Shuniah, Ont. — A new commercial truck-inspection station in Shuniah will be more effective — and worth its $30-million price tag — if it’s staffed with inspectors who keep regular hours, says NDP MPP Lise Vaugeois. Vaugeois, who drove by the nearly-complete Highway 11-17 station located in her riding just a few days ago, said she’s worried unsafe trucks will go sailing past unchecked if it isn’t open most of the day. “Ideally, it would be open all day, 24-7,” Vaugeois (Thunder Bay-Superior North) said Monday. “But at least 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. It’s the only way we’re going to improve safety for truck drivers and the motoring public.” So far, the Ministry of Transportation, which is to operate the station, hasn’t said what kind of operating schedule it will have when it’s ready for service sometime this fall. A department spokeswoman said it will be staffed with ministry enforcement officers “according to operational need.” She added: “The number of inspections performed (per year) will be dependent on a number of factors — including traffic.” Shuniah Mayor Wendy Landry also said she would like to see the station staffed on a regular basis. The 4,320-square-foot facility is being built by Sudbury-based Teranorth Construction on the north side of the Trans-Canada Highway about seven kilometres east of Thunder Bay. It replaces a previous MTO inspection station that was torn down a few years ago near Red Rock to make room for a new section of four-lane highway. That section is now complete. Travis McDougall, a Kitchener, Ont.-based trucker who routinely travels through Northwestern Ontario on the way to Western Canada, said in his experience MTO inspection stations are closed more than they are open. “Very few (weighing) scales in Northern Ontario are open on a regular basis, if ever,” said McDougall, who founded the advocacy group Truckers For Safer Highways. At various times throughout the year, MTO inspectors and provincial police officers team up to conduct highway safety blitzes, which often result in transport trucks being taken off the road. In January this year, one such blitz along Thunder Bay’s Dawson Road and Highway 102 corridor saw 15 trucks being ordered off the road for safety violations, including insecure loads, poor braking systems, speeding and incomplete record-keeping. “Drivers can significantly reduce the number of (large truck) collisions by sharing the road safely,” police said at the time. Earlier this year, Vaugeois called on the provincial government to mandate “a separation between training schools and employers” to provide a higher standard of instruction and ensure drivers are fully qualified before they get behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler. “Every day, we close (provincial) highways for collisions, and someone loses their life at least once a week,” Vaugeois said. “I’ve had (OPP) dispatchers write to me about these fatalities and ask me how we can stop inexperienced drivers coming through our province,” she added.

By CARL CLUTCHEY, LOCAL JOURNALISM INITIATIVE REPORTER

Original Published on Jul 25, 2023 at 10:00

This item reprinted with permission from   The Chronicle-Journal   Thunder Bay, Ontario
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