Trucking in the Caribbean

How many miles can you run on an island that is only 23 miles long? Long haul has a whole new meaning with that perspective. As a veteran of the transportation industry here in Canada covering many areas from owner operator to fleet supervisor I can officially say that trucking is in my blood. Even though I know longer drive trucks they still catch my eye on the road, I will always loved the so called “Large car” and I still believe transportation is one of the best industries to be a part of. So when I am on vacation or out of the country on business I have a habit of still keeping an eye on the industry and how it is done elsewhere. Recently my wife and I were on vacation in Barbados in the West Indies. The island is beautiful with some of the friendliest people on the planet and a society known for being well educated. We had been to the island many times before but this time was the longest we were staying on the island and so I had hoped we would get to see more trucks than in the past.

beach scene
The Caribbean

With an island only 23 miles long and the largest road on the island, the main highway that covers the island is the same width as one of our small city streets, no large Interstates on this island, so naturally vehicles are shorter and smaller in scale. They also drive on the opposite side of the road to North America making it seem quite odd when they turn corners. Although they drive on the opposite side of the road many of the units on the island come from North America. I believe I recognized my old International Eagle cabover while I was there and Frieghtliner and Kenworth all have a presence on the island. I met many Canadians and people from Europe on the island as it is a popular vacation spot for both countries and those that were involved in transportation in one form or another all said the same thing, “They would not get away with that back home.” What we were referring to were safety violations that seemed apparent everywhere. Due to the island’s size there are not a lot of large trucks on the road. In the four weeks we were there I saw a total of ten tractor trailers and most were bobtailing. Most trailers are pup trailers as the roads aren’t wide enough for anything full size with the largest being a 45 foot trailer. Companies that deliver fuel, propane, or similar products all run pup units. The tractors that I saw were all class 8 units but you can see that everything is second hand. Everything is shipped onto the island so I am assuming that trucks are ordered as required from North America or bought through resale avenues to the island. Since the island isn’t set up for long haul trucking the trucks that are available spend much of their time delivering product from the shipyard to the stores. Container trailers are abundant and are really the only trailer I saw the whole time on the island with the exception of fuel trucks. All other trucks are mostly straight trucks in various sizes used by locals to haul everything from pipes to produce. Many haul the workers in the back as well.

Maintenance had to be the biggest thing I noticed while on the island. There obviously isn’t any regulatory body watching the transportation industry. Everything from buses to trucks, to cars have items like taillights out, parts missing, and smoke worst than any city bus around in North America. Mud flaps are apparently hard to get as I noticed many units without them, I even saw one tractor trailer unit that had the side vent missing on the sleeper among other items missing. There are no inspectors on the island, in-fact Police are scarce enough and certainly there isn’t any inspection stations or weigh scales conducting safety checks on transport vehicles. That being said I saw very few accidents on the island and although people drive a little faster and seemingly wilder than here they seem to have a synergy that North Americans miss. Here we all seem to be out for ourselves, but on the island they share the road much better. If they are stopped or even driving for that matter they don’t block an entrance pretending they don’t see the other car, they always let people out and pedestrians no matter where they are have the right of way.

One of the big areas of difference between North America and the island were the way people use their horns. Many use their horn to say hello, how are you, let the other person go first, or let pedestrians across the street. Here in North America people use their horns to tell people off. I never use my horn unless needed so I found the whole ritual of honking for the heck of it refreshing in a way. In all the island is a great place to vacation and the people were excellent. Trucking there however is another issue. As much as we hate all the regulations in the transportation industry I think we are in a good place. Being on the island reminded me of North America 25-35 years ago. It may have been more fun, but not necessarily more safe.

About the Author

Bruce Outridge is a transportation consultant with over 30 years experience and is the author of the book “Running By The Mile.” For more information on Bruce and his work please visit his website at www.outridge.ca

flatbed straight truck
Trucking in the Caribbean