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Time to ramp-up enforcement and beef-up testing standards, says local trucker

The co-founder of a group called 'Truckers for Safer Highways' says the number of crashes involving big rigs has become "astounding"
20181116 warren transport truck
Courtesy OPP

A group of truckers who make their living behind the wheel of a big rig say it's time for an industry-wide crackdown.

Kitchener-based truck driver Travis McDougall co-founded the group 'Truckers for Safer Highways' early last year as a response to concerns over the number of collisions involving transport trucks.

"We're seeing this happen way, way more often than it ever did and we're asking the questions, why is this happening and where is it coming from?," said McDougall.

McDougall, who says he's been driving a rig for nearly a decade, says it's gotten to the point he's more concerned when there's another truck on the highway near him or coming toward him than he is by any passenger vehicle.

"Passenger vehicles don't concern me at all, if a passenger vehicle wants to pass me I let him pass me," McDougall said. "If a commercial truck wants to pass me it could take it a while and a lot of them are choosing to pass in unsafe areas."

"They're passing on curves, they're passing on hills, they can't see what's coming next."

This is exactly what he says happened earlier this week on one of the main routes connecting Ontario to the western provinces.

There were several collisions on Highway 11 Wednesday including one north of Temiskaming Shores near the Village of Thornloe in which Ontario Provincial Police say a northbound transport truck slammed head-on into one heading south, killing one of the drivers and leading to the highway being closed in both directions in that area for 12 hours.

Further north of that, another crash involving at least one transport truck forced another day-long shutdown of Highway 11, this time in both directions from Kapuskasing to Hearst, north of Timmins. Provincial police say that crash resulted in one person suffering serious but non life-threatening injuries.

"Either highway 11 or 17, the two main routes where traffic travels through to the western provinces or east, they're closed at least two or three times a week at least one of the routes," said McDougall. "And this isn't just in the winter time, this is in the summer time too."

McDougall points to what he believes are two main problems: lacking enforcement and training standards. He says a recent report from the Auditor General found the number of commercial enforcement officers is down 38 per cent since 2012.

"We can leave our yard and drive to [British Columbia] and I can tell you which scale or inspection station is going to be open or closed and when," said McDougall. "And there's very few over the weekend I can expect to have to go through open."

"Drivers aren't even being checked to make sure they're running their log books properly, that their vehicles are safe to operate on the highway," he said. "I know we've heard down the 400, the 401, tires coming off on the highways, there's no need for that."

As for training, McDougall says a major problem there is with carriers being allowed to train and license their own drivers in-house.

"To us, that right there is a red flag because it only benefits the carrier," McDougall said. "It's okay for a prospective driver to get their license this way but they're not getting the best training because it benefits the carrier to get these drivers on the roads as soon as possible, to get more loads moving and to keep the money flowing."

Truckers for Safer Highways has been lobbying both the provincial and federal governments for change.

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