More driver training oversight needed: insurance industry group

The agency representing the country's insurance industry is confirming long-held concerns of motorists who regularly drive hair-raising provincial routes like Highway 102 just outside Thunder Bay. In a news release this week, the Insurance Bureau of Canada says a study it commissioned found that many drivers of big transport trucks and other commercial vehicles are either inexperienced or insufficiently trained, and that "enforcement of commercial regulations violations is inadequate." The bureau's conclusions may provide some vindication to rural Thunder Bay residents like Jena Curtis, who in recent years has witnessed near-misses and at least one fatal transport crash in front of her Highway 102 business. "I really feel there is an issue with (transport) driver training," Curtis told The Chronicle-Journal last month. In its study, the insurance bureau notes that "trucker drivers with less than three years experience have a greater likelihood of being involved in a collision." Heavy truck crashes cause a lot of damage, the bureau noted. Meanwhile, Ontario's Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is conducting an online survey about Highway 102. It asks respondents if they've been in a collision or near-miss on the route, or know of such an occurrence. Ontario's NDP has called on the provincial government to upgrade commercial driving training requirements and make standards uniform across the province. The insurance bureau's report echoed that demand: "Training quality varies by school; there needs to be oversight, and standards need to be enforced." In addition to human carnage, transport truck crashes often cause major damage to other vehicles and road infrastructure. That, says the insurance bureau, results in increased insurance premium costs. "Insurance claims related to commercial trucking accidents have been increasing rapidly in recent years," the bureau said. In Canada, 90 per cent of all consumer goods, including food, is transported by trucks, the bureau noted. Earlier this year, MTO put into service a new, $30-million truck inspection station on Highway 11-17 in the Municipality of Shuniah. Respondents have until Sunday to take part in the survey about Highway 102. The link to the online survey is Highway102.

Carl Clutchey, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, The Chronicle-Journal