Highways 11 and 17 most dangerous, says trucking lobbyist
STITTSVILLE - Highway 11 and Highway 17 are the most dangerous highways in Canada, says Pete Turner, who is a lobbyist and advocate for the trucking industry.
The Stittsville, Ontario, resident is a former truck driver who has been active on the front lines of the industry across Canada for many years.
His concern is focused on about five to ten per cent of the trucking companies who are running trucks across the province and the country.
"The problem we're having is that we have carriers who are operating without concern or safety or following regulations," he said in a telephone interview.
For over 20 years he has been using his company, The Trucker's Voice, to directly reach out to those in government positions who can respond to issues. He says he has between 10,000 to 15,000 commercial drivers from across Canada who are members. Over the years "we've lobbied and got a lot of laws changed to make the carriers more accountable."
With ties to Temiskaming (his father farmed in the Belle Vallee area and he still has family members living in New Liskeard), Turner says he is familiar with the area and he worries for his family members when they are driving on Highway 11.
Unsafe trucking could be better controlled by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) through the enforcement of laws and better regulating of the training schools and monitoring of the truck traffic, he said.
He is advocating that when drivers are found to be driving unsafely, their carriers, shippers and receivers should also be fined along with the drivers because they are also responsible for ensuring that the trucks that are sent out are safe, and will ensure the public safety, he pointed out.
Turner wants to see the truck weigh station scales kept open 24/7 for at least six weeks. He wants all trucks to have license and insurance checks "because there's been a rash of companies who have been hiring drivers who are not qualified and have no insurance."
Turner is hopeful that this spring the provincial government will be introducing improvements to the training schools for truckers.
"We spent the last six months of 2022 rewriting the minimum requirement of training for truckers," he said of a group of 49 stakeholders who worked together for the improvements.
Turner also wants increased fines for companies who have contracts to do the winter maintenance if they fail to meet the requirements. He said highway closures are resulting in setbacks for the industry due to supply chain issues, not enough drivers and not enough equipment.
Another concern he noted is trucker wages, which he said are being kept to a minimum.
"The industry's idea is that anybody can drive a truck and that's where we're running into the problem."
He said he has many members who are from other countries.
"A lot of these foreign drivers are being screwed over," he said, and are being threatened that they will be sent back to their original country if they don't comply with their instructions, even if it means breaking the law.
"That's where we are running into a problem. It's not a racial thing. It's a corporate decision to take advantage of these foreign workers."
Even on Highway 401 there are problems being observed when drivers "just drive off the road, and in my opinion, that's either you fell asleep or you're distracted.... What we see is that these drivers are being pushed too hard."
Turner said the trucking industry wants "to protect the public and protect the industry from the carriers who choose not to follow the rules."
He said more enforcement is needed, and he hopes that the MTO can be convinced to open up the scales to get every driver and every truck checked.
"If that's not the case, this is going to get worse."
Darlene Wroe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker