Truck driver stuck almost 3 days due to northern Ontario highway closure calls for better updates

An independent truck driver from Winnipeg was stuck on a stretch of northern Ontario highway for nearly three days, and says the province needs to do more when there are road closures.

On Monday, Jan. 14 the Ontario Provincial Police closed Highway 17 from Batchawana Bay to Wawa due to snow squalls in the area. The stretch of highway reopened on Thursday, Jan. 18 at 8:25 a.m.

Dean Robertson got stuck in a long traffic jam of transport trucks along that section of the highway on Tuesday, Jan. 15.

He said the 511 app, which has traffic and weather condition updates for Ontario highways, hadn’t been updated for some time when he checked while stopped in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

He assumed that meant the road had been reopened.

“And when I got to Batchawana Bay there was all of a sudden this long lineup of trucks,” Robertson said.

Because Highway 17 is a two-lane highway in that area, Robertson said it was impossible for the trucks to get turned around.

“We have 53-foot trailers that you can’t just turn on a dime,” he said.

“Even a car would be difficult to turn around because you’ve only got one lane to be able to turn around with.”

There were also no gas stations or stores along that stretch of highway, so truck drivers had to rely on their own supplies while they were stuck.

Not all drivers prepared for a storm

Robertson said he was fortunate to have enough food in his truck to last him while he was stuck, but not all drivers were so lucky.

He said he was able to turn around his truck early Thursday morning when OPP officers arrived with a front loader to clear an intersection ahead of him along the highway.

But because that happened at 1 a.m. he said a lot of truck drivers were sleeping and missed their chance to get turned around.

Robertson doesn’t think it should have taken days for the OPP to render assistance, and they should have done more to let truckers know they were there.

“I’m very grateful for what they came and did” said Robertson. “They got me out of there but they weren’t stopping at truck for truck. So only, I would say, a third of the tracks that were backed up actually got to exit.”

While Robertson said he had enough diesel and food to make it through, he said it was different for many others.

“Some of them are living hand to mouth so they can’t just stock up on loads and loads of of food and stuff like that,” he said. “I was fortunate that I own my own business, and I can.”

He said there was also the concern of truck drivers running out fuel.

“People say, ‘But oh, you should always be full,'” he said. “You should always have three quarters full, but some company drivers are only permitted to fill at certain points”