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Today’s Pickup: An old foe, Canadian winter, menaces trucks

As record-breaking snowfall put freight movements on ice in Newfoundland, wintry weather turned the Toronto roads into a scary place.

A tractor-trailer in a ditch off Highway 401 in Ontario, Canada, on Jan. 8. (Photo: Sgt. Kerry Schmidt/Ontario Provincial Police)

Good day,

If there’s one thing truck drivers can count on in Canada, it’s an annual battle with an enemy known as winter.

Things got so bad in Newfoundland that the Canadian Armed Forces had to help dig the island province out from a record-breaking blizzard that dumped 2.5 feet of snow on St. John’s on Saturday. Trucks had few options but to wait for the snow to be cleared and ferry service to return. 

But on the packed roads of Canada’s largest freight hub, the Greater Toronto Area, winter can be scary. At one point on Saturday, officers from Ontario Provincial Police were responding to more than 40 collisions. 

Much of the trouble happens on Highway 401, often ranked as the busiest road in North America. There’s even a Canadian reality show, “Heavy Rescue: 401,” dedicated to the recovery of large vehicles, many of them trucks, from the road.

Did you know?

The U.S. wine and spirits industry supports 1.3 million jobs. A proposed 100% tariff on Champagne and other French sparkling wines could endanger 17,000 jobs, including shippers, truckers and producers.   


“It has been a long road and we have come through the fire together and we are now positioned to control our own destiny.”

— Celadon Group CEO Paul Svindland, in an internal letter dated July 31, after the now-bankrupt company closed on $165 million in financing. The document is part of a court filing alleging that Celadon drained the cash of its Canadian subsidiary, Hyndman Transport. 

In other news

Amazon to hire back laid-off Pinnacle Logistics employees

Amazon says it will hire most of the 1,600 employees set to be laid off by one of its logistics contractors, Pinnacle Logistics. (Baltimore Business Journal)

Trucker fined after police find rig nearly 100,000 pounds overweight

Police in Indiana fined a truck driver after finding that his tractor and double trailer was 96,300 pounds overweight. (LandLine)

Driverless trucks poised for growth in UK

A white paper suggests that driverless vehicles could dominate the U.K. trucking industry within a generation. (Hellenic Shipping News)

Police arrest picketers blocking Canada refinery traffic

Fourteen union members were arrested outside a refinery in Saskatchewan, where a labor dispute has disrupted tanker truck traffic since December. (Global News)

Final thoughts: 

To get a sense of the dangers to trucks on Highway 401, the Twitter feed of Sgt. Kerry Schmidt of the Ontario Provincial Police Highway Safety Division is a good start.

Schmidt frequently posts about the all-too-frequent truck accidents on the highway. His photos and videos — including a deadly crash involving three trucks on Monday — can be difficult to look at.

His advice during a recent snowstorm: “#slowdown and drive according to the weather conditions.” 

Hammer down, everyone!


  1. Noble1

    I’m copy & pasting an article here . So it’ll be a long comment . You can skip it !

    January 22 2020
    Union membership in the U.S. slid to record low in 2019 ……….

    Organized labor continued to decline in the U.S. last year, with just over 1 in 10 workers represented by a union — the lowest in the modern era.

    According to figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Labor Department, 14.6 million, or 10.3%, of wage and salary workers belonged to a union in 2019. That’s down by two-tenths of a percentage point from 2018. Another 1.8 million workers were not affiliated with a union but were still covered by a union contract last year, according to the agency’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

    The latest tally shows union membership to be about half what it was in 1983, the first year in which comparable data was available. Back then, 17.7 million Americans belonged to a union, or one-fifth of the U.S. workforce.

    “The share of workers covered by a union contract is well less than half of what it was 40 years ago — caused in large part by fierce corporate opposition spending millions of dollars on anti-union campaigns and lobbying the government to weaken labor laws,”  Heidi Shierholz, director of policy at the labor-backed Economic Policy Institute, said in a statement. 

    Employers spend about $340 million a year on consultants that help keep workers from unionizing, according to a recent study from EPI that also charged management with breaking the law in 41% of union elections.  

    The ongoing decline of unions comes in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling in 2018 that barred public-sector unions from charging fees to workers who did not join the union, and despite a resurgence in the labor movement by groups including Fight for $15. Other factors include lost jobs in manufacturing, a hard-hit sector that historically had strong union membership.

    Last year’s drop is almost entirely due to fewer union members in the private sector, according to the BLS figures. Roughly 34% of government and other public-sector workers belonged to unions last year, compared with 6.2% of those in the private sector. Union membership was highest in local government, which employs heavily unionized occupations like police officers, firefighters and teachers. It was lowest in finance, insurance, technical service and food service, the government found.

    Full-time workers who belonged to a union earned $1,095 a week on average in 2019, compared to $892 for non-union members. 
    The yearly figures could serve to illuminate the political divide in the U.S., with more than half of those 14.6 million union members living in only seven states: California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington. The lowest unionization rates were found in North Carolina,  South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.”

    End quote .

      1. Noble1

        You would be surprised at what uniting truck drivers could accomplish my friend . Never underestimate the power of a mind and what it can accomplish . Imagine what can be accomplished by uniting many minds !

        The human mind managed to find and create a way to fly towards and land on the moon ! Do you seriously believe that we couldn’t restructure this simple industry in comparison ?

        This industry is “dependant” upon the “drivers” , though drivers keep allowing the industry to CONtrol them due to their division .

        I no longer blame the industry . It would be like blaming a child who doesn’t know any better .

        I blame the wiser drivers for not uniting and taking a stand to take their industry back and improving their conditions and the conditions of their comrades . They need to take responsibility . Taking responsibility is “the ability to respond” and make a change .

        It takes courage to be a truck driver in our current day and age due to all the risks it implies . Though these courageous drivers lack courage in uniting , believing in themselves , and taking a stand to improve their conditions once and for all in an industry that has become warped due to their neglect .

        I’ll borrow a line from Martin Luther King , if I may :
        ” I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed”

        UNITE and you will be astonished at what we will accomplish . I guarantee it !

        History serves as undeniable proof !

        In my opinion ………..

  2. Noble1

    Hwy 401 is the most dangerous hwy in Canada . Semi’s get in collisions all year round on that one . It’s a real zoo on that hwy . I’ve dubbed it “suicide highway” . Rush hour in Toronto is totally insane and one needs to be extremely vigilant on that one especially crossing Toronto .

    It’s an area where you’ll see all kinds of strange mentalities . Even on occasion a semi truck driver backing up on the hwy due to missing an exit . The worst drivers in Canada can be found in that area .

    Just lately a truck driver driving a yellow truck was caught on tape pushing a Honda Civic sideways on the hwy . He said he didn’t realize that he had struck another vehicle . You should see the video . Obviously he’s lying and a major danger to society .

    The safest time to drive on that hwy is during the graveyard shift to avoid ending up in the graveyard .

    In my humble opinion …………..

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Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at [email protected]