There have been 40 rollovers and numerous other trucking accidents in the last eight weeks, according to provincial police. The most recent one killed a New York woman who was sleeping in the cab of a tractor-trailer that started a four-truck chain reaction when it slammed into the back of another rig that was stopped for construction.
The accident came a day after Operation Overturn, a surprise blitz by provincial police and transportation inspectors. Of the 141 trucking companies whose rigs were stopped in the crackdown, 33 were charged with mechanical and safety violations. Police issued 31 other charges, ranging from speeding to making unsafe lane changes and tailgating. Warnings were issued to 78 truck drivers. Among the worst offenders was a dump truck hauling a trailer that had vise grips holding a brake air line together and 10 out of 12 brakes defective, reports the paper.
While some of the accidents have been caused by other motorists, police investigators say a major contributing factor has been inexperienced truck drivers.
“Until the government puts some teeth into the regulations, all the highway carnage we keep seeing is going to continue,” Kim Richardson, president of the Truck Driving School Assn. of Ontario, told the Toronto Star. “Anybody who has a commercial vehicle license is allowed to teach somebody how to drive a truck.” The paper reports that while some Toronto area schools offer seven to eight weeks of training, others let students take their road test after only four to six hours of training.
Target ’97, a report by a joint industry-government task force, is working on graduated licensing for truck drivers. When the system is in place, probably next spring at the earliest, new drivers may be prohibited from driving alone for a period of time, letting them get experience. The new program will also include tougher written tests.