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Ontario Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria officially opens the new $30 million inspection station near Thunder Bay, Ontario. Photo: @PrabSarkaria
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Minister Sarkaria officially opens Thunder Bay inspection station

Increased inspections, improved training needed for Trucking safety, Sarkaria says

Local police, politicians and MTO inspection staff joined Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria to cut the ribbon on the Thunder Bay inspection station March 15. Photo: @PrabSarkaria

Ontario’s Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria was in Shuniah on March 15th to marking the opening of a new commercial vehicle inspection station on Highway 11/17, generally referred to as the “Thunder Bay inspection station.”

Located just east of Thunder Bay in the municipality of Shuniah, the $30 million project is part of the province’s plan to improve road safety and transit infrastructure in the North.

“The new Shuniah commercial vehicle inspection station will help reduce the risk of accidents, protect everyone on the road and ensure the safe movement of goods across Northern Ontario,” said Minister Sarkaria. He also noted that improved training for professional Truckers is essential to meet safety standards.

“It’s good to see it open,” Travis McDougall of Truckers for Safer Highways  (TFSH) told Road Warrior News, “but it needs to be open at least 16 hours per day to be helpful. We are looking forward to hearing the announcement of what the operating hours will be.”

McDougall was one of the first Trucking professionals to raise the issue of operating hours for the Thunder Bay inspection station last year, when Ministry of Transportation staff would indicate only that it would be open on an “as needed basis.” One of the major issues being pressed by TFSH is the service status of inspection stations, as McDougall has noted “I can drive from the GTA to the Manitoba border without passing a single open inspection station.”

He acknowledges that standardized hours might encourage offending drivers to attempt to avoid the station when operational. “Ideally, it would be open 24/7,” he says, “but 16 hours minimum.”

NDP MPP Lise Vaugeois (Thunder Bay—Superior North) is also calling for 24/7 operating hours: 

“For years, the Ontario NDP has been advocating for safer roads across the North, presenting common-sense, practical solutions,” said Vaugeois. “While this is a positive first step, we must acknowledge that the Ministry of Transportation has long neglected this issue, endangering the safety and well-being of Northern Ontarians. The lack of truck safety enforcement and chronic staff shortages at inspection stations have led to devastating accidents and frequent highway closures. 

“To be effective, these inspection stations must be staffed 24/7. If truck drivers are on the road around the clock, stations must always be open.”  

At time of this posting, Minister Sarkaria’s office has not responded to Road Warrior News’ inquiry on the planned operating hours of the Thunder Bay inspection station. This article will be updated if information is received.

In Ontario, there are 34 inspection stations across the province where enforcement officers inspect the condition of commercial vehicles and monitor the behaviour and qualifications of drivers. In 2023, the government increased its enforcement presence on Highways 11, 17, 144, and 101, with officers conducting over 4,000 inspections and laying 3,200 charges, including 700 for speeding. More than 1,000 vehicles were placed out of service.

Expanding commercial vehicle inspection facilities is among the actions identified in the government’s Connecting the North: A Draft Transportation Plan for Northern Ontario. This plan was released in 2020 by then-Minister Caroline Mulroney and is intended to help keep more people and goods moving safely, improve travel options for people in remote communities, and support economic growth in the North.

Thunder Bay News’ video coverage of the inspection station opening.