Letters: Highway Terrorists, Healthy Drivers
This Editorial appears in the Nov. 7 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.
I’d like to thank the writer of the letter headed “Highway Terrorists” (10-24, p. 8). I could not have said it any better.
I’ve also driven some “oversize” equipment myself within the past three years, and while not necessarily as “monstrous” as what the letter writer is probably moving most of the time, the 11-foot-wide unescorted mobile cranes and/or 14.3-foot double-decker buses are still considered oversize.
Every so-called “professional driver” should know the legal weight and size limits, i.e., 80,000 pounds gross, 102 inches wide, 75 feet long and 13 feet, 6 inches high. Any vehicle exceeding any of these dimensions is considered an oversize vehicle. This means the operator most likely is running on special permits with myriad requirements and/or limitations.
For example, when I am tasked to deliver LinkBelt mobile cranes from their manufacturer in Kentucky to western Canada (unescorted, mind you) my permits require me to “center-line” every overpass, bridge and/or other free-standing structure in all of Iowa and at some specific mileage-markers on Interstate 35 north and Interstate 94 west in Minnesota.
I certainly would expect four-wheelers to give me that familiar irate hand gesture for blocking their passage, but one could expect a so-called professional commercial motor vehicle driver to allow me to move over for the center-lining without forcing me to slow down and center-line the right lane and shoulder across that bridge instead (technically not permitted, but the lesser of two evils).
When I transferred four of 26 double-decker buses from the port of Halifax to Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics (3,750 miles per trip), I ran into similar problems with tractor-trailer drivers just not being patient enough to wait for the next twin lanes up a grade to pass me, but undertook to do so against oncoming traffic, forcing everyone else to hard-brake applications instead. Granted, I did not fly an “oversize banner,” but with a vehicle that’s higher than their trailers, one would expect them to figure it out by themselves that this might be a vehicle with a speed governed at only 55 mph (in a 56-mph speed zone, nonetheless).
I strongly urge enforcement authorities to ride shotgun in CMVs to see what’s really going on out there. (You’ve got to sit at the same level to see inside a truck’s cab). Texting, cellphone use, playing solitaire on a PC — all done by so-called professional drivers while barreling down the road at 65 mph. I’ve seen it all and cringe every time.
It’s a madhouse out there, and the bad apples among the CMV drivers must be removed from the scene — the sooner the better, because winter weather is just about upon us.
And, if anyone wonders, yes, I do have more than 3 million documented accident- and claims-free miles of driving experience — half of it by CMVs since 1974. That’s why I call myself “The Road-Scholar.” Yet, I’m still learning every day.
It is encouraging to see that our industry is focusing on keeping drivers healthy. Transport Topics is to be commended for coverage starting with the Sept. 5 front-page story “Fleet Executives Promote Healthy Habits to Increase the Length of Drivers’ Careers,” which was followed by an Oct. 3 letter and comment headed “Healthy Drivers” (p. 8), and capped by the Oct. 24 issue with a story headlined “Carriers Can Save ‘a Ton of Money’ Keeping Drivers Healthy, Russell Says” (p. 4), and reflecting Celadon Group’s company “Highway to Health” program, which was discussed during a panel session at the American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition in October.
I initially became interested in the subject in discussions a few years ago with Kathryn Clements, a 20-year registered dietitian, and since then have kept abreast of her work because she initiated a first work-site health program at Malt-O-Meal and ultimately within the trucking industry.
While Ms. Clements has presented nutrition information at driver orientation sessions, safety meetings and Driver Appreciation Week affairs, I have been glad to see she is now co-author of an interesting and informative book with Harriet Hodgson, a well known journalist on health-care subjects: “Real Meals on 18 Wheels: A Guide for Healthy Living on the Highway.”
Thomas Slavin, global safety and health director for Navistar Inc., has said, “ ‘Real Meals on 18 Wheels’ . . . can help drivers meet the challenge of eating well and staying healthy on the road.” I concur.
James Hardman, Esq.
Law Offices of James Hardman
Little Canada, Minn.
Editor’s Note: Navistar’s Thomas Slavin, in fact, is recognized in the book’s preface, which states, “We thank all the drivers who shared their experiences with us. We also thank Thomas J. Slavin, global safety and health director of Navistar Inc., for providing the front and back cover photos and seed money to launch this project. Tom gave us a helping hand just when we needed it.”