Truck collisions surge in Ontario

by Abdul Latheef

TORONTO, Ont. – “People are dying,” Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said in frustration as he recounted grim crash statistics involving commercial vehicles in Ontario.

Last year, there were 8,432 crashes and 96 deaths involving trucks in OPP patrolled areas. That was the highest number of commercial vehicle collisions and fatalities in more than 20 years, according to the force.

OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt
OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt. Photo: Newcom Media

“The number of deaths last year were far greater than the previous year,” Schmidt said Thursday.

In 2018, there were 7,719 crashes, resulting in 62 deaths.

Truck crash
Photo: Today’s Trucking

Operation Safe Driver Week

Schmidt spoke to our sister publication Road Today, ahead of Operation Safe Driver Week, which kicks off Sunday.

Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation and the OPP are partners in the campaign, organized by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA).

Speed is again the focus of this year’s campaign, because it continues to be a factor in at least a quarter of all fatality crashes, according to Chris Turner, CVSA’s director of crash and data programs.

“It doesn’t mean speeding was necessarily the cause, but speeding was identified by at least one of the vehicles in a collision,” he told Today’s Trucking in an interview.

In Ontario, 1,249 of last year’s collisions were linked to speed, with 11 of the incidents resulting in fatalities and 246 of them causing injuries.

“Our investigations reveal that speed, improper lane changes, following too closely, driver inattention and losing control were the top contributing factors in last year’s commercial motor vehicle collision,” said Chief Supt. Rohan Thompson, commander, OPP Highway Safety Division.

“With commercial and passenger vehicle drivers linked to these and other poor behaviors every year, all drivers have a role to play in keeping our roadways safe.”

Daily inspections

While Operation Safe Driver Week is an annual event, the OPP keeps a close watch on people’s driving habits on a daily basis, said Schmidt, who was inspecting trucks as we spoke Thursday.

He said officers earlier in the day pulled in a few commercial vehicles.

“As the officer was pulling this truck over, he was getting peppered with rocks and gravel.”

– OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt

Some were overloaded while others did not have brake lights, or had insecure loads. Schmidt said the drivers were not doing their daily pre-trip inspections and not keeping their vehicles properly maintained.

“I just posted a video of a truck with gravel off the back of the tailgate. And as the officer was pulling this truck over, he was getting peppered with rocks and gravel.”

He said the Greater Toronto Area had the highest percentage of fatal crashes because that is where the vast majority and the biggest congestion of trucks are going to be.

“They are happening all the way across the 401 corridor, up through highway 11/17, right through the Manitoba-Quebec borders, and down into the United States.”

Highway 50

One stretch of highway that has been in the news lately is Highway 50, which is surrounded by trucking and logistics companies.

In the past two years, OPP said it responded to 18 collisions involving heavy vehicles on the highway.

“There is a lot of truck traffic, and if there’s a collision, there is a good chance a truck is going to be involved in that wreck,” said Schmidt.

“I am pretty sure that half of these drivers don’t even qualify to be a driver.”

– Social worker Prabhjot Kainth

Social worker Prabhjot Kainth, who lives near Highway 50, knows all about it.

“Every now and then, you would hear police sirens going toward that direction, and I think it is a little sad,” Kainth told Road Today.

“Even during Covid times, people don’t understand.”

Kainth believes some of the truck drivers are not fit for the road.

“I am pretty sure that half of these drivers don’t even qualify to be a driver.”

Have your say

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  • Prabhjot Kainth has it right when he says half the drivers don’t qualify to be drivers and are not fit for the road.

  • With the implementation of speed reduction and maximum speeds for trucks I was never a believer in safer roads out East and that it would work. After 42 years of driving mostly heavy haul I figured if you loved what you done you would be a success and fairly safe individual. Owned and operated my own equipment and company for near 20 years. If your in it because your to lazy to do some thing else and you don’t really love it or like it, you will never be any good at it. I watch and have been around people who say ” I only do it because there is nothing else to do” Maybe with all the new rules and other hoops they go through ,they drive to fast, corner to fast. I live in Houston TX and i am slowing up for a red light or stop sign and look in the mirror and there is a big truck still making smoke racing to the red light and then it is all brakes. And as we all know you don’t make a lot of them stops before you don’t have brakes. BTW,my last speeding ticket was 1983 bottom of the Ponoka hill, 8 KM over posted. Retired and now just try to stay out of the way of some of these new drivers. I do not know if they do it ,but do they in these crashes keep track of ethnic back grounds of the drivers. I for 1 would be interested in the findings. Like we used to say in the day ” We would rather talk to ya than to talk about ya” Be safe folks

    • Race isn’t an issue. The demographic is changing and what was once the majority is now the minority. It’s how we train these new drivers that us the real problem. Companies don’t invest in training as much as they used to.

  • Prabhjot Kainth, this guy hit the nail on the head. But the ministry will not admit there is a problem with rogue companies and big companies that are allowed to train their own new drivers and test them. Gov’t is to blame for this and the lack of charges being laid because they want quantity over quality inspections so crap equipment and crap drivers are allowed to drive on the roads and keep killing people.

  • The comment of not fit to drive is so true. Inexperienced drivers working for peanuts under Driver Inc. Employment

    • That’s a crock. Elogs have been around for many years among the large carriers. This uptick in accidents is a recent problem. The biggest problem is getting people off of their phones and pay attention.

      • yes thats true, elogs got nothing to do with whats happening on the road , driving Schools and Ministry of Transportation is to blame , Schools don’t give proper training and Ministry just dont give a crap and pass everyone…. system has to change

    • They know what the problem is but fail to address it head on. 34 years on the road and the last 15 have been a nightmare. Its the new drivers causing the problems all across Canada. Time for the enforcement officials to quit sitting on their hands and start pulling these guys over. They were the same group responsible for the need for speed limiters. Its absolutely absurd that the OPP and MTO won’t do anything about it.

    • Elogs dont drive the truck …. you do…. and in many many cases those who do do not have the training or the skill to deal with every situation that the road throws at you…. learning on the fly does not work anymore… blaming an electronic baby sitter is the reason why there is so much of an increase is simply hogwash

  • Someone (the MTO) gave them a licence.
    Someone hired them, presumably after a company road test.

    Perhaps it’s just too easy to pass the road test and too many employers willing to take on poorly trained drivers.

    We have to get very serious about how we license commercial drivers – current system does not work. Compare to becoming a hair dresser – it’s a skilled trade – driving is not.
    MELT training is not working – licensing mills are back in full force. They just learned how to do the paperwork.
    There are approx. 7 inspectors in Ontario for over 750 private career colleges in Ontario.
    Serco – Drive Test is a private for profit contractor for the MTO – a one hour test comprised of 4 lefts, 4 rights a backing maneuver – be able to answer 7 questions related to Schedule 1 is not enough!
    Most good, safety conscious carriers will not accept that as a hiring standard and rightly so. Minimum MELT training is not enough either.
    The government and public must get serious about training and licensing – a much stricter training curriculum and apprenticeship is required.

    And – stats just showing truck involved in crash is not informative. For example, majority of lane crossings and head on crashes are found to be the fault of the car driver (distracted etc) It is physics that is at issue here – car vs truck.

    10 plus years of licensing mills and poor training and easy road tests have led us to these deaths. Record who did the company road test and what was required, record where and who passed their MTO road test, record where they got their initial “training” at what “school”. You’ll quickly see the patterns – and STOP them.

    Amazes me we can shut down the economy – create billions in debt – get people to where masks, but can’t enforce proper training and licensing.

  • True for sure a n d I believe that it’s because of a lack of training on the COMPANY’S part.
    You just can’t throw a new driver fresh out of school into a truck without proper training. There are so many companies doing this.

  • How is this person qualified to know if half the drivers are not qualified by being a social worker and not a qualified AZ instructor or Service Ontario Driver Examiner?
    As far as I am concerned I drive AZ all day in the city for the last 24 years and see many car accidents. I guess half the people driving cars are not qualified to drive either!
    On a good day running city if you are cut off 6-7 times a day by a car cutting in on you is a good day. Does anyone who drives a car think how much weight is that truck carrying?
    Just one last questions I never understood if you drive a tractor trailer you are governed to 105 km but these dump trucks being DZ with no trailer can run as fast as the truck will go with a full load of gravel? And we will not even talk about buses that carry people both GO and the ones running up to Rama. No speed limiters when your cargo is human

    Just my rant

  • Elogs stop me when im awake and start me when im tired.. They are a joke and the government should seriously consider stopping the elog mandate. Their are audits all the time why does everyone think im driving 17hrs a day? U cant hide it. QUESTION: how many of these collisions are caused by american trucks? Theyre far more regulated than us.

    Push the good drivers out of the industry due to overregulation. If u pay peanuts u tend to get monkeys driving.

    • I don’t think it’s Elogs. I think it’s more about drivers who are running to or from the US. In Canada our log rules are very reasonable – not so much in the US. That 14 hour rule has most drivers watching the clock constantly and racing to beat it. I started driving in1966 and come September it’ll be a year since I’ve driven in the US. And I’ve seen drivers race through construction areas, race through heavy traffic because they’re trying to beat the clock.

  • Start enforcing this would be a start.

    Driver unable to turn out is to stop
    (7) Where one vehicle is met or overtaken by another, if by reason of the weight of the load on either of the vehicles so meeting or on the vehicle so overtaken the driver finds it impracticable to turn out, he or she shall immediately stop, and, if necessary for the safety of the other vehicle and if required so to do, he or she shall assist the person in charge thereof to pass without damage. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 148 (7).

  • Why do we need 3 in a truck ? Training is the biggest problem and Policing .been at this job for 54 yrs and still at it at 70 .Seen Lots of changes . I travel From Cochrane to The GTA twice a week . Lots of tailgating going on and Police don’t do anything .Yes I know they can’t get them all . But when they see it they should react.Then lets get some of them 4 wheelers also

  • You don’t mention the number of accidents where the commercial vehicle was at fault compared to the passenger vehicle being at fault! Why? Is it because the percentages are higher for passenger vehicles?

  • As a commercial driver of over 20 years, I can agree that well over half of the CDL holders are unfit to operate a commercial motor vehicle on North American highways.

  • More truck drivers are driving faster in a desperate attempt to make a living and not loose truck or home
    Some method of a minimum rates per hour for both the drivers and to truck must occurre
    The current model in Ontario has over 40 percent of small trucking companies under 10 trucks loosing money and over 80 percent of bus companies under 25 buses and or vans loosing money
    The Federal government wage subsidy and E logs is just making truck and bus drivers more desperate. Nobody voice is being listened to except the larger companies and the trucking ass

  • A great start to solving this problem would be to amend and enforce the CVOR system. Start with holding carriers fully responsible for the multitude of drivers and O/O that they use under the guise of being independent companies. MTO is suppose hold carriers accountable for all vehicles under their management but they don’t. They let these companies operate multiple trucks with only a few actually on their own CVOR. The second step should be apply CVOR points to the drivers as well. When a driver is caught doing something illegal or unsafe he or she gets the same CVOR points as the company. When the driver accumulates let say 20 points they loses their AZ/DZ for 3 months. The next time they lose their AZ / DZ for a year. Now you will see drivers checking their equipment, keeping their distance and watching their speed because they will be out of work if they don’t. Do this and rigorously enforce the system and the roads will likely clean up pretty quick. Yes there maybe even a greater shortage of drivers but like one other respondent suggested is the issue quantity or quality of operators both drivers and companies.

  • That MELT program sure has been a resounding success hasn’t it…The OPP & the MTO should look in the mirror to see who’s to blame!

  • that is true there is a lot of guys driving a tractor trailer that should not be on the road and now here is the question how these guys had their driver licence being non competent for it , my suggestion is may be a closer look to the schools where these guys had their certification for their permit , I think the problem stars from there if they do not have the competency they should not have this kind of permit and being a big risk for everyone on the road,

  • The real question is who’s giving out the driver’s license in the first place. I’m petty sure it’s the MTO . There shouldn’t be a AZ license issued unless the driver can drive a standard transmission . Having learned how to used the transmission on loaded trucks. The automatic transmission is the down fall of the trucking industry most new drivers can’t drive a standard shift and there out there with a loaded tractor trailer or dump truck driving it like it’s a sports car. I see this every day on hwy50

    • Exactly, they dont understand the power to load ratio. . I work for a company a younger kid took out 4 cars on the 401. He never got his liecence in a standard truck. He just knew how to steer it and let the automatic shift for him. A standard transmission also aids with slowing down a truck when going down hill. He was going downa hill doing what I heard was 118 km per hour before he plowed into the cars. If he would have been driving a standard and had been in the proper gear ( i was taught what ever gear you go up a hill you also go down that gear) i bet his truck would have been going a safer speed

  • My truck is governed to 105. It is nothing to have a truck fly past you like you are sitting still. I am not the best driver in the world, but some drivers either need to go back to school or hand in their licence.
    Courtesy is rare, driving in the right lane so people can pass in the centre lane is on the decline, pacing the other driver holding up everyone because both trucks are equal is often seen. Tailgating is on the rise.
    I had a truck so close to me, I couldn’t even see him in my mirrors unless I moved over slightly. Didn’t even know he was there.
    We need to look at ourselves before the MOT and police crack down on everyone because of some rogue drivers who probably should not be on the roads.

  • How about building double lane highways on highways 11 and 17. TransCanada highways should all be double lanes. Changing the speed limit from 90 kmh. to 100 kmh This is not GTA but we definitly need to double this route. Thanks

  • But yet the OPP do nothing on the northern highways 11 and 17. They could easily spend all day writing tickets for tailgating, speeding, following to close, dangerous passing. But yet they don’t. Probably because they would be found to be picking on the new drivers. Drivers who are not fit for the road. Start enforcing the rules. They know there’s a huge problem and do nothing about it. And people wonder why drivers my age are looking to leave the industry. It’s Russian roulette every time we leave the house. How many more needless deaths before the OPP actually does something about it. Anytime they’d like to come for a ride across hwy 11to see what we really deal with all day and night not just the little 401 issues I’d be glad to show them.

  • Rate suppression is at the heart of a lot of the problems – I saw linehaul rates Toronto to Calgary/Vancouver drop to early 80’s levels in early June, it was nuts. Most of the “open market” rates are lower than they were 15+ years ago…

    If you take the money out of the system, carriers are forced to start cutting corners, and those who undercut at any cost win the bids – carriers that try to operate responsbily can’t compete. Transit time expectations are also obscene, they leave no flexiblity & so everyone is running their asses off trying to keep up. Carriers have completely lost control of the narrative, shippers & often-predatory middlemen rule all – they set the appointments based on what barely works in a perfect world, and you are harsly financially penalized if you don’t make it, regardless of road conditions, fatigue, etc.

    Our systems of licensing & enforcement are almost entirely re-active, not pro-active, and the race to the bottom in the freight world is creating a very hazardous road environment.

  • Hwy 11/17 and two highways between 128 accidents in 108 days 11 fatalities. That is am 8.6% chance of dying if you are involved in an accident with a tractor trailer.

  • The big problem is the inexperience of these truck drivers. 4-5 people in their truck, feet on the dash board .. texting and not looking at the roads . Yes speeding is also a factor. I had a transport pass me doing 117 km. Something has to be done about these illegal trading xompanies giving a license to whoever walks in their offices . I’m personally fed up!!!

  • Not hard to c the problem the drivers are under paid pushed rushing with this new E-LOG if rates wheee better the equipment will b too and now that your told to sleep cause your computer is tired crack sh– is the industry’s being governed by non truckers so wake up government and everything u do is wrong why not ask a driver that’s been out there for over 35 years not a educated employee that is over paid sitting in a chair till u wake up this is only going to get worse dump a– government nothing taught to u can help it’s hands on experience is what’s needed 35 years plus this year and I’m almost had enough trucking was always my dream now it’s a nightmare

  • For drivers who are questionable , retest their driving . Road side checks often. Take them dangerous drivers off our roads. And hold hiring truck company responsible 110%. It all starts from the hiring !