Montreal looks at phasing out unsafe heavy trucks on city streets

The City of Montreal is considering phasing out heavy trucks with the worst blind spots from city streets, as it looks for ways to make the roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Following example of U.K.'s London, trucks would be rated based on how well driver can see other road users

A 25-year-old woman was struck by a Montreal street-cleaning truck on Mozart Street at St-Laurent Boulevard in August 2016. One year later, the city is considering recommendations to increase road safety for all users. (Radio-Canada)

The City of Montreal is considering phasing out heavy trucks with the worst blind spots from city streets, as it looks for ways to make the roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

"We are going to look at the North American standard for trucks: what days, what hours, what zone within the city we would limit the trucks with less visibility," said Marc-André Gadoury, Montreal's executive committee member in charge of cycling policies. 

The executive committee is supporting a series of recommendations put together by the transportation and public works commission last spring.

The recommendations were tabled at city council on Monday afternoon. 

Dubbed Vision Zéro, the strategy includes 30 recommendations aimed to curb fatalities and injuries. The study was undertaken in the midst of a series of fatal collisions this year involving pedestrians, cyclists and trucks.

It looked at how London in the U.K., and Seattle and New Orleans in the U.S., have dealt with the issue of heavy trucks with major blind spots.

In its report, the executive committee says it is particularly impressed with London's introduction of a safety scale which rates trucks on how well a driver can see other road users directly, without the use of mirrors or cameras.

The report notes that by 2024, London plans to ban heavy trucks that don't meet its safety rating.

Ban would drive up trucking costs

Marc Cadieux, CEO of the Quebec Trucking Association, said a ban on heavy trucks would drive up transportation costs in Montreal.

Cadieux said in an email that while the association is committed to road safety and has a seat on the Vision Zéro committee, "limiting the size of trucks and hours of delivery will obviously necessitate more trucks and more workers to deliver the same merchandise in a time of a workforce shortage in the trucking industry."

A sign marking the spot where cyclist Mathilde Blais died when she was crushed by a heavy truck in April 2015 is affixed to the railing in the St-Denis Street underpass. (Steve Rukavina/CBC)

Side guards have already been installed between the front and rear wheels of municipal snow trucks. The report being discussed Monday recommends requiring private contractors hired by the city to install side guards, as well. 

Montreal will also examine the cost of installing cameras on the city's own fleet of heavy trucks.

City councillors have not given themselves a deadline to adopt all recommendations, saying they'll take the time they need to come up with a made-in-Montreal solution.

The city has already acted on some recommendations, including reducing the speed limit on many city streets, and continuing the ban on right turns on red across the island.

Increased education for all road users is also a key recommendation. For example, the cycling advocacy group Vélo-Québec offers a bike safety program for students in grade five and six. The executive committee recommends that program be extended to all Montreal schools. 

With files from Sean Henry