OPSEU slams closure of truck inspection stations

Brings back memories of Mike Harris cuts causing 'flying wheels' and 'dangerous rigs'.

Toronto (5 August 2010) - A decision by the Ontario ministry of transportation to close three truck inspection centres on busy southern Ontario highways poses a grave risk to motorists and should be reversed immediately, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE).

“Memories of the Mike Harris years come back when I recall the last time the government closed down truck safety inspection stations,” says OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

“Those years were marked by so-called ‘flying wheels’ and dangerous rigs that in some cases claimed lives. This is a bad move by the Ministry that should be reversed before a potential tragedy strikes.”

In a memo to ministry employees last week it was announced that truck safety centres in Fort Erie, Winona and Sarnia North will be shut down this year as part of the government’s goal of downsizing the Ontario public service by 5% by March 31, 2012.

The closure of the Fort Erie inspection station – less than a kilometer from the busy Canada-USA border crossing – is especially reckless, the union says. It means that trucks entering Canada can navigate back roads and highways to avoid inspection at the next centre on the Queen Elizabeth Way in Vineland.

The “de-commissioned” safety stations will be transformed into “lay-bys” that will allow weary truck drivers to catch some sleep. But the lay-bys can only handle about four big rigs at any one time, compared to the hundreds of trucks that regularly use the QEW each day.

Closing the Winona inspection station near Stoney Creek means that dozens of trucks hauling loads of steel products from Hamilton each day may avoid safety inspections, posing additional dangers to motorists.

The closures add to what the union sees as a weakening of Ontario’s truck safety inspection system.

The ministry’s two inspection stations on both sides of Highway 11, 25 km south of North Bay, are open 24 hours each day, seven days a week. However, the total number of inspectors has been reduced to seven which means there are times when no staff are available to inspect trucks.

“Reducing the provincial deficit is one thing, but not when it comes at a cost of the health and safety of truck drivers, automobile motorists and the general public,” says Thomas.

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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