Ontario wheel losses on the rise: police

MILTON, ON – Ontario police have grounded hundreds of trucks during targeted inspection blitzes in 2017, and are also tracking an increasing number of runaway wheels.

The Ontario Police Commercial Vehicle Committee – representing enforcement teams from across the province – has so far recorded 1,837 inspections, leading to 748 failures and 1,574 charges.

“This is by no means an objective number to look at the state of the commercial vehicle industry,” stressed Waterloo Regional Police Staff Sergeant Mike Hinsberger, in a Thursday presentation to the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada. Officers involved in the blitzes were specifically targeting rough-looking equipment.

But the numbers are still considered high. “A lot of stuff that we’re finding is very, very preventable,” he said.

While some of the rise in wheel separations is due to better reporting, Hinsberger believes the overall total is increasing as well.

One wheel that rolled through the fence at the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s Putnam Scale last year hit two vehicles and caused a fatality, he said as an example. The truck traveled as far as Woodstock before someone caught the driver’s attention, and a wheel on the other side of the same axle was coming loose when it finally stopped.

Ontario has North America’s toughest penalties for wheel losses in North America, holding carriers 100% liable for the situations.

“I don’t know how a wheel fastener gets missed on a daily inspection,” said Halton Region Constable Pat Martin, referring to a time when one just missed a patrol car on Highway 407 in Oakville. “If I can turn [the fastener] with my hand, it’s probably bad.”

Focusing on the need for enforcement, Hinsberger observed Canada records 500 deaths and 2,000 injuries from truck crashes every year. That means someone will die in a truck-related collision every 15 hours, and 98% of the fatalities are occupants of passenger vehicles.

“Twenty-five percent of the trucks involved in fatal crashes have serious out of service defects and should not have been on the road to begin with,” he said.

The tracked blitzes were hosted in York Region at Canada’s Wonderland, Toronto at the Woodbine Raceway, Durham Region at the Pickering Flea Market, Waterloo Region at the Kitchener Auditorium, Peel Region at the International Centre, by Ontario Provincial Police in Caledon, in Halton Region at the Mohawk Raceway, and by Ontario Provincial Police in Burlington.

Each inspection followed the Level 1 criteria established by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

Brakes continue to be the largest source of defects.

“Is this the stuff that drivers should be catching?” Hinsberger said, flipping through images of visibly sub-standard equipment. “I shake my head sometimes.” Documents such as licences and insurance have been found two and three years out of date; one driving school had an instructor sitting in a lawn chair in the cab.

But the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has calculated that every 1,000 inspections will help avoid 19.97 crashes and save .86 lives.

“Things that kill people are falling things – things falling off trucks and drivers falling asleep,” Hinsberger said.


John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, Inside Logistics, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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