WINNIPEG — You’d think that the media would have stopped using Canadians for Responsible and Safe Highways (CRASH) as a reputable source for trucking matters a long time ago.
But Selena Hinds of the Winnipeg Free Press penned an article recently that focused on a supposed increase of urine bottles littered on southern Manitoba highways.
This, according to the article, is evidence that Canadian truckers are under more pressure to violate hours-of-service rules and don’t have time to take bathroom breaks.
The author prominently quoted CRASH President Harry Gow to drive home the point. "All of this boils down to pressure, pressure that drives these guys to not stop or take rest breaks, if they can avoid it. The urine bottle is a symptom of that," he told the newspaper.
The article triggered a response from Manitoba Trucking Association GM Bob Dolyniuk, who in a guest column this week, rightly pointed out that CRASH as well as other anti-truck lobby groups sourced in the story receive funding from the Rail Association of Canada. (Gow, incidentally, is also a founding member of a group called Friends of the Steam Train).
A supposed increase in urine bottles along the highway may have more to do with the fact truckers have few places to take breaks.
"These organizations should be recognized as pro-railway, anti-truck activists rather than as ‘highway safety activists,’" Dolyniuk writes. "The reality is that the article has little to do with bottles along the highway, but seems more like an attempt to bash the trucking industry."
While CRASH claims that the rate of deaths in accidents involving trucks has held firm at 540 each year for a decade up to 2004, Dolyniuk points out that, according to Transport Canada, that total traffic handled by trucks in 10 years (1994-2003) increased 81 percent and the tonnes of raw freight jumped 56 percent. During the same period, fatalities resulting from commercial vehicle collisions decreased from 639 to 578.
The Transport Canada numbers also show that drivers of automobiles, light trucks and vans were recorded as having a driver condition "other than apparently normal" — 4.25 times more frequently than the drivers of heavy trucks in fatal collisions.
"So, while the trucking industry has experienced significant and dramatic growth, the number of fatalities did not increase, it decreased."
The article also quotes Gow as saying that "most of the testimony by truck drivers at hearings and in discussions with researchers indicates they will pop wake-up pills, drink a lot of coffee, drink Red Bull, eat a fair amount of junk food, to keep on going." Gow, of course, doesn’t cite such evidence.
As for the alleged increase in urine bottles, it might have made more sense for the author to pursue the apparent link between "pee bombs" and the lack of a decent truckstop and rest area network in Canada.