Commercial inspectors are using billboards and radio advertisements to warn the driving public that the trucks next to them may not be road safe and that the only way to fix the problem is to hire more inspectors. Truckers say the workers’ union that paid for the ads is merely using the public’s fear of large trucks as a collective bargaining tool.
“That truck behind you may not be road safe,” say the billboards and radio ads paid for by the Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement division of the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union. They’re the workers hired by the province to conduct truck inspections.
“I’ve been completely shocked at what they’re doing,” said Greg Decker, a long-hauler from Airdrie, Alberta, and a member of OOIDA and the Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada.
“It’s union bargaining is what it is. We’re just caught in the crossfire,” he said.
An official with the union insists that the advertisements are about road safety and denies that the ads are being used to force the government’s hand.
“To begin, the Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement Officer campaign is not a ‘bargaining tactic’ in any way, but is a response to legitimate concerns from our members who inspect commercial vehicles, that road safety is being compromised by a decade of government cuts to road safety enforcement,” a spokesman for the program wrote in response to questions raised by the North American Truckers Guild based in B.C.
According to the union’s own website, however, the group is calling on the general public to urge the British Columbia minister of transportation to hire more inspectors. The union insists that one-in-four inspector positions in the province are currently vacant.
“There are so many things wrong with it,” says Joanne Ritchie, executive director for the Canadian owner-operator group, OBAC. “They’re playing on the public’s fear of big trucks. The visual they’re implying is that trucks are evil and that the inspectors are the only ones out there making the roads safe. They’re using drivers as the scapegoats to get their point across.”
Ritchie says the radio ads contain a blaring air horn with someone warning the listener, “That truck behind you may not be road safe.”
“They’re saying that if they don’t catch the bad trucks at an inspection, the roads will not be safe,” Ritchie said. “That’s certainly the impression they’re leaving with the public.”
The trucking groups are calling on the union to suspend the ad campaign.
North American Truckers Guild President Larry Hall wrote to the union, as did many others, to voice displeasure with the ad campaign.
“The people who deliver our country’s economy in a safe and professional manner each and every day of the year take great offense to the misleading and inflammatory quotes in your radio and billboard ads, which paint a very negative picture of how true professional drivers conduct themselves on the road,” Hall wrote.