner-operators as they have not been able to pass these additional expenses on to the consumer.

    From my extensive experience in the trucking field in BC. I have first hand knowledge of one huge immutable FACT, the profit margins of the industry have dropped dramatically and steadily since the 1970’s. The 15-20% of the 1990’s have given way to an average of 3% margins, or even negative returns for many companies, today.

    I would be forced to agree with the previous commentor that it would appear that competition is fierce and it would look like there is an over supply issue in the market. However, my vast experience provides me with a clearer picture than an outside observer, or transportation economist. It is a fact, that transportation demand has remained, until very recently, extremely strong. Evidenced by the sheer number of companies that were running their equipment around the clock, and providing their employees which hours of operation well in excess of safe operating regulations. Believe me, there are MANY!

    In my professional opinion, the steady destabilization of this specific market and specialized has occured continuosly, at least, since the 1980’s. The continual influx of unskill labour from poor immigration policies along with additional unskilled labour being ejected from our educational facilities have compounded the problem. In reality the customers to which the majority of truckers cater to have grown and concentrated their power and thereby negotiating clout. That, combined with subtle but effective legislative changes in the law have enabled these large conglomerates to destabilize the ability of the trucking labour to form strong collectives. Thus reducing their bargining power.

    Yes, the age old stragegy of divide and conquer is strongly alive in the trucking industry. Much as it was in the “golden years” of the industrial revolution where employers made virtual slaves of their employees. In this case, excepting for the pittance the truckers live on, the definition of servitude couldn’t be more well fitted.

    Just imagine the situation that the truckers will find themselves in once the demand for there services decreases.

    Although, I am not agaist the strong enforcement of safety laws and regulations. It’s time that non-truckers thought about the level of fairness in their comments on the trucking industry. Ultimately, common sense should rule the day and not knee-jerk reaction to one trucker, who may well be unknowledgeable and under skilled, cutting them off in traffic. Anecdotes are best left in the minds of their believers because the truth is we are all here together. Let’s level the playing field across the board and provide the same restrictions and oppotunities to all people. Stop picking out one visable industry to throw your stones at as you may eventually find them on there way back to you.

    John from Abbotsford

    October 7, 2009 at 8:14 am

  5. While I have allowed the comment from “John from Abbotsford” to appear, he does his own case a disservice, firstly by suggesting that only truckers have any right to comment on the trucking industry and secondly for repeating the argument – that had already been effectively countered by the previous poster. What he does not identify is that truckers are increasingly self-employed owner operators and not employees. This was a practise widespread in the industry to reduce costs. Some of those truckers felt that they had no choice. trucking was the only business they knew and their employer would no longer provide wages and benefits, only contracts to carry, with all the risk downloaded. This knowledge is not peculiar to truckers – it has been widely reported and commented upon. And poor rates of return on capital employed do not justify operating unsafe vehicles anywhere – but especially not on public highways where the risk is to the community as a whole, not just the trucker. And if you decide to operate your truck in my neighbourhood or on the public road network I do indeed reserve my right of free speech to comment upon your behaviour and that of other truck operators. Indeed I happen to think that the right of free speech is important to every society. I also deprecate the disguised racism in your remark about “poor immigration policies”. All truck drivers, no matter where they are from, are required to obey the same laws.

    Stephen Rees

    October 7, 2009 at 11:39 am

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