Thursday, March 11, 2010

Canada – part leader, part guinea pig

My home country of Canada is quite progressive in many ways. Whether that’s a good thing depends on your point of view.

For one thing, being progressive helps give Canada its identity in the world as one part leader, one part guinea pig.

In the world of trucking, progression has brought about mandatory speed limiters in Ontario and Quebec, sold blindly to the people as being both safe and green. During the lead-up to new laws, a number of studies and facts were kept hidden from view in the name of moving the mandate forward.

When you’re progressive, warm and fuzzy buzzwords like “safety” and “green” become woven into society’s warm, comforting blanket. The government and powerful companies capitalize on this and have the power to pull that blanket over our eyes.

Studies done in the U.S. and by Transport Canada clearly show that the safest highway speeds are uniform speeds and that speed differentials between cars and heavy trucks lead to dangerous vehicle interactions. Did the public get that part of it? No, because speed limiters slowed down the scary trucks and will save the environment.

To skeptics, the fuel numbers in addition to safety claims are up for debate with speed limiters. Truckers, for example are now prevented from performing certain maneuvers to smooth out the hills, and not all trucks are spec-d to run sweet at 105 km/h or 65 mph.

Speed differentials are also causing cars to burn more fuel when they are forced to decelerate and then accelerate again to get around the elephant races on highways such as the 401 in Ontario.

In Canada, progressive also means spending federal fuel-tax money on carbon reduction and waste management. The federal government is kicking in over $17 million in fuel-tax funds to help build a new $22 million recycling plant in London, Ontario. Thanks to a Canadian member of OOIDA, John Leistra, for pointing that out to us.

It’s totally legal, and the government moves it forward in the name of progress.

In British Columbia, the provincial government recently implemented a carbon tax on industries that produce or emit excessive amounts. In this case, being progressive will lead to increases in fuel prices and the cost of everyday products. Is that type of progress really in the people’s best interest?

In recent months, progression has also brought about a sustained push in Canada for electronic on-board recorders. Government officials are hoping to get a system up and running to tie in with a future U.S. rule. But which country will go first?

If speed limiters, carbon taxes and funding diversions for green initiatives are any indication, my money is on Canada being the guinea pig.

Does going first make Canada a leader? Again, it depends on your point of view.

The federal and provincial governments prove every day that they can take leaps, but to me, they should do some more looking first.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

U.S. Marshals get new wheels

It’s an old but resilient rumor that truckers facing an out-of-service decree from an inspector can summon United States Marshals to spring them. It’s a good wish, as wishful thinking goes, and when Freightliner Trucks announced the United States Marshals Service (USMS) had bought two Freightliner Business Class M2 106 trucks to use as mobile command posts, I couldn’t help but think of them charging down the superslab to rescue some hapless hauler from durance vile behind a weigh station.

“Some of the details that attracted the USMS to the Business Class M2106 include its wide cab doors and easy engine accessibility. When its agents are on the move, the USMS needs a vehicle that won’t slow them down, and the Business Class M2 106 provides that convenience,” said Ken Farber, president, Farber Specialty Vehicles, which customized the vehicles for the marshals.

Though somehow I just can’t see Tommy Lee Jones pulling up in one of these babies at some remote weigh station just because I’m two days behind on my comic books ...