The Toronto Star
February, 2000

Blitz Snares Unsafe Trucks

Nearly 70 per cent of inspected rigs taken off road

Theresa Worona refuses to give up.

Five years after her sister Angela was killed by a flying truck wheel, Worona was back looking under trucks again yesterday, still shaking her head at the conditions of some of the rigs snared in a day-long blitz.

"I do have a hard time believing some of these truck drivers and companies never seem to get it through their head," said Worona, 32, who spent several hours watching inspections during the fifth annual Angela Worona Memorial truck blitz yesterday.

"I know truck driving isn't an easy job.  It's hard work.  But truck driving isn't for dummies, either," she said.

Fifty-nine of 86 transport trucks inspected at Pickering's Metro East Convention Centre yesterday - 68.6 percent - were ordered off the road at least temporarily during the blitz by officers from Durham and Toronto police, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the transportation ministry.

"Some trucks were a jacknife looking for a place to happen," said OPP Sergeant Cam Woolley, head of the force's Truck Troopers unit.

"Some of these rigs wouldn't have been able to stop.  If the driver had to brake hard, the trailer would have jacknifed."  Woolley said 64 charges were laid, ranging from operating an unsafe vehicle to having defective brakes and unsecure loads.

"We had one guy whose truck's licence sticker expired three years ago and it was unsafe.  It was smashed-up old piece of junk."

At least 25 trucks were in such bad shape that their plates were pulled and they had to be towed away, police said.

Another 14 drivers were charged with speeding during the blitz, also held in memory of Jamie Tyrrell, Robina Campbell and her daughter Mary Jessiman, all killed by runaway truck wheels.

It was five years ago yesterday that Worona's sister Angela, 31, was killed as she drove along Highway 401 in Whitby.

Without warning, a wheel snapped off an eastbound tractor-trailer, bounced over the guard rail and smashed into her westbound Pontiac Grand Am, crushing the car.  In all of the cases, the wheels that flew off had been improperly installed and poorly maintained.

One of the first vehicles Worona saw yesterday was a flatbed with several cracked wheels, carrying a load of lumber. "These cracks didn't happen overnight," Worona said.  "Where is the maintenance?  It's a scary thing."  The person who was inspecting said he didn't think it would make it all the way to Toronto.

"Fortunately, it was caught and stopped before he had the chance to see if he could make it."

The inquest into the deaths of Worona and Tyrrell led Ontario to introduce North America's toughest laws for the trucking industry.  They include increased fines and putting unsafe transport trucks in compounds known as truck jails.

Yesterday, companies that were repeat offenders were given a summons ordering them to court, Woolley said.  At least 16 face fines of up to $20,000 and some $15,000 fines were handed out.

Officers also laid six charges in connection with work hours and logbook infractions.

"We started out with an inquest on flying wheels," Worona said.

"But that was just the tip of the iceberg.  When it was all over, there was a much bigger awareness of all of the maintenance and lack of safety within the industry."

by Bob Mitchell