Even posties have to drive on the right

The case led to a $500- million postal system review


Even posties have to drive on the right

In the summer of 2004, Canada Post announced a new policy that, to the average person, sure seems reasonable: no driving on the wrong side of the road. Until then, mail carriers who worked the rural routes routinely violated the law and veered down the left side of the street, giving them easy access to those rustic roadside mailboxes. Without ever leaving his seat, a carrier could drive on the shoulder, reach through the driver’s-side window, pull the red flag and move on to the next house.

Carolyn Pollard was among the many “rural and suburban mail carriers” who risked head-on collision in the name of convenience. And when Canada Post ordered the Brampton, Ont., woman to start driving on the same side of the yellow line as everyone else, she balked, invoking her legal right to “refuse dangerous work.” As far as she was concerned, steering into oncoming traffic was somehow less dangerous than the new directive: park on the right-hand shoulder, lean over, and deliver letters through the passenger-side window.

Five years later, Pollard’s complaint has finally been settled. Stephen Bird, a lawyer for Canada Post, confirmed that both sides reached a “compromise” just before Christmas. In fact, she is no longer delivering the mail at all. “She has been terminated for other reasons, but there is a confidentiality agreement.”

Pollard declined to be interviewed, but her battle with Canada Post was not completely pointless. It was her beef, after all, that prompted the company to launch its much-publicized—and much-criticized—$500-million review of the rural mail system. Every curbside box (more than 843,000) is being assessed for the potential hazard it presents to those who carry your bills and birthday cards. Many customers have already been told that their packages will now arrive at a communal mailbox because the old-fashioned way is just too risky (since 2004, rural mail carriers have been involved in at least 68 accidents; two were fatal).

Drivers are also undergoing “ergonomic training” to ensure that the new guidelines—i.e., following the rules of the road—don’t lead to a spike in sore necks or twisted backs.


Even posties have to drive on the right

  1. Right-hand drive delivery vehicles are hardly a new idea, and Canada Post has at least a few of them. I am disappointed that the article makes no mention of these or what Canada Post’s intentions are for their future use.

    • I am personally disgusted by such an inaccurate article. As a Rural Route letter carrier myself I find the article very misleading. Carolyn Pollard was our only shining light in at Canada Post. Why not publish the real story on Canada Post’s dirty little secret. The fact is this job is an increasingly dangerous one. None of us believed driving on the wrong side of the road was a safe practice but at the time was the only option we had to deliver our mail. The author of this article suggests the new directive: park on the right-hand shoulder, lean over, and deliver letters through the passenger-side window is such an easy task I suggest he/she give it a try some time. I have and its absolutely impossible. So horray for Carolyn Pollard finally someone standing up for the rights of RSMC’s. This journalist should have let their readers know just how RSMC’s are treated at this “top 100 corporation”. No sick days, No overtime, and if we want to take our own holidays we have to provide someone to do our job. Shame on you Macleans for printing such an article. Not only have you lost my respect but that of hundreds of RSMC’s across the country.

      • Could they design a vehicle that would let you sit sort of in the middle, with a steering wheel there? And with a sliding seat that you could release a lock on, allowing you to roll from side to side? That might make the passenger-side delivery a bit less agonising.

    • I’m an old war horse with 17 years experience as a rural router. I drove a 5 speed Datsun for the first six months and can attest that it’s possible to deliver out the passenger window but it’s not easy and I was sore the whole time. I have been able to source right-hand vehicles which I consider a necessity for my route with over 400 farm boxes. That’s not easy either.

      The US postal service does not “provide” vehicles to their rural routers but negotiate a 5 year agreement with one manufacturer who builds a special model that is offered for sale at reasonable cost to the routers. Under their rules, a router cannot drive a vehicle which is older than 6 years so these come up occasionally online. After six years delivering mail these cars are getting tired. I’ve had three over the years and am constantly surprized at the annual total for repairs.

      It is also possible to import directly from Japan. These must be at least 15 years old before Transport Canada will let them into the country but can often be found with very low mileage. I have one of those at present but need to order many of its parts from overseas which means a three week wait while they clear customs.

      It gets tempting sometimes to just buy a brand new ordinary car and let the corporation hire me an ergo helper. That’s only been an option in the past few months and I’m giving it serious consideration. If my 10 year old Subaru won’t start in the morning I’m stranded 18 km from work. The rental places aren’t open at 4:30 am and a cab ride costs $30 which leaves you at the depot on foot. I keep two cars licensed to be able to do my job. Revenue Canada will only let me write off expenses for one. I consider the extra cost to be a perk for my own peace of mind but in the final anaysis, I’m subsidizing a crown corporation which has much better resources than I do.

      In my view, the best answer would be for Canada Post to negotiate with one of the vehicle manufacturers to provide a model that we rural routers can buy, as they do in the US. A right-hand vehicle lets you out on the curb side which is a big safety feature even for those who don’t have farm boxes to contend with. What a treat it would be to have a shiny new vehicle – the proper tool for the job.

  2. I find it absolutely incredulous that a woman whose efforts forced a multi-million dollar public corporation to review their working conditions for the betterment of their employees, is no longer employed there.

    Carolyn Pollard should be promoted!

  3. Mail carriers in the US are provided with vehicles that are right hand drive. (The steering wheels are on the left.) Mail carriers can drive on legally drive on the right side of the road and deliver the mail without the need to lean over or get out of their seats.
    $500 Million would have gone a long way to buy these type of vehicles.

  4. Oops. I meant to say the steering wheels are on the right.

  5. I am troubled by the article written by Macleans because the article is alluding to the fact that the RSMC’s drive Canada Post approved vehicles which they do not. The rural letter carriers have to carry mail in their own vehicles. Can any of you reach across the passenger seat of your van or 4dr sedan to lean through a window and place mail in a box?

    Shame on this author for siding with Canada Post when you should have remained objective as shown when you wrote “Carolyn Pollard was among the many “rural and suburban mail carriers” who risked head-on collision in the name of convenience”. Canada Post pays these workers for points of call not hours worked which means if you stop and get out of your vehicle at each mail box and it takes you 12 hours to deliver – too bad….you’re earning below min wage.

    Many people terminated or given the opportunity to resign from a large corporation are under a confidentaility Agreement and can not disclose details pertaining to their Agreement. As someone who works for a large corporation, I have seen this happen time and time again. Did anyone ask Carolyn Pollard or anyone at Canada Post if Carolyn Pollard was aloud to disclose those details?

    I expect more from a reputable magazine such as Macleans.

  6. I suggest Michael Friscolanti consider what a day in the life of a rural carrier involves. Not sitting at a computer editing a story based on unclear facts (which equals lies) contradicting messages and manipulation. Perhaps you could wake up at 4:00 am to first sort mail for your route then head out and repetitously stop and lean across passenger side to open mail box and drop in mail (hope either your car is small or your arms are long) It is common to supply carriers with a right handed vehicle as such in US, Europe and many civilized country’s. In Canada carriers are responisble for providing their own vehicle. Outside of maintenance on vehicle’s which is changing brakes constantly, wear and tear, short life span of vehicle, incurring this expense,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, means they are paid very little for this thankless public service. Suggest if you are indeed a writer you get both sides of a story before publishing. H Adshade

  7. With regard to the comment, “Ms Pollard has been terminated for other reasons” implies that not only had she been responsible for a $500 million overhaul for unsafe practices but that she has caused other problems at CP and therefor was a liability rather than an asset. In addition, if there was a confidentiality agreement in place do not Mr. Bird break that agreement by saying they had reached a compromise (implying a settlement)????

    Shame on Canada Post for settling for mediocrity and not value someone of Ms. Pollards drive and championship for those unable or unwilling to speak for themselves. Oh and by the way, how is she supposed to earn a living with the slant this article puts on her ethics, most companies won’t entertain an interview never mind a job offer.

  8. Since moving out the Maritimes, I’ve wondered why in the hell there is rural mail delivery at all. All but a few go to town for food, and those that get their food delivered can surely get their mail delivered too. Other than the outskirts of Saskatoon and Regina we get along without rural mail delivery in Saskatchewan just fine. At the very least, our area didn’t get rural mail delivery, and we had just as much population density at my father’s farm as the rural routes out here.

    How come farmers in Saskatchewan have to go into town to get their mail, while people in Nova Scotia get door to door mail for rural residences? Is this blatant job creation or riding patronage? I keep getting letters in my mailbox from the Liberal and NDP party that it would be a tragedy if it was cut, so is it just a greater sense of entitlement out here preventing this outdated and useless program from being cut?

  9. As a rural mail carrier, I can assure you that delivering from the left side of the road, is not a matter of convenience, as stated by Mr. Friscolanti. It is a matter of accomplishing our job, in a timely manner. In a time where cars no longer have bench seats, it is physically impossible to reach over the console and the passenger seat and safely deposit the mail into the roadside mail box. As stated by one of the other writers, Canada Post does not supply us with right-hand drive vehicles, we use our own vehichles and are unfortunately not in a financial position to get them altered.
    Also, I do not know of one Rural mail carrier across Canada that has received any “ergonomic training”.

  10. As pointed out we Rsmc’s must supply our own vehicle, we do not get paid by the hour. We do not have medical coverage and in some cases we do not have Workers Compensation coverage. Therefore if we get rear ended with out a seatbelt on we are not only at fault as we have no seat belt on , which is illegal , we are also with out medical coverage and with out work and pay. There is no way to reach across the car with your seat belt on . I see no convenience with this situation. The real story here should be how the RSMC’s are actually treated . We are treated differently than our coworkers ( Letter Carriers) We all do the exact same job but have completely different rules. Our safety is not “important” as there’s . As for the Ergonomic training , this is none existent and you only qualify for and Ergo helper is you have more that 100 roadside boxes.

  11. Goes to show the value of comments. I really had no idea what RSMCs’ job entails until I read what they have to say here. It sounds like a very hard job and I know that if I lived in a rural area I would be very grateful to them.

    Again, I haven’t thought about any of this at all, but I wonder if privatising rural mail delivery wouldn’t help everyone? Seems to me the private company might well pay better than Canada post (or at least more fairly). I suppose it would cost more to send mail to our rural comrades, but that might not be a bad thing. I dunno, any one who understands these things have a view on privatisation?

    • The problem is that we used to be private contractors. Privatization is what caused all these hardships to begin with. We never got a day off, never had any benefits under the provincial workers compensation acts, and had no protection if we were sick or lost our contract.
      I worked for Canada Post for 7 years as a contractor and it was incredibly difficult. During that time some of my coworkers lost their parents and children and still had to come in and deliver their mail before they were even able to attend their funerals at the risk of losing their jobs. When our contracts were up Canada Post made us deliver a letter to all of our customers advertising our routes and requesting for people to bid on them, they then used the lowest bids to undercut us. It didn’t matter how good of a job we were doing or how much our customers loved us, money was always the bottom line. Some of us were making less than minimum wage once you worked in all of your vehicle expenses.
      Every time I see Canada Post listed as one of the top 100 employers I want to scream.

      • Ah, that’s interesting, and it sounds brutal. Re: privatisation, I wasn’t thinking so much of Canada Post using private contractors as privatising mail delivery in general, i.e. getting rid Canada Post’s monopoly. Wouldn’t that make it harder for them (or their competitors) to misuse their workers?

        • Privatisation is the worse thing to do for everyone. Once that happens there will be no RSMC jobs we will be completely cut from the pictures. All rural mail delivery across Canada will be stopped and everyone will have to drive to a large community box or small local post office which will be hard to find as well since Canada Post has been moving all of the rural post offices into the closes town will a Shoppers Drug Mart. How would the seniors of our great country that live in these rural area's ever get their mail??????

  12. I agree with the coment about a woman whose efforts forced a multi-million dollar public corporation to review their working conditions for the betterment of their employees, is no longer employed there.
    Carolyn Pollard should be promoted! It is obvious that Canada Post though she was a threat to the way they conducted business with the rural route drivers what other option did they have but to let her go. She voiced her concerns and stood behind her convictions that made the working conditions a lot better for the rural route drivers . She should be proud of her hard work and efforts on behalf of her fellow RSMC”s across the country . Unfortunatley due to the confidentiality agreement.”she is unable to respond to the editoral.

  13. On Fri Feb.6th I talked to the author of this article I requested that he accompany me out on a route i offered to show him all the safety issues and a chronological list of how this issue was brought to light.I also wanted to show him how Canada Post is using these safety issues to circumvent there responsibility to give fair and responsible rural mail delivery.I wanted to show him how tax payers have been denied their rightful mail delivery and now are forced to cross busy highways to receive their mail at a super mailbox.Although he seemed interested in my opinion he was more interested in the status of Carolyn Pollard as opposed to the real story that effects Canadians He informed me that he may do a follow up story but I for one wont be holding my breath.All safety concerns of rural route workers can be met very easily Canada post should be up front with the Canadian people and admit that their true plans are to phase in super mail box’s for all rural route customers and not hide behind a workers safety issue.Carolyn Pollard did what every worker should do she saw a health and safety issue raised it with her employer which she is compelled to do.Canada Post has fought this every step and the courts agreed with Carolyn Pollard.For an individual to battle a million dollar company and succeed shows the fortitude and character of Carolyn of which she should be proud.Thanks to her hard work and determination all workers will benefit and as such i believe all workers owe a thanks to her.

  14. It is a sad day to have it reconfirmed that you can never believe what you read. This article is a prime example of that adage.

    Let’s start with the picture accompanying the article. I find it ironic that you would mislead your readers into believing it is so easy to stand up, reach out a door and put mail in the box. The person you write about has no access to this type of vehicle, nor do any of the rural route carriers. They are left to use their own vehicle. I will personally challenge the writer of this article to try reaching across the passenger side seat, out the window far enough to open the box, inserting the mail far enough into the box so that it is secure and the door can close, close the door and come back into a seating position; all the while being confined by a seatbelt! Now, do that over 100 times a day! Now do it in the winter when snow banks along the side of the road are around 3-4 feet high. Safe? Possible? Neither!

    Second, you make the reader assume that the carrier CHOSE to drive on the wrong side of the road. Did the writer ever consider that Canada Post designs the route? If my employer tells me to do a job a certain way, then doesn’t supply training (much like Canada Post) I will do the best with what I am given. If what I am given is something that puts myself and others at risk do I not have the responsibility to protect myself and others by speaking up even if that means I am the little man against the corporation? Should I have the internal fortitude to ensure the facts are known and acted on, much like a journalist should do? Did the writer ever consider finding out what those facts were and for one second think that possibly that is what Ms Pollard was doing? Saying that it isn’t safe to deliver the route this way and it isn’t possible to do the route on the proper side of the road without a special vehicle or a helper. Or was it just easier to listen to the big corporation moaning about “poor us”, we have had to spend all this money to fight some peon because we never did our due diligence in the first place and ensured the safety of our employees and the public?

    Did red lights not go off for the writer when the legal counsel for Canada Post said “She has been terminated for other reasons, but there is a confidentiality agreement.”? Confidentiality agreement? Does that not mean he cannot discuss it? Even to say a settlement has been reached, or to say that she was terminated for other reasons? Did you confirm that fact? Did you see a letter saying she was fired? Did you not suspect that Ms Pollard was in the right and THAT is why there was a settlement? People don’t pay money when they are wrong and the courts agree! Again, Ms Pollard was under a confidentiality agreement. She adhered to her agreement to keep it just that; confidential! Canada Post on the other hand did not. This is just another sign of doing as Canada Post pleases and so much for the little guy.

    How many large corporations do we have to hear about in the news that are so poorly mismanaged by leaders who carelessly ride the backs of the workers with no ethical thought? When is the day going to arrive that we listen to the one lonely little guy who is actually trying to expose the truth, instead of shunning him into a corner and writing mistruths that could affect the rest of their working career without so much as getting all the facts? Shame on you Mr. Friscolanti. You do Lakehead and Ryerson a great disservice by not putting into practice the skills you were taught at school. Know the facts before you write about them! You have a responsibility to the public to present ALL of the details rather than the skewed side a corporation who just lost a legal battle fair and square and were punished by the highest courts in Canada for their misdeeds. You are no better than them for slandering Ms. Pollards good name and dismissing the deeds of someone I wish I possessed half of their courage and ethical beliefs to stand up for what is right.

    It certainly is terrible to see Canada Post have to spend money to fix the routes, but it is worse that it has to be spent because THEY caused the problem. Not Carolyn Pollard. What will also be terrible is if Ms Pollard doesn’t take action against Canada Post and their lawyer for breaking a confidentiality agreement and Macleans for defamation of character for such misleading reporting. I hope there are apologies coming from both groups. Until such time, I for one will never purchase or support a magazine that does not provide accurate information.

  15. How unfortunate that someone who stands on principle and simply wants to be treated right and fairly has to be maligned!! Good for Carolyn for standing up for what is right in spite of barrier after barrier. Let’s hope other ‘little people’ out there benefit at some point…but then again it Canada Post….what can I say?

  16. I also work at Canada Post and see first hand how RSMC’s are treated. I, on the otherhand work in a station where there is obvious division between letter carriers and RSMC’s. I, myself, have benefits, sick leave amongst other benefits. RSMC’s are treated as second class citizens. They are underpayed and overworked. They are never paid overtime and scrutinized constantly by management and forced to complete their job however long it takes. During the Christmas season most RSMC’s are putting their health and safety at risk for the simple fear of losing their job and at times working over 14 hour days consistently. I would like to say that I do know Carolyn Pollard personally and if the author had taken the time to research the accurate story behind the RSMC struggle, you would honour and respect her for taken a stance! Perhaps, if Rosa Parks hadn’t sat at the front of the bus, we would still have segregation!

  17. I’ve worked with Caroline Pollard for 3 years and can’t say enough great things about her. She has stood up to Canada Post for the RSMC’s on all the big issues. She has taken Canada Post to court and beat them on health and safety issues where Canada Post had been negligent, issues that have involved workers being killed on the job. Before Caroline Pollard became involved, Canada Post took advantage of the RSMC workers by intimidation and threats with losing their job. Workers have been fired unjustly by this corporation and Caroline has fought and won some of these workers their job back. She was so great at her job, Canada Post made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. If Macleans had done any research on the story that was published it would have been totally opposite. So Macleans please do some research and publish the truth about Canada Post and Caroline Pollard.

  18. i am shocked by this article I have been an RSMC for three years. many years ago RSMC's drove on the wrong side of the road because the only alternative is to stretch out our arms to the passenger side of the vehicle which means removing the SEATBELT. so therefore regardless of which method you choose a law is violated and our health and safety is compromised. Stretching our bodies in such a contorted manner would also place great strain on our bodies yet again creating a severe health and safety concern. Our plant has allowed us to have ergo helpers to meet all laws but only for three years. This article really sheds RSMC's in a negative light ( to put it mildly). obvioulsly whom ever wrote this article never actually tried delivering themselves to get an accurate perspective. Our customers rarely thank us, they only complain when there mail doesn't arrive after snow storms when they don't even bother to clear their snow. HELLO health and safety once again. All i have to say is try retrieving your mail with your car without taking off your seatbelt and then imagine that 400 times or more during the course of one day and multiply that out by each working day during the winter months. Have some empathy please and Macleans research a little better.

  19. It is quite obvious that Maclean's article regarding the unsafe practise of delivery by rural letter carriers was one of which had been articulated by Canada Post interests. The rural and suburban mail carriers are not the villains in this, they are the victims of circumstance, driven by the tight grip the corporation has on the money. Is'nt it always the money.

  20. Canad Post has more right hand drive vehicles on the road than you know. This is both from a corporate truck level right down to personal rural mail carriers. They even offer a subsidy to their rural mail carriers who purchase a right hand drive vehicle for mail delivery.


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