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A day with the truck police

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When roadblocks multiply and holiday deliveries are rushed, the temptation to cut corners can be strong for Montreal truckers. This can endanger other road users. But the truck police are keeping watch. The Press spent a day this week on patrol with two of his officers.

“Wow! I have never seen that. »

Highway controller Steve Etheart inspects James Plante’s truck, which has just lost its load on Notre-Dame Street. The metal structure he was transporting hit a railway overpass before falling on a tanker truck filled with diesel. The result: a minor spill and two damaged trucks.

“It rose, it springed in my door which is completely crooked, it came out, it spread and it went to seek its truck to him,” describes Mr. Plante, who identified himself. “It’s the first time in 30 years. »


PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, THE PRESS

Agent Steve Etheart explains that “drivers are often in a hurry”, especially since many are paid by the trip.

“We are waiting there. They have to write their series of tickets “, he adds, before answering a phone call from his boss, a metal recycler.

Excessive height, poorly secured load, broken mooring system: Mr. Plante took ill-considered risks by driving his truck onto the road. Because the balance sheet could have been much more disastrous.


PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, THE PRESS

Constable Steve Etheart next to a part ejected from a truck after it hit a railway overpass with its load.

If it had been a car, it would have been crushed.

Jonathan Beauvais, Lieutenant, regarding a truck that lost its load

The tanker driver, for his part, “was lucky it didn’t go through his windshield,” adds Constable Etheart.

And that’s not to mention pedestrians or cyclists, who would probably have been killed instantly. Unfortunately, traffic controllers are familiar with this type of drama: they are almost systematically called when an accident involving a truck results in a serious injury or death.

“I am no longer able to hear the trucks”

When the pressure is felt, when the journeys get longer, the temptation to cut corners increases for truckers traveling on the island of Montreal.

Shortcuts through residential areas, driving hours exceeded, red lights burned, trucks too heavy, inspections neglected: this is the daily life of the 300 road controllers in the province, the “truck police”. They intercept approximately 100,000 vehicles each year and issue approximately 30,000 tickets.


PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, THE PRESS

Officer Steve Etheart performs a tire check.

And the officers who patrol Montreal see all the colors. The day before, controllers had intercepted an old ambulance apparently recycled into a mobile pump to steal gasoline.

Lt. Jonathan Beauvais nuance: most truckers – especially those who do long distances – have a real work ethic. “Even if we intercept them a lot, the drivers, they are professional drivers,” he said. There are still a lot of trucks circulating on the roads and accidents, there are some, but not that many. Trucks are overrepresented in fatal accidents because of the size of the vehicle. »

The patrol vehicle is stationed near the corner of Haig and Sherbrooke streets, at the entrance to a residential area where trucking is prohibited. However, it serves as an illegal shortcut for drivers who want to avoid the congestion caused by the works at the bridge-tunnel, located nearby.

“There were a lot of them, a month, a month and a half ago, when [le chantier] had just started,” says Steve Etheart, his eyes glued to the road. “We were two or three [véhicules de patrouille] and it was spinning! »

A few hours later, it’s at the corner of Sherbrooke Street and 25e Avenue that the patrollers will set up. “A lady calls at the office for us: ‘I can no longer hear the trucks passing’” in a street which is however forbidden to them.

Everything is calm for the moment. Flashers activated, the truck of a fruit and vegetable wholesaler is only waiting for a green light to turn illegally. He notices the presence of traffic controllers and changes lanes at the last second.

In addition to the James Plante file, Steve Etheart and Jonathan Beauvais will only issue two statements of offense that day, at the corner of Marien and the Metropolitan: a burned red light and an illegal maneuver. The driver of a trailer transporting cars received a warning, because the mooring of one of the vehicles was unhooked on the road.


PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, THE PRESS

Lieutenant Jonathan Beauvais discovers a vehicle poorly secured on a platform.

“Drivers are often in a hurry,” explains Constable Etheart. Many truckers are paid by the trip and are sometimes willing to take risks to increase their paycheck. Those who own their own truck have significant payments to make. Others are downright careless.

Operation COP15


PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, THE PRESS

Ideally, traffic controllers try to prevent a priori the commission of offences.

Ideally, traffic controllers try to prevent a priori the commission of offences. For the past two weeks, several have been stationed at the entrances to the Ville-Marie tunnel – with a crowd of police officers – to intercept vehicles transporting hazardous materials. These are still banned in the tunnels, but the COP15 meeting just above the tunnel, at the Palais des Congrès, makes compliance with the ban even more critical.

“It’s a big operation,” said Captain Éric Gauvreau that very morning, at the start of the shift.


PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, THE PRESS

Agent Steve Etheart and Lieutenant Jonathan Beauvais monitor the entrance to the Ville-Marie tunnel due to COP15.

Steve Etheart presses the accelerator. With a colleague, he sets off in pursuit of the vehicle of a contractor specializing in the management of batteries – a trade which often involves the use of hazardous substances – which enters the tunnel with a trailer. “In this case, it is completely compliant,” concludes Lieutenant Beauvais after inspecting the cargo.

A little later, colleagues will intercept a mobile canteen registered in Ontario and transporting a quantity of propane much larger than that which is authorized in a tunnel. It will be towed.

Learn more

  • 79
    Average number of deaths, per year, in accidents involving a heavy vehicle. This represents 23% of deaths on the road while trucks represent 4% of vehicles.

    SOURCE: SAAQ, years 2016-2020



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