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Truck Side Guards Under Scrutiny

Posted: August 1, 2014

TORONTO, ON — Canada’s transport regulator rejected the motion to make side guards mandatory despite Ontario’s chief coroner’s recommendation.

On June 18th, the chief coroner made 14 recommendations upon the completion of a review of 129 cyclists’ deaths since 2006 in Ontario. One of those recommendations was for trucks to be required to have side guards, which he believes will prevent further deaths and injuries. Side guards are also used to improve aerodynamics of trucks.

“We looked at the data that were out there … and there’s good evidence from the United Kingdom that they’re going to prevent deaths and save lives,” said Dan Cass, deputy chief coroner.

But Transport Canada disagrees, and believes the exact opposite: that there is not sufficient evidence to prove that side guards will reduce or prevent injuries and deaths.

“Based on the data and knowledge Transport Canada currently possesses, the department will not be proceeding with a regulation mandating side guards at this time,” Kelly James, Transport Canada spokesperson, told the Globe and Mail.

The motion to make the side guards mandatory came into existence for the first time after Torontonian cyclist Jenna Morrison died last year in an accident with a truck taking a right turn.

It was later found that Morrison was five months pregnant.

But James also said that although the federal government doesn’t plan to move ahead with the side guards, it will examine the coroner’s report, which may “help inform our approach to improving the safety of all vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists) in general,” James wrote in an email.

Provincial and municipal governments have the authority to implement their own truck and trailer regulations within their boundaries but so far none require trucks to have trailer skirts.

Newfoundland and Quebec have got side guards on their government-owned truck fleets.

Some governments have argued that because many trucks run cross country it would be difficult for a single province or municipality to require side guards if the rest of Canada does not.

Transportation Minister Bob Chiarelli told the Globe that although the Ontario Government has not pushed for the mandatory implementation of side guards in the past, it is taking the coroner’s recommendation into account and may rethink its position.

“We will very seriously consider advocating with the federal government that they change the requirements to enable [side guards],” Chiarelli said.

Ontario is expected to release a cycling strategy this summer after closely reviewing the coroner’s report. The strategy includes proposals for new road rules such as a one meter rule for vehicles passing cyclists and mandatory helmets for cyclists of all ages, not just those under 18. The helmet motion is strongly opposed by some members of the cycling community.

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