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road sage

Show me a person driving a rental cube van and I’ll show you someone who should not be driving a rental cube van.

Why? There are many reasons but the main one is that all you need to drive a 16-foot rental cube van or box truck is a regular driver’s license (for example, a G in Ontario) and the desire to drive one. There are no other requirements. No training. No aptitude. No demonstrable skills. All you need is a credit card and the unsubstantiated belief that you can drive a truck. As the website for Advantage Car and Truck rentals declares “You DO NOT NEED A COMMERCIAL LICENCE (CDL) to drive a 16 ft box truck or cube van in Ontario.”

Why stop at 16 feet? Wanna drive a 26-foot rental truck with a 4,535-kilogram payload that is 7.9 metres long, 2.5 metres wide and 2.5 metres tall? Half the size of a semi? Right this way sir. No experience necessary.

This is strange, given that driving a large rental cube van is nothing like driving a Toyota Camry. It requires a lot more skill. Rental cube vans and box trucks are bulky and heavy when loaded. Many do not have cameras; the driver must use the outside mirrors to check extended blind spots. Cube vans have limited manoeuvrability, a large turning radius and longer stopping distances.

Those who drive rental cube vans frequently or as part of their jobs will (hopefully) have the needed skills, however, the average rental cube van driver is someone moving house or apartment. So, added to the overall lack of skill, you have the urge to speed – after all, what move isn’t late?

As a result, rental cube vans are something to be wary of (or something of which to be wary). They cause immediate alarm. Seeing a rental cube van is like seeing a two-headed cow, it triggers an instant, instinctive feeling that “This is wrong.” It’s hard to find an equivalent in everyday life. Perhaps a monkey performing brain surgery.

When I spot a rental cube van or box truck my first thoughts are:

  • Someone who normally does not drive a truck has decided to finally try driving a truck. Today’s the day.
  • Some company rented them a truck.
  • Now this individual is driving a 16-foot truck they have no idea how to operate.
  • I need to get as far away from that rental truck as possible.

It all adds up to “danger.” For instance, in January 2022, a 24-year-old driver crashed a rental cube van into a home, killing a cat. Such accidents are so common that the online world is full of headlines such as “I Wrecked My Rental Truck. Now What?”

I come to my aversion to rental cube vans from personal experience. In the summer of 1988, I worked for a Toronto-based film company. I worked in props, and this required me to drive a rental box truck. The first day on the job my boss asked me, “Have you ever driven a truck?” To which I replied, “No.” To which she responded, “That’s okay, it’s an automatic; you’ll figure it out.”

What followed were months of 14-hour days in a cube van without air conditioning listening to AM radio. As the weeks progressed, my box truck skills improved. The summer proceeded without major incident, until the last week of August when I backed it into the office of one of the company’s founders (he was in the office at the time).

After car met wall, my supervisor came out and told me, “Look, you’re about to be fired. Whatever happens, your only chance is to say you’re sorry and keep quiet. No matter how much he yells at you, say nothing.” Yell he did, in colourful language so everyone could hear. His tirade ended with a demonstration of how to properly back into a narrow alley accompanied by the words, “If you don’t know if you have enough room, get out and check!”

To this day I keep those words in my heart. I should have said, next time you hire someone to drive a box truck why don’t you check if they have any box truck training?” Of course, why should an employer check when even the rental companies don’t? All I can do is harbour a deep suspicion of anyone driving a rental cube van. I know how unqualified they are. I know. I was one of them.

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