Canadian truckers who participated in a series of focus groups aimed at identifying the root causes of traffic collisions involving heavy vehicles gave Ontario officials an earful about speed limiters and a lack of safe parking in the province.
Johanne Couture, an OOIDA Senior Member from Brockville, Ontario, was one of the truckers who participated in the focus groups, which were held Feb. 9-15 in Ottawa and Toronto. The focus groups were part of a study commissioned by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.
“We’ve been telling the MTO since 2009 that speed limiters are unsafe, but they haven’t listened yet,” Couture said in a phone interview with Land Line. “A lot of the discussion centered around speed limiters, lack of parking especially around Toronto, so you don’t get stuck in rush hour.”
The focus groups with truckers were designed to cover such topics as physical and psychological factors of driving, including skills, training and experience. Driver behavior of both commercial and personal vehicles was discussed, as were infrastructure and environmental factors, regulation and enforcement, and advanced technologies.
“I commend the Ministry for actually wanting to listen to drivers and not just the carrier associations,” Couture said. “The carrier associations represent management; they don’t represent drivers”
Couture said she shared with the moderators her experience with speed limiters, and how the devices have led to what she describes as a change in “mentality and lack of courtesy” within the trucking community. Ontario trucks are speed-limited by law at 105 kilometers per hour, or about 65 mph.
“(Because of speed limiters) People run on the peg, pedal to the metal ... because they don’t want to lose any time. So courtesy is something that in a general sense has gone by the wayside,” Couture said. “There’s a lot more tailgating and cutting back in too close.”
“Some of it, like speed limiters, they’d heard about before, because this was the second-to-last session,” she said. “Some of this information they had heard, but some of what we brought up (was new).”
When it came to discussing roads, Couture said she and the other drivers who participated told the organizers about a stretch of road they call “Malfunction Junction” – Highway 400 South going on to the 401 West in the greater Toronto area.
“There’s six lanes there … but you feel like a sitting duck because traffic always backs up around the ramps when you’re sitting in the center lanes and traffic is flying by you on the left and the right,” she said.
When it comes to truck parking, Couture said the drivers at the meeting voiced their concerns that there “isn’t enough of it, all over the province” but particularly along the Trans-Canada Highway in northern Ontario. One particularly desolate stretch she highlighted was between Hearst and Longlac.
“Nobody drives by Hearst without going to the washroom, because you’re two-and-a-half hours from Longlac, and if you end up in a ‘gotta go’ situation, it’s not good,” she said. “And there’s plenty of spots like that. ... There’s no services whether you’re a truck or a car. And that’s the Trans-Canada Highway.”
Couture also said truckers brought up so-called “CDL mills” where drivers are not properly trained. Last year, Ontario passed North America’s first Mandatory Entry Level Driver Training standards, aimed at shutting down schools that didn’t meet minimum requirements. The law takes effect this July, and requires all schools to be registered and accredited.
“(The driver training program) will help, but we just haven’t seen the effects yet because it hasn’t gone fully into effect,” she said.