On July 6, Saskatchewan RCMP announced charges in relation to the tragic accident involving the Humboldt Broncos’ team bus, and a truck owned by Adesh Deol Trucking, a two-truck operation based out of Calgary, Alta.
The driver of the truck, 29-year-old Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, has been charged with 16 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, and an additional 13 charges of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm. As the matter is before the courts and awaiting trial, very few details were released about what the investigation uncovered.
I want to commend the Saskatchewan RCMP, who despite immense public pressure to lay charges almost immediately and provide the public with information about the crash, took the time and care necessary to ensure a thorough and complete investigation was completed before charges were laid.
Once the trial gets underway, results of the investigation will start to come out and much more information about the circumstances of this accident will be brought to light. While this information will no doubt be important – and recommendations about what needs to be done to safeguard against incidents of this nature occurring again will be brought forward and should be acted on – we must not sit idle and wait for these results before we, as an industry, act and begin looking for ways to improve.
This tragic event has placed the spotlight directly on the trucking industry, as it should. The industry has an impeccable and enviable safety record, with most statistics showing over 75% of accidents involving heavy-duty trucks being the fault of the other driver.
While these numbers are great, we are not an industry without warts, and we must always be prepared to take a long, hard, reflective look in the mirror and deal with those flaws. It is important we celebrate our successes, pat ourselves on the back, and promote this great industry and our safety record to all.
However, we must not be so defensive of our record that we stop looking for ways to improve. Accidents will always occur, no matter what safeguards we put in place. As we are human, we will make mistakes, however we must ensure that strides are taken to improve safety and reduce the likelihood of this type of event ever occurring again.
Let me be clear, my following comments do not reflect in any way who I think may or may not be at fault or what occurred in the Humboldt crash, as I, like you, do not know all the details. These are just my personal reflections of what we can do to improve the overall safety of our industry.
There are some items we can (and in many cases already have) begin to address immediately as an industry. We know we have carriers out there who operate unsafely, flying under the radar, operating unsafe equipment, hiring unqualified drivers, pushing them to operate in an unsafe manner and outside the boundaries of the rules and regulations.
These companies represent a small minority of our industry, but we all know they are out there. Many of these companies will never be subjected to a compliance audit and will continue to fly under the radar like a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. Industry and government both know this is true, and we must find a way to fix this. We must find a way to increase the number of companies who are audited, who are checked, and who have safe operating procedures verified. The minority who fit in this category stain and tarnish the entire industry.
Mandatory entry-level training (MELT) is currently only required in one jurisdiction – Ontario. While other provinces and the U.S. are looking into MELT, this is something that needs to be addressed and implemented by every jurisdiction. Even in Ontario, where we have MELT, driver trainers are not required to be certified.
This has to change.
These are just a couple examples of issues at the forefront that we need to address in short order. There are others. This is a great industry, one that I am proud to be part of, and one that has been good to me. We all need to be part of ensuring this industry works towards fixing any issues we may have, no matter how minor we think they may be. If we are not part of the solution, we become part of the problem. And then it is time to leave – or be shown the door.
Mike Millian is president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada.