New Democrat MP Olivia Chow is renewing her call for Ottawa to make side guards mandatory on big trucks, lauding an Ontario garbage-truck manufacturer that has taken the rare step of voluntarily outfitting its vehicles with this safety tool.
Side guards, which cover the potentially dangerous gap between a truck's front and rear wheels, have long been mandatory on most large trucks in Europe and Japan, but they're not required in North America. The guards help prevent cyclists and pedestrians from falling beneath a truck during a collision and getting crushed under the rig's wheels.
"It's a no-brainer for these side guards to be installed on trucks," Ms. Chow, the NDP's transportation critic, said at a media conference in Toronto on Tuesday. The Toronto MP introduced a private member's bill pressing for mandatory side guards nearly two years ago, but the proposal has not garnered support from the Conservative government.
Ms. Chow is not the only one advocating for truck guards. The Ontario chief coroner's office called for national side-guard regulation last year after reviewing 224 cyclist and pedestrian fatalities. Twenty-nine of the deaths involved heavy trucks, with nearly half of the victims dragged, pinned or run over after striking a truck's side.
Transport Canada, however, has stated the evidence on the effectiveness of side guards is not definitive. The transportation regulator has commissioned studies of guards and of aerodynamic skirts, which also cover a truck's side gap but are not specifically designed to make streets safer. In both instances, Transport Canada opted against moving forward with further testing.
Ontario truck maker David Tanner doesn't think manufacturers need a regulation to act. His Cambridge-based company, Shu-Pak Equipment, recently decided to voluntarily install side guards on its garbage trucks at no cost to their customers. Shu-Pak, which supplies trucks to several municipalities, manufactures about 50 trucks a year.
"While safety rails will not prevent all future accidents, we believe that it is an initiative that will save many future lives," Mr. Tanner said.
Karen MacNeil Hartmann believes so. She has been advocating for guards ever since her husband, Ulrich, died in 2006 after his bike collided with the side of a truck. Ms. Hartmann also points to the 2011 death of Toronto cyclist Jenna Morrison.
Ms. Morrison was five months pregnant and on her way to pick up her five-year-old son from school when her bike collided with a truck and she slid through the side gap. Ms. Morrison was crushed by the truck's rear wheels. Her family and friends are holding a fundraiser on Thursday at The Common, a cafe on Bloor Street West, to raise money to build a reflexology footpath in Dufferin Grove Park.
"We know that side guards save lives, mandatory or not," Ms. Hartmann said at Tuesday's media conference as her two children stood by her side. "How many more deaths need to happen before the Canadian government acts?"