Road conditions a threat to Teamster drivers

By Marco Procaccini

Everyone knows that Teamsters working on the road experience all the issues faced by other working-class people: the high cost of living, difficult working conditions, not enough attention to health and safety, retirement concerns, personal debt, and on and on.

But one that doesn’t always come to mind is lousy drivers – a big concern of anyone who’s ever worked in the industry and going all the way back to the days when Teamsters drove teams of horses.

Repeated reports and driver surveys from both auto insurance agencies and polling firms show that B.C. remains among the worst for poor driving conditions and accidents. According to ICBC, in 2017, there were over 350,000 crashes– 67,000 of them involving serious casualties or fatalities. That’s a 25 per cent increase over a five-year period. And it stressed that poor or risky driving habits are the main cause. Aggressive or hurried driving behaviours, bending of traffic rules and distraction or fatigue are major factors in car accidents. It’s gotten so bad that the insurance firm is promoting an online course to remind drivers of traffic rules and proper driving methods.

“I can’t see how it doesn’t affect us,” said Local 213 training coordinator Rob Duff. “The statistics show it. People would see it’s a disaster if they could see everything that’s going on out there.”

Serious efforts at education are needed to address the matter – both for personal and professional drivers. “I think more defensive driving and public awareness courses stressing safety would be great,” he said. “Safety is a big part of all the training we do. The biggest thing about basic safety is being aware of your surroundings. That’s something that too many drivers out there are lacking.

Better training is needed for professional drivers as well. Duff thinks it’s time for Class One Driver to become a certified trade, “where people are required to drive a minimum number of hours with someone with a Class One,” he said.

“How it is now (with most professional driver training), is you pay the $5,000 to $7,000 to take a course, pass a test and then get chucked a set of keys when you land a job and get told ‘don’t crash.’”

Duff says unions have “fought tooth and nail” to get nation-wide Red Seal-recognized trades and apprenticeships for their members. That now has to be extended to Class One drivers’ licenses. “You wouldn’t put a crane operator in a crane without apprenticeship training,” he said. “But that’s what you can do with a Class One. We shouldn’t go away until that changes.”