Most people can agree—bad drivers are everywhere. On the side streets, on the highways, it doesn’t matter. They are everywhere. One place where no one wants to see an irresponsible or poorly trained driver is behind the wheel of a transport truck.
Unfortunately, avoidable or not, accidents happen and the buck has to lay with someone. Driving vehicles much larger than any passenger vehicle, and with many times the weight, often travelling at high rates of speed, the responsibility of a truck driver to arrive safely, with their person and load intact, and to not harm other drivers on the road. However, there is a perceived trend toward more careless transport drivers on the major highways of Ontario, with often cited complaints of speeding on roads under 100 km/h, unsignalled passing, blocking lanes, and various other forms of aggressive driving.
“There’s this weird aggressiveness,” says Dean St. Denis, a 54-year-old truck driver from Amherstburg. “When I was a younger driver, the police enforced this, and, basically, now, there is no enforcement of anything. This kind of driving goes unpunished.”
St. Denis explains that there is a maximum truck speed of 105 km/h, which your truck might be limited in reaching depending on the wear of your tires.
“There is this crazy need that you must be in front, and everybody drives at 105, and it might take somebody five or six kilometres to pass another guy,” he explains. “It’s just mind-numbing to me. I, personally, drive 100 km/h, because the guys who are trying to drive the maximum 105 can go ahead and pass me. I am in for a non-stressed drive and driving 105 is terrible and creates a lot of impatience. A guy might look in the mirror and, if he is passing, and sees there’s 15 cars, well, he’ll barely let the truck he’s passing get any room and he’ll just cut over.”
The regulatory body for transport trucks in Ontario is the MTO (Ministry of Transportation Ontario), which, among many duties, patrols roads, provides driver testing, and operates inspection stations.
“The Ministry of Transportation takes the safety of all road users very seriously,” said the MTO in a press release. “Ontario has some of the safest roads in North America, and we are working hard to ensure they stay this way. Ontario was the first jurisdiction in North America to require Entry-Level Training for new commercial Class A drivers—ensuring all new applicants are properly trained before they are tested and licensed. Ontario’s commercial licensing system is among the most robust in Canada, and ensures that only qualified individuals operate commercial vehicles, and those who break the law face stringent penalties.”
However, St. Denis, who has been a truck driver for nearly four decades, no longer sees visible enforcement by the MTO.
“I find that enforcement on the 400 series [highways] is basically zero,” states St. Denis. “Truck safety, at the inspection stations, is basically zero. I travel the 401 to Hamilton twice-a-day, three days a week, and I can’t remember the last time I was pulled into an inspection station.”
In a press release on June 27, from the Office of Premier Doug Ford, the Government of Ontario claims that the province has a shortage of 6,100 truck drivers. Ford pledged $1.3 million to the training of women and New Canadians to help fill these jobs.
“As a truck driver, I don’t believe we do (have a shortage of drivers), but the government really feels that there is, and with our immigration, there are a lot of wew Canadian people driving,” says St. Denis. “(New drivers) are poorly trained because of the testing parameters of the schools. I think Ontario is starting to catch up with it now, but it was really bad. It was discovered that they were only teaching the drivers enough to pass the test, not enough to be successful at what they’re doing—and that’s a lot of the carnage you see on the highway—it’s inexperienced drivers being put into a bad position.”
As a truck driver who hauls steel coils, he says it is a regular occurence to see rookie drivers at the steel mills with little to no experience hauling such large objects. “For the safety of others, all you can do is help them,” he adds.
According to the MTO, Ontario’s Entry-Level Training (ELT) is in line with the national standard, which is approved in the province on Feb. 14, 2020. People with foreign commercial licenses are required to follow the same licensing protocols as any other Ontarian in that field, and all Class A applicants are trained to the “new and consistent” training standards. which the MTO says are among the most robust in Canada, and include a minimum 103.5 hours of instruction.
When asked, the MTO did not respond to whether there was an observable uptick in ticketing, reporting, or charges in regards to aggressive truck drivers.
St. Denis, though, sees a lot of the newest drivers as rushed, undertrained, aggressive, and put into bad situations by their employers.
“It’s embarrassing, somedays, to call yourself a truck driver because of the reputation you get on the roads,” states St. Denis. “I can probably give you four different guys to call and I don’t think the opinion would vary much. It’s just that the aggressiveness goes unpunished.”
He says that he still loves the job, but would not suggest the career to his children. The daughter of a friend of his was killed by a transport truck driver on the Herb Gray Parkway in 2017 after failing to observe multiple road signs warning of an upcoming slowdown. The driver pleaded guilty to careless driving, but only received a $1,200 fine for his actions.
“Sadly enough, no,” says St. Denis in reference to his children following in his footsteps. “I think it’s dangerous on the highways. I have children in their 20s and I would worry if they were on the road like that. There is a lot of carnage every day. Inexperience is probably the leading cause of almost 90 per cent of it.”
A petition making rounds to nationally regulate ELT and make regulations uniform across Canada claims that 2,000 people die annually and 10,000 are injured in accidents involving commercial vehicles. For more information, please visit www.facebook.com/truckersforsaferhighways.
By Devan Mighton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Tilbury Times Reporter
Original Published on Oct 24, 2023 at 22:07