Provincial police say a quarter of all fatal collisions they investigate involve a commercial vehicle like the one that plowed into stopped traffic Nov. 1, killing three people and destroying 14 vehicles
TORONTO—The head of Ontario’s provincial police says the trucking industry should take a close look at the way it conducts business following a fatal multi-vehicle collision that police believe was caused by a transport truck driver.
Commissioner Vince Hawkes made the comments near the scene of a 14-vehicle pileup on Highway 400, north of Toronto, that left at least three people dead.
The latest crash came just days after Hawkes put truck drivers “on notice” for being inattentive while behind the wheel.
He says truck drivers are unable to brake for slow or stopped traffic if they are texting or eating or watching TV while behind the wheel.
Provincial police say a quarter of all fatal collisions they investigate involve a commercial vehicle.
As recently as last week, provincial police were highlighting the dangerous nature of accidents involving commercial transport trucks. Police charged three truckers Oct. 26 in three separate accidents involving commercial transport trucks crashing into stopped traffic.
— Sgt Kerry Schmidt (@OPP_HSD) November 1, 2017
The force said it has responded to more than 5,000 such collisions this year, with 67 people killed. In the two previous years, OPP tracked 13,668 crashes involving commercial transport trucks that killed a total of 155 people.
The Ontario Trucking Association said last week that the industry is committed to road safety, noting that there has been a 66 per cent decrease in the fatality rate from large truck collisions between 1995 and 2014 despite a 75 per cent rise in large truck vehicle registrations.
“It’s a reflection of the overall commitment (to safety) by management and professional truck drivers,” association president Stephen Laskowski said. “We’re one of the few industries that shares its workplace with the motoring public and we accept that responsibility, and we work towards excellence in terms of road safety.”
Technological advancements have helped cap truck speeds and improve vehicle stability, Laskowski said. But there are still some “bad apples” in the trucking world, he added.
“The vast majority of trucking companies do it right but unfortunately some don’t, and we do want to put them on notice,” he said.
The Ontario Safety League, which advocates for traffic safety, called on the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario to conduct a review of fatalities on 400-series highways involving both commercial and private vehicles.
“I don’t know what that magic bullet is,” league president Brian Patterson said of the number of traffic-related deaths in Ontario. “Is it fatigue, is it training, is it keeping distractions out of the interior of vehicles?”
Hawkes said a coroner’s inquiry into distracted driving could help resolve the issue.
“It will open up not only what … law enforcement are saying about the challenges of distracted driving on the highway, but that these trucks are in essence missiles travelling down the highway,” Hawkes said.
Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca called the crash “horrific” and said that if the coroner decides to conduct an inquest, the ministry will fully co-operate.
“I don’t believe that particular stretch of highway, from an infrastructure prospective, should be anymore dangerous than other stretches of highway,” he said. “But I do want to hear back from the OPP.”
In July, the Ministry of Transportation made it mandatory for entry-level truck drivers to go through more than 100 hours of training before receiving their license.
“We don’t think that our work is done,” Del Duca said. “Whether it’s additional legislation around distracted driving or drug impaired driving or whether it’s training for our truck drivers, whether it’s working with road safety partners, the Ministry of Transportation is determined to produce safe outcomes for travelling public.”