Editorial cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday March 26, 2014
Hamilton’s heavy truck fleet gets a failing safety grade
A troubling spike in collisions by municipal garbage trucks and plows has downgraded the city’s provincial safety rating — and even threatens its legal ability to put those vehicles on the road.
Hamilton’s roughly 400 “commercial” vehicles — those weighing more than 4,500 kilograms, but excluding transit and emergency services — were involved in 120 collisions and 29 convictions over the past two years, according to Ministry of Transportation data.
That’s left the city with a “conditional” provincial safety rating and a violation rate of 87.4 per cent — one of the highest rates among Ontario municipalities. The problems have spurred a warning letter, safety rating downgrade and Feb. 11 meeting with the ministry.
The province considers 35 per cent or less to be “satisfactory,” while violation rates approaching 100 per cent can spur sanctions as severe as forcing an operator to park its fleet.
“It’s a high violation rate,” acknowledged Geoff Lupton, director of energy, fleet and traffic, who said the majority of collisions come from garbage trucks and plows. “I wouldn’t say we’re unsafe; I’d say we’ve had too many incidents and we’re working to address that.”
Public works chair Coun. Sam Merulla called the city’s record “unacceptable,” but added he’s confident in the city’s new plan to tackle the troubling trend.
The plan started last fall when the city formed a committee to tackle the issue and now includes a revamp of Hamilton’s driver safety manual. Lupton said a driving trainer has been working with waste collectors since January and three yet-to-be hired trainers will soon be “embedded” in the roads department. Meetings with drivers are also being held at various public works yards.
Lupton also noted many city vehicle collisions are weather-related — for example, plows clipping cars in storms, or garbage trucks reversing in snow-choked side streets. “A lot of our (staff) are out there in the absolute worst conditions,” he said. “We’ll always have accidents, but we definitely need to make sure there are as few as possible.” (Source: Hamilton Spectator)