In early April, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) released statistics for fatal collisions on roadways it patrolled in 2017.
The stats indicated the OPP responded to 68,794 collisions in 2017, 304 of which were fatal. This marked the highest number of road fatalities in five years.
Seventy-six of these 304 fatal collisions involved commercial vehicles (25%), resulting in 91 deaths. These numbers represent a 10-year high for fatal collisions involving commercial vehicles. While the stats do not indicate who was at fault, one thing is clear, we all have work to do to continue to promote and improve road safety.
This point was driven home even further with the tragic accident involving the Humboldt Broncos on April 6, which resulted in 16 deaths. The accident itself is still being investigated by the RCMP.
Most of us have been taught over the years, and I am a firm believer of this, all accidents are preventable. There are, of course, several factors and conditions that can lead to accidents, which are beyond the control of the driver.
Did a poorly designed construction zone contribute to the collision? An improper intersection design? Insufficient road maintenance? Sudden weather change, such as a snowsquall causing a whiteout? These are just a few examples of conditions that are beyond the control of a driver and that may contribute to an accident.
No matter what the circumstances, however, the biggest factor in any accident is still human behavior and error. I think we can all agree no one gets in their vehicle, heads out on the road, and intends to go out and cause an accident. Most of us are just trying to get to and from where we need to go, and some, like truck drivers, are doing it to make a living and provide for their loved ones while delivering the products and services we all need.
In spite of this, accidents do continue to occur – and likely always will – as no perfect human has been born, and we all make mistakes. Because of this, we must never let our guard down, and we must continually strive to improve the safety of our roadways – by whatever means necessary – to make them as safe as possible.
Distracted and aggressive driving has become an issue that seems to get worse with every passing year – for all road users – and commercial vehicle operators are not immune from this. It is a societal problem that has become an epidemic on our roadways.
It will take a multi-faceted approach – from all segments – to improve road safety. Several stakeholders and partners will have to work together. This requires all partners to look internally and admit their faults. We, in the trucking industry, are part of this process. We should all be proud of the safety record of this industry, but at the same time we need to investigate our warts, and be willing to find ways to remove, or improve those in our industry who don’t want to play by the rules. It is always easiest to point the finger of blame elsewhere, but the biggest effect on safety we will ever have, is by changing our own behaviors, and helping others improve theirs.
You will be glad to know, progress is already being made. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation, the OPP, and several trucking industry representatives and associations, have been working together since the fall of 2017 to come up with a way of improving the safety of our roadways.
No stone is being left unturned – egos and agendas have been checked at the door, and the groups are simply trying to do what they can to promote the safest roads possible. I have been lucky enough to be involved in this process and have been thoroughly impressed by all. It is great to see the different sectors, who can sometimes be thought of as being at odds, all working towards the same common goal.
Out of this group will come strategies and forward-thinking plans to achieve the improvement we hope to see. Some areas being looked at are enforcement, monitoring, technology and infrastructure, public education and communication, research, and data and training. All of us working together is the best way to get results.
Mike Millian is president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, the only national association that represents the views and interests of the private fleet industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.