Toronto, ON — 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.
But the Ontario Trucking Association says mechanical and technological improvements such as speed limit and stability controls have made trucks safer and that the key to commercial vehicle safety is improving on the human element of truck safety performance:
According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO), mechanical fitness is a factor in less than 2% of fatal collisions involving trucks. When examining those same collisions, the driver of the truck was shown to be driving properly 70% of the time.
“This data reflects the elevated level of commitment to road safety by both professional truck drivers and fleet managers, but it also shows that if we are going to improve truck safety in any meaningful sense, the opportunities are related to human factors,” said OTA president Stephen Laskowski.
There are multiple areas where the trucking industry is currently working with research institutes and various government organizations to address human factors related to commercial vehicle safety:
OTA and the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) partnered to introduce mandatory entry level training for commercial drivers. Ontario is the only province that requires mandatory training for truck drivers, which provides new entrants practical industry experience, making them safer drivers from the start of their career.
The introduction of the speed limiter rule for commercial vehicles in 2008.
The recent introduction of the mandatory installation of electronic stability control (ESC).
The mandatory introduction of electronic logging devices.
In 2016, OTA and the Canadian Trucking Alliance formed a working relationship with the Transportation Research Injury Foundation to examine education, enforcement and technology options to improve factors related to distracted driving.
The OTA lead the development of a working group consisting of the OPP, MTO and OTA to examine ways to improve commercial motor vehicle safety, including distracted driving. This group will meet for the first time this month.
Most trucking companies have already introduced company policies to manage driver behavior such as reviewing engine and satellite data to monitor hard braking incidents and developing progressive discipline and education for their drivers. Carriers are also starting to introduce technologies to monitor driver alertness and collision mitigation systems such as forward collision warning systems and automatic braking. Preliminary data shows such technology could eliminate rear end collisions involving commercial motor vehicles by up to 70%.
“There is a reason why since the mid-90’s we have seen a 66% decline in the fatality rate from large truck collisions despite an increase in truck traffic of 75%,” added Laskowski. “Our companies and professional drivers are committed to improving road safety.”