Unclear safety benefits – not cost – is the issue, CTA chief says
The Canadian Trucking Alliance, which represents over 4,500 trucking companies from across the country, says it is far from clear that a private member’s bill from NDP transport critic, Olivia Chow — which if passed would make it mandatory for all trucks to be equipped with side guards — would on their own save lives or lead to less serious injury of bicyclists who become involved in collisions with heavy trucks.
And, says the alliance’s president, David Bradley, CTA’s opposition to the bill has nothing to do with cost or competitive issues, as Ms. Chow suggested in recent media reports.
Bradley points to a March 2010 study conducted by the National Research Council for Transport Canada which concluded “it is not clear if side guards will reduce deaths and serious injury of if the guards will simply alter the mode of death and serious injury” and “cyclist advocates who have stated that the biggest problem is a lack of awareness of how to safely share the road with other vehicles and bike lanes which would separate cyclists from other traffic.”
“This is a complex issue,” says Bradley. “While we fully understand the emotions that would be cause for some people to support mandatory side guards, we feel the solution lies elsewhere – in increasing awareness and education and planning for bike lanes.”
He also said there needs to be a distinction made between trucks operating in inner-city areas, which tend to be smaller, non-articulated trucks – trucks without trailers which are called straight trucks and include everything from delivery vehicles to garbage trucks – and tractor-trailer units which operate on highways.
“Very seldom, if ever, will the vast majority of tractor-trailers operate downtown; they are unlikely to ever encounter cyclists,” he says. “Does it make sense that tractor-trailers be required to install side-guards?”
Bradley also notes that an increasing number of tractor-trailer units are being equipped with a different type of device along the sides of trailers (called side fairings) which reduce aerodynamic drag, thereby improving fuel economy and reducing GHG emissions. The National Research Council study found that the kind of side guards contemplated in the private member’s bill “would be detrimental to the drag coefficient of highway vehicles travelling at higher speeds.”
According to figures from Transport Canada, there are about 221,000 registered commercial highway tractor-trailer units in Canada. Given that most trucking companies have at least a 2:1 tractor-trailer ratio that would mean that at least 442,000 trailers would need to have side guards installed on them.
Bradley says he is disappointed that Ms. Chow is using the introduction of her bill to cast dispersion on the trucking industry. In at least one media report today she suggests that cost is the issue and is quoted in the Toronto Star as saying the federal transport minister “is only hearing the voices of the trucking industry.” But, says Bradley, “CTA has a clear track record in advocating for the mandatory installation of technologies and devices that are proven to improve highway safety, such as speed limiters on all trucks, electronic on-board recorders to monitor compliance with truck driver hours of service rules and roll-stability systems. And, for the record, CTA has never been invited to discuss side-guards with the current minister or any other minister in at least the previous 25 years. Nor has Ms. Chow ever discussed the issue with us.”
CTA has also worked with cycling advocates to improve road safety and awareness of sharing the road with trucks.