Northern Ontario, known for its vast and challenging roads, presents distinct challenges for truckers. A comprehensive survey by the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA), involving nearly 700 truck drivers, highlighted significant safety concerns on Highways 11 and 17.
The survey indicates that truckers are deeply concerned about several issues: unsafe passing by other vehicles (84%), insufficient training of truck drivers (80%), a lack of rest areas (84%), an absence of safe passing areas for trucks (80%), and the presence of truck fleets considered unsafe (65%). These findings underscore the urgency to address these matters for enhanced road safety.
In response, the OTA has proposed tangible solutions. These encompass the creation of additional passing lanes and climbing lanes for trucks (79%), improved driver training (79%), an increase in rest areas (79%), and more rigorous oversight of potentially hazardous truck fleets (70%). Furthermore, the OTA advocates for better access to heated toilet facilities for transport professionals (59%), aiming to improve their working conditions.
James Steed, President of the OTA, stresses the need for close collaboration with governmental bodies to dissect the survey findings and formulate effective strategies. The association is actively engaging with provincial and municipal governments, along with other vital stakeholders, to develop sustainable solutions for the short and long term. Geoff Wood, Vice-President of the OTA, has specifically pointed to their collaborative efforts with the Ministry of Transportation to establish new truck rest areas.
The OTA is considering a range of initiatives aimed at bolstering the safety and working conditions of truckers. These measures are focused on addressing the concerns raised in the survey and fostering a safer, more comfortable work environment for road professionals. The collaboration with government authorities and the OTA’s dedication to implementing these solutions represent significant strides towards tangible improvements on Highways 11 and 17.
Vice President Geoff Wood has emphasized the importance of recognizing the unique geographical and climatic features of Northern Ontario. “We’ve heard that Northern Ontario, or let’s call it geography, is important, and that will be incorporated into some of our thought processes going forward. I can also tell you that winter conditions or weather conditions are some other aspects that we need to wrap our heads around”, he said.
This approach highlights the need for specialized training to navigate the distinct challenges of driving in Northern Ontario, where severe winter conditions and diverse terrain require specific skills and knowledge. Presently, Ontario lacks a graduated licensing program for semi-truck drivers, a gap that the OTA intends to fill. Wood equates this proposed initiative to the professional training systems in other fields, such as electricians, suggesting a similar method for the trucking industry.
Consequently, the OTA plans to introduce a progressive training and certification system, enabling truck drivers to incrementally acquire skills and knowledge suited to the unique driving conditions in Northern Ontario. This program is designed to ensure drivers are proficient in the technical aspects of heavy-duty driving and are well-equipped to handle challenging weather conditions and demanding routes.
In conclusion, the OTA’s efforts, backed by the Ontario government and the provincial police, signify the start of an optimistic journey to elevate road safety and working conditions for truckers in Northern Ontario. These initiatives demonstrate a critical awareness and readiness to act, essential for securing a safer and more tranquil future for trucking professionals in the region. This is, at least, the aspiration.