Gallery-Written · Marriage · Uncategorized

Secrets. And the site of the next Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

Edited to add: I wrote this in the fall of 2018. The magnitude of this tragedy really rocked me. In truth, my hometown is very close to the crash site. I take the long way to my sister in laws house just so I don’t have to see it. I was angry with the methods of operation within the industry, before and after the crash. And I was so mad at everyone in it, including my husband for seeming to go along to get along. Until finally, my fears spilled out and onto this blog post. I intended to open eyes, and I knew that it may bother some people we had worked with. And in all honesty, I think I wanted it to. I thank everyone that responded. Especially those within the industry. But I no longer believe that sharing fear is the best way for me to illicit change. I was going to delete this. But instead I’ve decided to edit it, and add that you always have a choice. You can blame the industry. But it comes down to a matter of individual choice. You may tell yourself you don’t have a choice, but you do. Even I do. And I have told my husband he can do whatever he thinks he needs to, but so will I. And I will report him and any company we contracted under myself if he chooses to break the law, endanger himself or others just to hold a job or contract. I no longer care if I lose anything of monetary value because of it.

I would also like to take this opportunity to send my love to all of the families involved. I pray you find ways to heal and move forward.

You are welcome to continue reading. But I hope you’ll also take the time to read this post. As it’s where I am today:https://smartandsmitten.com/2019/07/21/to-all-of-the-people-i-knew-before/

Secrets. And the site of the next Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

September 13, 2018.

Last night I tuned in to watch the Humboldt Broncos and their emotional return to the ice. I watched them with pride, but couldn’t help but wonder whose hometown will be the site of the next bus crash.

This being the Broncos first game since the bus crash that claimed the lives of so many young people, the emotion was palpable. In a city that has become accustomed to tears, fans, friends and family, had tissues ready to try to quell the inevitable sniffles and unshakable sorrow. But as the opening ceremonies proceeded one could see and feel the gamut of emotions, from grief and sadness to excitement and hope. The love of the game is evident here. A new season brings new hope for the team and a step in what will likely be a very long healing process, not only for this community but also our province and country. I think most of us can remember the shock and sadness we felt, as reports of what had happened emerged that day. There was even a worldwide response as people from around the globe contributed to the funding, and expressed their condolences to the families.

And while the new season brings hope and excitement in many ways, it’s also a reminder of the sorrow and grief that this tragedy caused. I know my mind kept wandering, and wondering how the victims families are coping? Or how the survivors and their families are coping? How anyone involved in this crash might be coping?

I didn’t personally know any of the people involved in this calamity. But even despite that, it felt like it had happened in my hometown. This tragedy really hit home. For many reasons really, but for me as a mother, lord knows I’ve had fears and reservations about putting my children on a bus everyday. My heart immediately ached for the mamas of those boys. But it also really bothered me because my husband is a truck driver. The scene on that highway was a horrible combination of my worst fears. And I want to make it clear that I am not here to excuse or condemn the driver involved in this crash. I will leave that to the police and the court system. I am writing this today because the fears I had before this disaster, have since been amplified. After witnessing that horrific scene I’m finding it difficult to remain silent in regards to the reality of trucking in this province.

And while I know that truckers head out everyday, saying goodbye to their families to supply the needs of yours. I also know, that the trucking industry has dirty little secrets that can have deadly consequences. My only hope is that from this tragedy we might see some changes and prevent something like this from happening again.

My husband has been involved in trucking in some capacity most of his working life. Being a prairie boy himself he started off trucking grain, but for more than two decades he has hauled dangerous goods in the oil and gas sector. Although he was farming and learning to drive big equipment in the field before most kids have their training wheels off, many drivers do not have any experience. In fact, in Saskatchewan, (as in most provinces) you aren’t required to have any training. You just need to pass a basic road test and written exam. On more than one occasion in his career he has been asked to ride along with new drivers to show them the ropes, which seems like an excellent idea. Until he came home with tales of drivers who aren’t even sure how to start the truck, shift, or make a proper turn. One of these guys could barely cross an intersection without stalling in front of oncoming traffic. On more than one occasion he has questioned how some of these drivers ever passed a road test.

But sadly inexperience is probably the least of our problems. I will be using trucking in the oil industry as my example in this piece, because the oil sector is what I am most familiar with. But believe me when I say, variations of these issues are present regardless of what goods are being hauled. In our neck of the woods, most semi drivers own their own truck, they sub contract under a trucking company, who bids for work required by oil companies. Therein lies a big problem. For one thing, the top priority of the trucking company is to keep the oil company happy. In order to do so, they ignore the best interests of the trucks and their drivers. They take very little time organizing loads, they cater to oil company employees, and dispatch drivers more loads than they could possibly complete in a legal number of hours. It’s not uncommon to see guys out driving for eighteen hours or more. They send drivers into areas with unsafe road conditions, often ignoring drivers reservations, insisting that the load needs to go. If and when accidents occur they are always quick to flip the script, putting the onus entirely on the drivers. And why wouldn’t they? Owner-operators, and drivers are supposed to refuse unsafe work, they are supposed to keep track of their hours of service and refuse work after this time. It is the law. The trouble is that drivers know that the squeaky wheel does not get the grease, it gets replaced. Many drivers that I have talked to over the years feel stuck. As entrepreneurs they aren’t entitled to employment insurance, they have bills to pay and family relying on them. And although a trucking company will rarely demand or threaten the operators they contract, they do employ more subtle methods of manipulation to get what they want. Drivers who refuse work, complain, or even make suggestions as to how loads are dispersed, are often blacklisted as difficult or lazy. Most often, if they aren’t fired, they are starved out until they can’t afford to stay. Many of the trucking companies also underbid on the work resulting in low rates. Low rates and high fuel costs slowly drive away skilled operators and increase the number of inexperienced drivers. But neither oil, nor trucking companies show much concern. The trucking company makes the same amount regardless of the cost of fuel, or the number of hours they work. And the oil companies save a buck by choosing the lowest bidder. And while oil and trucking companies claim that safety is paramount, it always amazes me how easily they turn a blind eye to these issues. Even though we know these kinds of practices result in more mistakes and accidents. My guess is that because they can’t be found legally responsible, they simply choose not to care about their part in the problem.

Again, I am not going to excuse drivers here. Professional drivers know the law. They know they need hold themselves to a higher standard. But my hope is that we also start to question why anyone would choose to work over 14 hours a day, everyday, putting themselves in a position where they could go to jail, kill themselves or someone else. I know why we have done it; fear. Fear we would lose the work, fear we would fail, fear we would let down the people we work for, fear we would lose our business and possibly our home.

And I don’t know what the perfect solution is. But I do know I can’t get last nights game, or that crash out of my head. I can’t stop thinking of the banners hanging in that arena last night. Each one reminding me of those that didn’t make it to this ceremony. Each one serving as a reminder that there are sixteen families whose lives were forever changed on that April day. Each banner reminding everyone who straps on some skates and gets on the ice, that “we play for them”. Each banner paying homage to the kids, coaches, and staff that are no longer with us, but ensuring that they are “Always remembered”.

Always remembered.

But as I watched those brave boys step back on the ice last night, as the puck dropped, and they held back tears, pushing past their own grief to pay homage to their friends and teammates, I wondered, will we remember them? And I don’t mean just remembering the crash, their names or posting a message of remembrance every April on your Facebook page. I mean every time you turn the key and head out for another day on the road, will you remember them? Every time your company and it’s staff dispatch someone another load, knowing they’re over hours, will you remember them? Every time you speed up, hoping to get home to your family today, will you remember them? Every time your company dispatches a driver into another shitty Saskatchewan storm, despite road reports or the drivers reservations, will you remember them? Every time you lie, or edit your log book and keep your mouth shut, will you remember them?

I hope we all will. I hope we can be as brave as those surviving boys. They have a tough journey ahead of them. But I really feel that if we want to honour and remember them, we in the trucking industry are going to need to be brave too. We need to shine a light on the shady practices that we all know exist. We need to reset the bar! And so, we may have a tough journey ahead of us as well.

Personally and professionally I am well aware of the costs. I know it could increase costs for the oil companies we haul for. And I know if trucking companies have to put the interest of the trucks first, they will struggle to cater to the companies that contract them. It could cost them their run. And I also know that there is a good chance if we as professional drivers hold ourselves to the standards set by the law, if we refuse low pay, disorganization, unsafe work, or the extreme hours of service that these companies expect, we may face the ever present manipulation in this industry. It may cost us income. It may cost us our contracts or employment. It could possibly even cost our businesses. Some say these costs are too high.

So do we just keep our head in the sand? Keep rolling, business as usual. Just keep hoping you, or one of the trucks dispatched by you, are never a part of a scene like the one below. Because on April 6, 2018 we saw that the cost of our ignorance is way too high. What we can’t afford, is for this to happen again.

We need to remember them.

18 thoughts on “Secrets. And the site of the next Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

  1. I got this wake up call few years back, almost plowed through a line of people at a construction stop cause I was so tired. It’s almost like being drunk. And I don’t blame my employers, I did what was asked of me cause that’s how I was raised. I heard lots of pumpers dismiss our suggestions too and heard them say things through the years about the stupid truckers and I always thought there was just the odd jerks. But I finally realized they were right, I am a stupid trucker, let myself get used my whole life.

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  2. Yep real cowboy mentality in the patch to man up or we’ll get somebody who can. Losers tells me the oil patch don’t sleep so you don’t get to neither. But they don’t do nothing to help you get done earlier neither always got ya running empty one side of the field to the next. All a bunch of lying c*nts too making ya take on cold oil and sand f’n up all my equipment. Pretty much hadta work 18 hours or more to make a buck. Like to see them pull those kinda hours no time for life or family. It’s disgusting to do that kinda shit to people. I won’t work for an trucking company no more, they’re all the same. Treat ya like a slave. Better to get on with a oil company that hauls there own. All them other guys treat ya like a slave.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Easier said than done though. Some guys protested rates with a convoy this summer and the organizer got fired and sure enough everybody started backing out.

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      2. Definitely easier said than done. I was nervous even sharing this. And worried how it would be received. I just meant in response to the first comment I think it’s less about playing the blame game, and more about every body taking a look in the mirror. And I understand the convoy organizer did get fired, but I also heard other companies are offering rate increases just to avoid that kind of attention. Also, I have received hundreds of emails from truckers and trucking companies (all over Canada, not just in oil) saying that they could and likely should do better before anyone else gets hurt or killed. So maybe there are times we should speak up, even if our voice shakes a bit when we do.

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  3. Wow how powerful thank you when this happened all I could think was how could this happen you have put it in such perspective it should not have happened and let’s hope things can change in the trucking industry so safety is a priority over everything in a world where everyting is about the bottom line it makes you skeptical to think things could change So posts like this at least put some pressure thank you

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  4. The only way to possibly change this would be to make everybody responsible who are involved in these decisions. Starting from the truck driver all the way up through the top executives. If everybody was held responsible the leaders of these companies would place their drivers ahead of profits

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This was so well written Thank you this should open up some eyes We also have to think of how many truck drivers lose there lives well driving My husband was a trucker but i made him quit good thing because the guy he drove with sometimes lost his life going over the side of a mountain They need to change the Law and make new Drivers have to drive with a Experience Driver for a year before he can drive alone like they do with our young people Thanks again for his write up

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Very well written! My father has been gone over 20 years and my brother almost 10, they were both truckers and I have heard stories about the industry from both of them for years, decades from my dad! I will be a long, hard fight to change things but I agree it has to start with the good truckers standing together to demand the changes to make it better for everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This goes even deeper than companies needing their produce moved and the trucking companies that move it. In Saskatchewan the politions are so scarred of political suicide that they will not place a law in to force people to take proper training. Instead they are mandating all Saskatchewan truck driver training schools that they can not sell a coarse that is less than 70 hours. To make it worse, these over educated idiots have set only 40 hours of behind the wheel is enough to make anyone into a professional driver ready to go out on their own. And 24 hours in a classroom and 6 hours in yard training to be familiar with the proper parts that the driver should know that they still work. I’ve been in the trucking world for 35 years, drove for 23 of those years and an instructor for the other 12 years. And the way these well educated people that has never shadowed a truck or has got their commercial license and have not drove but have it so they can test people. It like the blind leading the blind.
    The way I explain it to people that are concern about what’s happening is this way.
    Prended im a sky driver instructor, I strap a shoot on some innasent nieve persons back put them in a plane. Take them up to 14000 feet in the air, open the door, tell this person to step toward the opening, put my hand on their back, hold a brouchur titaled how to sky dive in front of them and tell them to read this on their way down, then give them a push out the door.
    Excuse my spelling people, I didn’t spend years in a classroom to have the perfect spelling. Instead I spent years learning my profession on the job. Still government workers that sit in positions that they don’t have a clue what they’re doing in it likely can spell quite well.
    If you want change get after your politions that are idling on this and not taking it direct to the people instead of trying to look like the good guy and laying it all on the schools.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well said. It was like you wrote down exactly how I feel. I never knew anyone on the bus but felt the pain asmany of us on the prairies have been there, that team heading to the next game. Storms, snow, ice etc. It is such a sad memory for all of us and I don’t think this will ever be forgotten. My heart goes out to all involved or those who lost friends, family, etc. I pray for the guys still recovering. I wish them well. I do wish the Canadian gov would step up and have better trying for truck drivers. I had an instant the other day with a semi at night. I was very upset as to what the semi driver did. I should of reported him. But anyway you wrote that so well and I thank you for sharing your words to us all.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. After 37 years behind the wheel of a semi as an owner operator and a company driver,I can tell you that this is 100% correct and continues to this day in the Trucking industry.
    I also believe that too many people benefit financially from the way things are for it to ever change.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for writing this! Hopefully it opens the eyes of the trucking companies and oil companies! So many people struggling just to keep ahead, pay their bills and support their family. With the use of fear, they are easy targets for manipulation. When will these companies wake up and put life and safety as a priority instead of money and wealth!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sad to say that they will never put safety above the almighty dollar. My father was a trucker all his life, from Mexico to AK. The trucking companies need to wake up. this letter should be posted as some kind of survey where people could sign it. With enough signatures the companies would have to realize that we all know what they do. Worksafe in any province should be aware of the job harrassment and blacklisting that goes on. Human resources is supposed to help when stuff like there is reported. We are told that “there is help out there” but THERE IS NOT. just because there is something on paper does not mean it is so. After 23 yrs with the same employer my life was ruined because of workplace harassment and also I was blacklisted. I fought for 3 years but because I could not find employment, I could not pay for the “help” that is supposed to be out there. Complaining and reporting can not only ruin your present situation, it can steal your retirement and your children’s inhieritence. My story happened 9 yrs ago and at 66 yrs of age I am darn near homeless, where I once had savings and RRSP’s and my own home. Fighting to live cost me dearly. Changes need to happen.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for this and it could not have been said better. I knew four of the boys that unfortunately did not make it and Inthink of them daily. Hope the trucking industry learns from this as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Wow! Well written with extremely deep and touching content .
    Definitely makes one wonder if anything will change or if we will see more tragedy in the future.
    Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

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