The joys of Commercial Transport

You're being ripped off!

Written by Tim King

I've got a pet peeve so big that it actually prevented me from taking a job one time. It wasn't even a health related thing like working for a distillery or tobacco company either. My pet peeve is trucks. I hate 'em!

In the first interview (that went so well I was sent down to Windsor to meet the Godfather a few days later), the manager told me that to him, seeing trucks on the road was like watching blood flowing through the economy. Trucks were the lifeblood and when you don't see them things are bleak indeed.

I pondered his thoughts for quite a while before I finally scratched the itch in the back of my head that was driving me mad. Trucks do show commerce, that much is true. The other thing they show is business getting a free ride on the back of the public. There's a reason they're called Public Roads wiener heads! Now I pause to hear the bleating of business types who say, "we pay taxes, it's all paid for."

A typical, fully loaded truck does 10,000, that's ten thousand times the damage to pavement that an average sized car does. Pot holes, tire ruts, all these things are predominantly caused by trucks making private businesses money while using public roads. It is estimated that 90% of road damage is a result of commercial traffic. You can't tell me that commercial traffic paid for 90% of the road's building, upkeep and maintenance. We could always go the other route. Do trucks pay ten thousand times the road tax that a car does? I didn't think so.

Beyond all that obvious stuff there is also the issue of time, more precisely my time. How many times have you sat in a left turn lane and watched one truck go through an advanced left while thirty cars wait behind. Those thirty cars would have been down the road and that much closer to their destination, but they aren't. The ENTIRE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM would be 96% (31 vehicles, 30 get to go and 1 doesn't or 1 gets to go and 30 don't - that's 96%!) more efficient if those thirty cars had only been IN FRONT of that one truck rather than behind it. Who pays for that truck to get to its destination? The general public does. They spend their time, their gas and their roads that their taxes paid for to get that truck where it's going. What do they get back in return? Nothing. All profit goes to the owner of the load in that truck and he's in no mood to share.

Now, putting aside the damage to publicly funded roads, the public's time and money in burnt gasoline and vehicle maintenance costs because all of their trips are longer and harder on vehicles (more braking, accelerating and avoiding blown out, cheap retreads that ONLY commercial vehicles use)? putting all that aside there is still the environmental issue. A modern, gasoline powered automobile in good tune produces almost zero emissions. Sure, it ain't good what they do produce, but compared to a poorly tuned diesel, commercial vehicle it's night and day. One thousand Honda Civics do not pollute as much as 10 eighteen wheelers. Those Hondas allow thousands of people to travel, commute and enjoy a higher standard of living. Those 10 trucks with poorly kept diesel engines and cheap retreads make one rich man richer. But it's not just the lousy maintenance of the commercial vehicles that hurts is it? It's also the damage they do the transportation infrastructure itself.

The real issue is private business realizing the benefits of a subsidized transportation system. Trains (a wholly privately funded enterprise) have folded up and disappeared. How could they possibly compete with a virtual freebie like public roads? All the infrastructure is there, it's virtually free and the only person who really suffers are the tax payers who paid to build it. All of the associated costs can be hidden or shifted to the point where the people whose product is actually being moved have paid virtually nothing for it. Of course there is still cost involved, but it is diffused into the ether of public expenditure. I'm honestly surprised that in a world market very cautious about government support and unfair trading, that North American companies haven't been held accountable for the free transportation system that they abuse.

Here in Toronto we enjoy one of the worst rush hours in North America. People always harp that we need more roads, but Toronto is riddled with roads. Can you imagine what rush hour would be like if there were no commercial vehicles on the road? I imagine that travel times would half, vehicle maintenance costs would plummet, accident rates would drop, the city would immediately use 20% less gasoline than it currently does and the general stress level of its workers would plummet, resulting in better productivity. This isn't a ban on commercial traffic. 10pm to 6am and 10am to 3pm are fine times to make your deliveries. It's also not anti-capitalist. More efficient and happy workers mean greater returns. What this is against is the free ride business is having on the backs of the public.

Next time you hear about a poorly maintained commercial vehicle killing an innocent public motorist (cheap tire blowouts, jack knifed tractor-trailer, brake failures - you know these things because you hear about them all the time) don't just shake your head; actually consider the real costs of allowing things to continue the way that they are and demand a change.