Travis McDougall, cofounder of Truckers for Safer Highways, is slamming the province, saying "severe issues" continue to affect northern highway safety.
"Without clear and immediate action from the Ministry of Transportation, more lives WILL be needlessly lost on our highways," he said at a Nov. 23 news conference.
"In Ontario, the mandated training time of 103.5 hours is woefully inadequate, with too little emphasis on practical experience. Our proposal is straightforward: trainees should spend 80 per cent of their training time behind the wheel, mastering skills for confident highway navigation.”
McDougall was part of a joint news conference with NDP MPPs Lise Vaugeois (Thunder Bay–Superior North) and Guy Bourgouin (Mushkegowuk–James Bay).
"These issues are not new to the Ministry of Transportation," said Vaugeois. "For years, we've been telling them about the critical need for improved highway safety, particularly in Northern Ontario. The Ford Conservatives are not prioritizing the lives of Northern Ontarians."
The trio claims that inspection stations that can flag unsafe and overloaded vehicles are seldom open and need to be adequately staffed so that safety regulations can be enforced.
“Beyond roadside inspection stations, training schools are also not being monitored at all,” said Vaugeois.
“Eight inspectors overseeing over 500 schools, 200 of which are truck driving schools, is unacceptable. The auditor general identified this issue in 2018, noting that the ministry allows carriers with a poor history of collisions to test their own employees for commercial vehicle driver licenses — with a pass rate of 95 per cent."
They also say new drivers are protesting about their lack of training and the wage theft in the industry.
"The ministry is responsible for regulating this industry. They need to step up, hire inspectors, clamp down on the fraud, and make the highways safer for everyone, commercial drivers and all other highways users.”
"People are scared to drive on highways," said Bourgouin. "The reality is Ontario's highways are not safe, and to anyone who says that they are, I would challenge them to come up north and travel on Highways 11 and 17 during the winter.
"Our truck drivers haven't been equipped to thrive, and subpar standards are becoming routine. They deserve proper training, and road users should feel confident in the safety of our roads. Lack of oversight is putting lives at risk."
Bourgouin points out that northerners don't have other highways and can't bypass accidents and bad road conditions using secondary roads.
"We cannot continue to lose lives. Our highways must be maintained."