News Local

OPP have highlighted commercial crashes

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner

Firefighters observe the wreck of a vehicle involved in Tuesday night's fiery crash on Highway 400. MARK WANZEL photo

Firefighters observe the wreck of a vehicle involved in Tuesday night's fiery crash on Highway 400. MARK WANZEL photo

Tuesday night's fiery, fatal crash on Highway 400 was foreshadowed by OPP highlighting, just last week, the dangerous nature of collisions involving commercial transport trucks.

Two fuel tanker trucks and at least three transport trucks were involved in the 11:20 p.m. crash north of Simcoe County Road 88.

“In light of the news conference just a week ago ... with respect to commercial motor vehicles, it's becoming a very, very deadly combination on our roadways,” said OPP Sgt. Peter Leon.

OPP said last week it has responded to more than 5,000 such collisions this year, with 67 people killed. In the two previous years, OPP tracked 13,668 crashes involving commercial transport trucks that killed a total of 155 people.

“Obviously it's a tragedy that's still unfolding literally as we speak,” Leon said mid-morning Wednesday, of the Highway 400 crash. “It's horrible. Words can't describe what's happened down there.

“It's a route that we all know so well,” he said. “Everybody travels it and to see something that horrific ...”

Police have confirmed at least three people died in the collision.

OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes announced charges at a news conference last week that stem from three recent separate commercial transport truck collisions that claimed the lives of six people, including a 14-year-old boy.

Two of the collisions occurred on Highway 401, one near Port Hope on Aug. 3, 2017, and the other in Chatham Kent on July 30, 2017. The third collision occurred on Highway 48 in the Town of Georgina on July 27, 2017.

In all three incidents, a transport truck travelling on a highway crashed into the back of traffic that was stopped or had slowed down due to road construction or a collision ahead.

The collisions resulted in double fatalities that collectively claimed the lives of four men, one woman and a youth who were all occupants in vehicles at the end of the traffic queue. Several other people, including a 10-year-boy, were seriously injured in the crashes.

The details mirror a fourth fatal collision that occurred on May 11, 2017 on Highway 401 near Kingston. While the OPP has already laid and published charges stemming from the incident, Hawkes acknowledged the deaths of the three men and one woman, all occupants in one vehicle, who died when their vehicle too was struck from behind by a transport truck that failed to stop in a construction zone.

“This series of horrific collisions is driver inattention at its worst and the most tragic reminder in recent history of the tremendous toll on the lives of innocent citizens when commercial transport truck drivers are not paying full attention to the road,” he said. “We are putting drivers on notice that the OPP will pursue every investigative avenue following serious collisions and hold at-fault drivers accountable to the full extent of the law."

The sister of a 51-year-old woman who was killed in a similar transport truck-related crash in 2014 spoke about how her loss has impacted her. She went on to read a letter that her deceased sister wrote her before she died. The transport truck driver in the incident was recently sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted of Criminal Negligence Causing Death.

OPP have a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) collision mitigation strategy which aims to reduce the number of CMV-involved collisions, deaths and injuries on OPP-patrolled roads.

Police have also acknowledged the many safe commercial transport truck drivers and other road safety advocates that help keep Ontario highways safe.

The Ontario Trucking Association has said the industry is committed to road safety, noting that there has been a 66% decrease in the fatality rate from large truck collisions between 1995 and 2014 despite a 75% rise in large truck vehicle registrations.

bbruton@postmedia.com