Tuesday, July 30, 2013



Do you ever feel like an insect on one of the 400 superroads when you drive along a wall of obese tractor trailers?
Do you ever have to squeeze into your driveway past the lawn care guy who bought a long pickup and a  longer trailer so he can't park in front of his customer without hanging over driveways because the combo is wider than the lawn?
Do you ever fume in a traffic jam because another 18-wheeler has rolled over on a curve like a hippo bathing in a jungle river?
Do you ever wonder why the province allows tractor trailers so big that they can't make an ordinary turn on a downtown street?
If you have, you live in the Province of Ontario where the transportation experts boast about the low accident rate compared to the rest of Canada primarily because ordinary motorists are so intimidated by truckers that we try to keep as far away from them as possible.
I don't blame the drivers themselves. They have to drive the rigs that the boss gives them. And the boss, trying to reduce labour costs, tries to cram as much stuff as possible into the biggest trailer that he can find.
I blame the transportation ministry. I blame the police who allow the obvious infractions around them when truck rigs are bigger than the law allows.
The trucking industry has always hankered after the infamous truck trains of central Australia which are really more train than truck.
So the trucking industry has kept pushing the envelope on size so now we have big dump trucks rumbling along that have an enormous connection to a second trailer. They resemble tanks more than they do a truck for sand or gravel.
It's astounding how just about every business that moves on tires has always tried to cheat on size. Even the TTC. I was startled long ago at a commission meeting to find the commissioners were plotting how to get city council to change the law so the latest buses they had bought were legal. On yes, our transit guys bought buses that were longer and wider than regs allowed.
I raised this many years later at a Ontario Safety League meeting where I was a director and two men there who had spent many years in transit laughed knowledgeably about the incident and sort of hinted that it wasn't the only time that it had happened with the TTC.
A few years ago I was trying to get my Toyoto serviced in the eastend but found that I couldn't get close to the service door because of this enormous car carrier that sprawled from the showroom out into the street. I said to the driver that obviously the carrier was too big for that delivery, and probably broke the law too. He said he made regular delivers there and I was the only one in five years who had mentioned  the rig's size.
It wasn't just at the OSL board that I raised my concerns. (The OSL is a volunteer advisory body to the government that is nearly a century old.) I used to write editorials and features for the CAA magazine, which I think has gone downhill to being more a travel mag that one really devoted to the concerns of  motorists. I also often wrote about motoring issues as a Toronto Sun columnist.
I find it astounding that even as traffic has increased on every street in Toronto, so has the size of every form of truck.
Once upon a time, urban planners envisioned a Southern Ontario where freight trains carried most of the stuff between cities. Any big tractor trailers that moved between cities would offload in suburban depots and smaller vehicles would carry the material the rest of the way.
Sounded great on paper but the big trucking outfits figured why use two vehicles and two drivers if one of each could do the job. So to hell with the rest of us!  Then we got just-in-time delivery where factories didn't bother building storage space but were brought their parts and material by a steady stream of rolling warehouses that were made as large as possible.
The latest trick for companies delivering shingles or brick or block by long flatbeds is to hang the little tractor off the back. Which just adds to the hazard, And I would say so even if Mary had not driven down a side street a couple of years ago where a big flatbed was delivering shingles and was parked on an angle out from the curb. She clipped a corner, for $6,000 damage, The driver was on the lawn. He argued that since he hadn't been in the cab, he wouldn't given even his name. He certainly didn't apologize for taking up most of the road. The insurance company didn't even blink at my story. I guess it happens too often, and we all pay higher premiums as a result.
I think it's time to get back to basics, to ignore the good roads and trucking lobbies that contriibute campaign funds to all the right MPPs, and have a commission into vehicle size. If the private motorist does nothing, those tractor trailers will keep getting longer and bigger until more of us, like some of the people I know, feel that' it's safer to stay off the 400 series of truckways.

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