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Fiery Highway 400 crash underscores transport truck safety

The trucking industry has been under scrutiny since police suggested that a transport truck driver may have set off an explosive multi-vehicle pileup that killed three people earlier this week. But those who train fledgling truck drivers say it’s important for all drivers to understand the perils of the road, particularly when it comes to the tricky mechanics of massive 18-wheelers. Most transport trucks have a brake lag, according to Chris Moulton, a truck driving instructor in Timmins, Ont., which means it takes longer for the vehicles to stop.

“And I think a lot of times, truck drivers forget about that,” Moulton told CTV Northern. He added that, with winter coming, drivers need to be extra cautious. A veteran truck driver from North Bay, Ont. was among the three victims killed in the Tuesday night crash.

He has been identified by his wife as Benjamin Dunn, a father of nine children who held down two other jobs to support his family. Police have not publicly confirmed who was responsible for the crash except to say that they believe the crash may have started when a transport truck collided into slowing traffic. Truck driving instructor Stephen Burns said truck drivers need to be constantly aware of traffic around them.

“When it comes to being a truck driver, your head is literally on a swivel the entire time you’re driving. We really have to watch,” he said. “There are a lot of blind spots on the truck, so there are instances where the trucks won’t see a car and that’s some of the ways accidents do happen.” According to provincial trucking officials, accidents involving transport trucks are uncommon.

The Ontario Trucking Association points out that between 1995 and 2014, there has been a 66-per-cent decrease in fatal collisions involving transports despite a 75-per-cent jump in registries for the vehicles. “Seventy per cent of the time when trucks are found in collisions, the truck driver is actually driving properly, and there’s only two per cent mechanical fitness issues on those vehicles,” said the group’s president Stephen Laskowski. He added that the group is working with the Ontario Provincial Police and the Ministry of Transportation for more driver education and enforcement.

The highway, just south of Barrie, Ont., was shut down for more than a day after the crash. Four transport trucks and two fuel tankers were involved in the accident, police said, adding that thousands of litres of fuel were spilled onto the road. The accident came just days after the OPP issued a public warning about distracted truck drivers.

According to police, 67 people died in Ontario this year in connection with more than 5,000 collisions involving transport truck-related collisions.

With files from CTV Northern Ontario and The Canadian Press

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