Petition calls for end to ‘carnage’ on Hwy 11/17

Richard Deschamps says it’s time for the carnage on Ontario Highway 11/17 to come to an end, and as of Thursday morning more than 7,500 people agree with him.

The truck driver with EGL Transport is behind an online petition, Working Together for a Better and Safer Highway, launched shortly after an acquaintance was killed in a head-on collision along Highway 102, which intersects with the route.

Richard Deschamps
Truck driver Richard Deschamps is behind an online petition looking to end the ‘carnage’ on Hwy. 11/17. (Photo: Supplied)

Deschamps has seen plenty of close calls over his 28 years behind the wheel, even during his daily work running between Montreal and the West Coast. He’s also viewed plenty of wreckage in the pictures shared through the Hwy 11/17 Kills People group on Facebook, which itself has 11,000 members.

But he wants to do more than watch from the sidelines.

“I just started to get tired of statistics – friends dying, near misses, not sure if I’m going to make it home,” Deschamps told trucknews.com, referring to why he established the petition with the support of the Facebook group. “They [politicians] need to wake up and stop the carnage … It’s really a cry from the heart.”

“Enough with the deaths enough with these inexperienced, dangerous and unqualified drivers not respecting basic rules of our roads, enough with the carnage, enough with our safety being put in jeopardy every single time we use highway 11/17, enough with the government not taking these issues seriously, they need to take responsibility for these deadly actions,” a preamble to the petition says.

“Since they don’t think northern Ontario exist, let’s take a stand so they will have no choice but to address these important issues.”

“They need to wake up and stop the carnage.”

– Richard Deschamps

This isn’t the first time that the highway has drawn special attention. Mushkegowuk-James Bay MPP Guy Bourgouin has been championing the Making Northern Ontario Highways Safer Act. This would classify Highway 11/17 as a Class 1 highway, requiring it to be cleared down to the pavement and from edge to edge within eight hours after a snowfall. Currently those standards are limited to 400 Series highways and the QEW, found further south. 

But Deschamps’ concerns focus more on the state of driver training and licensing than the highway itself. He comes from a family of truck drivers and loves the job. But he believes too many inexperienced drivers are being sent out on their own with little experience at the wheel of heavy equipment.

“There’s untrained drivers, people who’ve never been out west out in the mountains, just sent on their own,” he said. A month ago, he spoke to one truck driver who was running the route on his own even though he had never seen snow before. “When I started, that would never happen.”

“Maybe screw down on the training, the companies that are hiring unqualified and untrained drivers and sending them on their own,” Deschamps said, noting that he has also served as an instructor during his career.

He’s not entirely convinced that politicians have been listening. Most of the responses he’s seen are generic, like they were simply filling in the blanks. But some MPPs appear more willing to listen as the online petition gains supporters.

“We’re not going to let this go,” he said, referring to members of the Facebook group.

“I hope all of Northern Ontario gets into this. We need to get together for better, safer highways.”

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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  • Graduated license knowing how to speak,read and,understand one of the two official languages in Canada as well as a compatibility test for languages. Keep in mind not everyone has the ability to be a brain surgeon, doctor,lawyer or,truck driver. Start treating this profession as a trade with total government oversight not a for profit business.

  • I have done the trail many years and I did love highway 11 always because it was quiet until a certain company started to lease their truck to people that never seen snow or don’t even know where they at.
    I stick to cross border safer that way.

  • We need better training and a system of improvement to pay and detention. In my opinion e logs will push experience truck drivers to quit. Other will race the clock and more people will expire. Those that get hurt often end up in homeless shelter in Canada

    • OR we could pay driver’s what they are worth, and those with the skills would chose to drive, instead of choosing other professions.

      Driving a truck is an extremely skilled profession – we need to start treating it as such. Nothing I have ever learned in “training” has benefited me one bit.

      Usually written by those in suits who couldn’t shift a split shift even in a 1/2 ton.

    • Definetly
      When i started out before these so called truck wreck schools Sorry to the good ones
      I went with other drivers friends of mine with experienced drivers cross border, west coast, mountains and all of the such before starting long haul other than local or toronto to montreal and return.
      This should be the way not turn a 80,000 plus lb rig over to an unexperienced driver to go for it.

  • the trucking industry has turned into a joke and it’s a shame, ive decided to come off the hiway because of the carnage, and felt my life was in danger because of these steering wheel holders

    • ou are right and I always look at the other person face being in fear he or she will come on my side i seen it long time ago car crossed the highway in front of me and it was a missed Thank my god that day..

  • The companies hire those drivers who are ready to work 24/7, violating the laws. And if the driver is killed or killed others, then the company changes the name, or the owner rewrites to the name of his wife, mother-in-law, son. This is the clan system. Drivers buy work visas for $ 40,000 and then work in slavery for several years, so they are forced to break all laws, since the salary depends on the number of miles. All the problems of this business are in wage discrimination. If companies paid for the time, then no one would break the speed limit and rest. But lobbying for salaries for miles is too strong, it is beneficial for companies. Therefore, more and more will perish.

  • Too many crazy drivers passing on hills Blind curves total disregard for safety of others speeding not enough training or just don’t give a dam try paying these losers by the hour and not the load and then maybe just maybe they will attempt to slow down same goes for cars and rv’s

    • A milk Co op pays by dock and driving hours but not for lunch or coffee breaks. Almost 30 percent. They get very good drivers my friend makes overtime after 12 hours / day and $43.00 on Sunday based off the log. They had 7 drivers applied for one position pulling tanks.

  • Richard Deschamps is 100% correct.
    To not have one four lane highway across Canada is embarrassing.
    We have so many poorly run trucking companies that have no idea how run a safe fleet. Richard is right when he says we have completely inexperienced drivers crossing Canada.
    Also we have endorse d the weakest entry level driving course we voted get away with our truck safety stats are terrible. Now we are saying MELT is just a start and that too is a joke.
    If true what is currently scheduled after a driver secures MELT designation? Nothing.
    Carriers who already run Driver Inc., are in Facility Inurance and are sending unqualified drivers on our highways will never spend money to upgrade their driving teams .

  • Sadly not enough weight behind the movement and since more of our politicians get any notice is when they break the law or rules. We certainly stand behind the need for better enforcement and service but the reality is that any political party can easily use cookie cutter responses as the article indicates.

  • As an x truck driver and owner i totally agree with your comments. Hwy 11 north of North Bay is absolutely a snake trail. There are so many bad corners and rock trucks preventing good vision.. But we must seriously look at the big problem is the fact of so many unskilled drivers especially in the winter months

  • The influx of immigrant drivers not receiving the effective training and mentoring so critical to operating safely is a major factor in this erosion of safety on our public roads. Let’s face the truth: trucking has not been a sought-after Canadian career for decades. Abusive remuneration system for time on the road, lack of proper training, long hours, mistreatment by carriers, shippers, politicians and by the public–all of these factors have contributed to the present situation. For those who slag the MELT system, do your research before speaking. It was intended, designed and legislated to do one thing only–ensure that prospective Class A drivers received the BASIC knowledge and understanding of the vocation known as Tractor Trailer Driver. MELT simply prepares the candidate to apply for a Class A Licence. It is a good system and Ontario was the first to introduce and legislate the concept. It was never designed to create or produce an experienced veteran. That obligation is the responsibility of the carrier that employs them. Don’t blame MELT for the unsafe or unfit driver–blame the carrier that does not have an effective mentoring program. Blame the carrier that uses unqualified instructors who don’t know what, or how, to teach. Blame the schools who don’t fulfill their mandate and, instead, cut corners. Blame the unqualified politicians who rely on self-serving carriers and schools for input, whose only motivation is $$$.

  • Graduated licensing should also be in the works. Also, mandatory minimum of 2 proven “at fault” accident-free winter cycles or more before any license upgrade. But I can hear companies like Bison, Lightspeed or Scotlynn crying foul…

  • I agree with this article. I have been driving northern Ontario for almost 40 years and really see a real increase in crashes on 11. Back when I started with McKinnon transport we had to run local for at least two months before we could run north. 11/17 was just a skinny road through the bush and lots of times we actually pushed snow with our bumper yet hardly ever saw an accident. Today I see wrecked trucks getting towed back to Toronto every trip. Smarten up you trucking companies.

  • Hwy 17 between Wawa and Thunder bay is a death trap for inexperanced truck driver. Sharp turns on the bottom of a long down hill grade as an example. I saw with my own Eyes a truck going of the road and down on to the beach of lake Superior. I was unable to stop to help ,there was no shoulder to stop on that would keep my self safe.Time to make major changes to that Hwy 17 built in 1960.

  • He’s spot on. This crap needs to end. Law enforcement hasn’t been doing much about this, the media has been ignoring it, the government is pretending it’s not an issue. It’s frightening what’s going on out on the roadways.

  • Politicians never read their emails.
    The Generic Responses are mindless.
    Their flunkies delete any emails rather then take the time to consider them!!!!!

    • Blaine speaks the truth. I have sent emails, with many questions & potential solutions, to all 3 Provincial Transport Ministers [Yurek, Yakabuski & Mulroney, none of which have the qualifications to deal with driver education & road safety] since 2018. Zero response from 2 of them and a stock response from one ‘office’ of the Minister [saying our roads are safer than I imagine–essentially telling to go pound salt], probably crafted by a low level swivel servant. I don’t ‘imagine’ these things–I do my research, much of which is derived from MTO/OPP/ORSAR stats. I review the hard evidence and only then do I pose questions and offer solutions. This avoidance of citizen’s concerns is yet another indication of government failure and a lack of accountability to the electorate…

  • this add is so true i live in northern on and their have been way to many people killed buy stupidly speed on icy roads are one but also the police are not doing much about it either in my opinion this is very sad that people have to loose their lives over something that can be fixed Ive been driving for 35 years and i try to stay off driving 17 in a truck because off this ITS TIME TOO WAKE UP PEOPLE THANKS ROB

  • It will all fall on deaf ears. I quit trucking and got a job in a northern mine. I often have to unload transports that come in with the forks on my wheel loader. On two occasions now I sent pictures to both MP Michael Mantha and Mike Wells, head of the MTO in the north. Pics of transports that come in with NO load securement at all!!!! Not a single strap.
    And drivers that don’t know how to even undo a strap or binder and I had to do it for them.
    And bald tires, and doors bungee corded shut. HAD ACTUAL PICTURES OF IT ALL.

    Know what their responses were?

    “That’s unfortunate. Next time you see that just call the OPP”

    End of story.

  • I drive this route and these incompetent drivers are not only dangerous but racist. I spoke with a Flying J Truckstop employee who had moved up from London ON to east of Thunder Bay. His comment to me on the drivers on the 11/17 was, they can’t believe the number of crashes that have occurred since he has lived there in 1 year. It’s now being considered by many to be a scam Government because no appropriate laws, arrests and charges are being levied against the perpetrators.

  • You can train all you want, if you have no respect for anything or anyone it won’t matter. The new breed think of no one but themselves. It is no longer us.

  • Drove Hwy 11/17 On and off since 1969 Winnipeg to Toronto was always a difficult route especially in the Winter. Today the trucks are twice as powerfull and the drivers are inexperienced and aggressive this combination and the fact that there is exponentially more traffic,and the roads lack upgrading make for a very DANGEROUS scenarios!!!

  • I 100% agree. Something has to be done about this it is totally unsafe to run 17/11 .I been driving for 34 years n in the last five years I seen more wrecks do to unsafe driving. Drivers come rite out of school n head to the coast with no experience at all .I have said for years 17 or 11 should be a for lane hiway just like the rest of the country. The government is to blame for this bs out there today .I like to know how you get a license if you can’t read or write English or French. There’s just to many unskilled drivers out there today do to no EXPERIENCE behind the wheel.

  • There putting far to many drivers out there with no driving experiance . just basic training . 2 week course and out u go

  • I agree, stop sending out unlicensed drivers from other countries that need explicit training from The time they step of the planes. So many people have lost their loved ones and co-workers due to the government handing out licenses to immigrants. My husband and I as recently as tonight where almost involved in an accident tonight along with the driver creating a near head on collision. drivers being in a rush and passing lg and small vehicles causing negligence. Government needs to take closer look at the fatalities involving inexperienced drivers that have never seen snow or any kind of dangerous conditions, but the government will keep handing them out until it’s one of their own and then they will take notice. E-logs are also an issue and causing more to race the test of time because of those, I don’t know how many drivers we have talked to about the issues those things are causing! Wake up government before it’s your loved ones!