OPP launches commercial vehicle safety blitz in GTA

Ontario Provincial Police launched a commercial vehicle safety blitz on Wednesday.

Sgt. Kerry Schmidt is riding a big rig to see for himself how drivers are sharing the road

Sgt. Kerry Schmidt, spokesperson for the Ontario Provincial Police's Highway Safety Division, stands in front of the OPP's big rig as part of a commercial vehicle safety blitz. (Lauren Pelley/CBC)

Ontario Provincial Police launched a commercial vehicle safety blitz on Wednesday.

Sgt. Kerry Schmidt of the OPP's Highway Safety Division said the idea is to spread awareness of the importance of road safety, draw attention to the high number of transport truck crashes in recent months, and to find trucks with safety issues, such as broken lights, that could cause crashes down the road.

The blitz comes on the National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims.

Schmidt rode along in an OPP transport truck on GTA highways on Wednesday morning to see for himself how vehicles are sharing the road. OPP officers and Ontario transportation safety officials are doing safety inspections as part of the blitz.

"We've obviously seen some pretty big collisions in the last little while involving transport trucks and the ensuing traffic delays and road closures that come as a result of that. We certainly don't want to see that continue," Schmidt told CBC Toronto.
The Ontario Provincial Police's big rig is pictured here. Sgt. Kerry Schmidt of the OPP is riding along in the big rig on Wednesday to see for himself how vehicles are sharing the road. (Lauren Pelley/CBC)

"We just want to get some more awareness out there about the importance of everybody sharing the road. Transport trucks, four wheelers and cars and everyone, they are all trying to make their destinations and deliveries," he said.

"We want to make sure we all will get there in reasonable time without unnecessary crashes that affect so many more people than just those involved."

Wednesday's blitz is being conducted out of the commercial vehicle safety inspection scales on the Highway 401 westbound at Trafalgar Road in Milton. He said it is a "local" safety blitz, organized by the Port Credit OPP, for the Highway 401 area.

Officers are "all over the area" trying to flag trucks for inspections, Schmidt said.

"I don't want to paint a picture saying that all trucks are unsafe," he added.

"You look at the roads right now and there are so many trucks out there every single day. We want to make sure the roads are safe. For the most part, we have a great fleet of trucks out on the roads ... making the deliveries and keeping our economy going." 
Last month, three people died in a fiery crash on Highway 400, south of Barrie, Ont. (Kerry Schmidt/Twitter)

Schmidt said it is a fraction of truckers who are taking chances, shortcuts, fudging logbooks and "pushing the limits" and that's when problems arise.

The OPP says it responded to 13,668 crashes that involved large commercial transport trucks in 2015 and 2016. It says 155 people were killed in those crashes.

Last month, three people died in a crash on Highway 400, south of Barrie, Ont. 

The OPP believes a transport truck hit vehicles that had slowed down because of an earlier collision. The crash involved two fuel tanker trucks and at least three transport trucks.

That crash caused a 14-vehicle pileup, an explosion and a massive fire that closed the highway in both directions for hours.

Schmidt said he has advice for drivers: be alert, be attentive, leave space between vehicles. He said one thing that the OPP sees all the time is that traffic slows and drivers don't stop in time. 
A total of 291 people died on Ontario roads so far this year. (CBC)

"Traffic can stop in an instant," he said.

The national day of remembrance is organized by the Canadian Council for Motor Transport Administrators, an organization focused on the administration, regulation and control of motor vehicle transportation and highway safety in Canada.

The group estimates that five people die on Canadian roads every day. It says more than 1,800 people are killed and 10,200 are seriously injured in road crashes every year.