Truckers start petition to improve safety on Highways 11 and 17 in northern Ontario

Frequent highway closures and collisions are just two of the reasons a group of truck drivers want the provincial government to pay more attention to highway conditions in northern Ontario.

The petition, found online, was started by a group of professional drivers who created their own Facebook page, to highlight their concerns when it came to driving the main highways — 11 and 17 — through northwestern Ontario.

“Some of our friends are getting killed,” said Richard Deschamps, a truck driver who has travelled across Canada for the past 25 years.

“It seems to be an everyday occurrence up there now. People passing on curves, hills.”

Deschamps said a former colleague of his was killed on Highway 102, a shortcut for drivers crossing the country on the Trans-Canada Highway.

He said it feels like there are daily accidents and deaths this winter on the roads between Manitoba and Quebec.

“We want the government to hear what driving and working on these roadways are like for us,” he said.

Deschamps said better highway maintenance, along with better training for new drivers, would go a long way to reducing the number of collisions on roads in the northwest.

The Ontario legislature passed the first reading of Bill 59, the Making Northern Ontario Highways Safer Act, earlier this month.

The proposed legislation was introduced by Guy Bourgouin, the NDP MPP for Mushkegowuk—James Bay. The bill would ensure that Highways 11 and 17 are treated as class one highways, which have the highest standards for road maintenance in the province.

The designation would have contractors ensure the entire width of the pavement, even if the roadway is only two lanes, is completely clear of snow eight hours after a snowfall has ended.

Currently 400-series highways, along with the QEW in southern Ontario, are the only other class one highways in the province.

The bill would allow for other highways to be classified in categories one through five based on traffic volumes.