Today's Trucking
opinions Rolf Lockwood

Question Authority

Posted: August 1, 2014 by Rolf Lockwood

Gallons of ink have been consumed in bitching about the extreme over-regulation of this industry. Ink and a lot of hot air. But we’re right to bitch and moan.

I’m sure the nuclear-power world is full of rules and regs too. Possibly — but only possibly — more than we face. At least there’s an obvious calamity quotient there. Sure, our trucks can do damage in a bunch of ways but the controls outweigh the risk we represent by a factor of about five gazillion to one. And they’re driving people away from trucking. The headaches are just too many.

Case in point: scalehouse inspectors and other enforcement folks who don’t know their stuff. If we’re going to have all these rules, can we please have them applied fairly, correctly?

You don’t know how many letters and calls and e-mails we get here at the magazine from drivers, owner-operators, and fleet managers who say they’ve been poorly served at this scale or that. Yes, we rarely hear the other side, and no doubt some of the complaints we receive are misplaced, misguided, or just plain wrong. I’m under no illusions, and I understand that the inspection/enforcement job is a very tough one. I’m also sure that most people doing this thankless job take it seriously and make the effort to understand the laws they enforce. But not all of them.

I was prompted to write this piece by two things, one of them an apparently absurd ticket handed out recently by the Winnipeg police. It has nothing to do with trucking but it easily could.

Chances are you’ve heard about the 77-year-old guy — with but one ticket in 61 years at the wheel — who was nailed for talking on his cell phone while driving. Thing is, he does not and never has owned a cell phone. He figures it’s a clear case of a ticket quota at work and the evidence would seem to prove him right. That’s corruption, in essence, and we all know that quota thing exists.

How can we possibly respect the enforcement community when this sort of thing goes on?

The other damning incident involves a reader, a man I won’t name but one I’ve known for a while, a veteran driver who knows his stuff. Including when to be polite, though that patience was severely tested during a recent scale stop. He runs a four-axle dump truck. His present job gives him no way to check axle loads before hitting the road.

In this case the inspector came out and said my reader was 2,500 kg heavy on the drives but his gross was fine. Then he added, you’re maxed out on both steer and lift axle.

What?

How can the gross be good if the steer and lift axles are maxed and the drives are 2,500 kg over? How, my reader asks, does that math work?

And this particular aggregate load is what the guys call ‘soup’. It self-levels, so when the inspector suggested shifting weight onto the lift — even though it was “maxed” in his own words — my driver friend asked, “How?”

I won’t go into all the details — it’s actually a long story — but suffice to say this inspector, not at all new to the job, was completely baffled when he shouldn’t have been. And by all accounts he’s managed to enrage the local trucking community in the process.

We all deserve better.

This piece originally appeared in the April 2012 print edition of Today’s Trucking.

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