CAMBRIDGE — Police are raising concerns about inattentive truckers after a devastating crash on Friday killed a truck driver and closed Highway 401 yet again.
The busy highway has been closed five times in 17 days after 10 transports or dump trucks collided at five locations in or near Waterloo Region. Two passenger vehicles were involved according to police and media reports.
“It’s a major corridor with trucks going through all the time and we see these devastating crashes happening, where a truck plows into the back of stopped or slowing traffic, and look at the carnage that happens,” OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said.
Even if no one is killed “it’s absolutely devastating and impactful on everyone else who’s trying to get around the city.”
The spate of morning collisions between 4 and 8 a.m. has led to one death, two reported injuries, two eastbound closures, three westbound closures, and more than 37 hours of commuter chaos. Crashes spilled fuel, damaged asphalt, started fires and scattered debris.
“We believe that truck drivers are the safest operators on the road,” Ontario Trucking Association spokesperson Marco Beghetto said. “But one incident is too many.”
In Friday’s collision, it appears that one transport truck hauling lumber ran into the back of another transport, pushing it into a dump truck that had slowed for traffic, Schmidt said.
The driver of the lumber-hauling truck was declared dead at the scene after he was extricated from his wrecked cab. He was identified late Friday afternoon as Abdual Waheed, 59, of Ajax.
The crash happened just before 8 a.m. in the eastbound lanes near Cedar Creek Road.
Traffic in the area had slowed for an earlier collision near Highway 8.
“An absolutely devastating collision,” Schmidt said at the scene. “Incredible amounts of damage.”
Eastbound lanes remain closed until about 5 p.m., backing up traffic and leading to more chaos. The OPP charged three wrong-way drivers who drove westbound on the eastbound shoulder against oncoming traffic at high speeds seeking a ramp to escape. All face careless driving charges.
OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes said Thursday that police are putting transport drivers “on notice” after three horrific crashes involving big rigs killed six people in July and August. These crashes were not near this region.
“This series of horrific collisions is driver inattention at its worst,” Hawkes said. He called them a tragic reminder of “the tremendous toll on the lives of innocent citizens when commercial transport truck drivers are not paying full attention to the road.”
Beghetto said “a few bad apples” are causing problems and the trucking association plans to work with the OPP and the Ministry of Transportation to reduce aggressive and distracted driving.
The trucking association supports Ontario’s recent move to improve driver training, he said. It aims to promote technology to keep trucks in lanes, to warn of objects ahead, to guard against rollovers, and to prevent tired drivers from fudging their logbooks.
Truckers and the OPP cite different collision statistics in arguing traffic safety.
The OPP says it responded to 13,668 collisions involving transport trucks in 2015 and 2016 and that 155 people were killed. As of Oct. 15 this year there have been more than 5,000 transport truck-related collisions with 67 deaths, the OPP said.
The trucking association says transport drivers are at fault in less than one-third of fatal crashes involving trucks. It says the fatality rate from large truck collisions fell 66 per cent while truck registrations increased 75 per cent between 1995 and 2014.