Collisions involving transport trucks surging in Ontario

A five-vehicle crash that left metal and debris strewn over highway 401 early Thursday is just the latest in a surging number of wrecks in Ontario involving transport trucks.

OPP stats show a 38% increase in fatal collisions that involved transport trucks in 2018

A multi-vehicle crash closed the express lanes of Highway 401 between Allen Road and Highway 404 for seven hours Thursday morning. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

A five-vehicle crash that left metal and debris strewn over highway 401 near Allen Road early Thursday is just the latest in a surging number of wrecks in Ontario involving transport trucks.

New statistics released by the OPP show collisions involving transport trucks are up 10 per cent this year compared to this time last year, and fatal collisions involving transport trucks are up nearly 38 per cent this year compared to 2017.

Police say 41 people have been killed in these types of crashes this year. OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt says police are trying to figure out why these numbers are rising.

"We're compiling all of the statistics right now trying to determine common causal factors," Schmidt said. "When it comes down to it, most, if not all of these crashes, come down to some sort of human error."

A driver died following a serious collision between two tractor trailers on Highway 401 last month. (OPP)

Schmidt says people who drive large trucks assume a great deal of responsibility.

"When you're driving a vehicle that's often 80,000 pounds or heavier, there's a lot of energy and momentum there," Schmidt said.

While the expectation is people who operate transport trucks are trained professionals, Brian Patterson, the president and CEO of traffic safety organization the Ontario Safety League, says there are some drivers on that road that are "under-trained and are under-qualified."

The Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) says there is a small percentage of unqualified drivers, as well as carrier companies with trucks in their fleet, that don't comply with the province's safety standards.

OTA president Stephen Laskowski says those drivers cast a dark shadow over the entire industry — which is why his organization has been working with the OPP and the Ministry of Transportation to try and weed out problem drivers and carriers.

"We've been working together in multiple areas of how all of our organizations can work better together to focus enforcement," he said.

A 45-year-old man was killed after the tractor trailer he was driving slammed into the back of another transport truck last month, according to the OPP. (Kerry Schmidt/OPP)

As part of a program called "Operation Safe Trucking," the OPP has pulled more than 650 trucks off the road after they failed roadside safety inspections, Schmidt said.

They have also laid more than 1,600 speeding charges and 350 distracted driving charges this year.

Laskowski says he would also like to see the province make it mandatory for trucks to have electronic logging books. Canadian regulations allow truckers to be on the road no more than 13 hours per day to avoid driver fatigue. Laskowski believes electronic logs would keep drivers honest, and make the roads safer.

Schmidt says it's also important for other drivers on the road to take precautions when driving around transport trucks.

"Watch their signals, watch their mirrors, don't hang out in their blind spots," he said, adding that a good rule of thumb is to always remember — if you can't see them, they can't see you.