Transport trucks are an important part of Ontario’s economy. The transportation industry is a major source of employment and is responsible for the delivery of critical materials in our modern ‘just-in-time’ manufacturing and supply economy. Whether travelling on Highway 400 or 401, or along city streets, transport trucks are a large portion of Ontario’s roadway traffic. But what happens when things go wrong? What happens when a transport truck driver breaks the law or is involved in an accident? What charges can be issued by the police and what are the consequences? One such issue that has been in the news recently involved Following Too Closely and Stunt Driving charges.
Let’s take a look!
Following Too Closely
Following another vehicle too closely is a safety issue. If the following distance is too close to allow for a driver to react and stop their vehicle (given better or worse road conditions), a collision can occur. This is incredibly important when comparing lighter cars that can stop quickly and heavy transport trucks potentially carrying liquid loads or dangerous goods. Collisions result in damage to vehicles and property, injury, and even death. A collision on a major highway could result in a road closure effecting hundreds of drivers. Collisions can be incredibly costly to everyone involved and can negatively impact lives for years if not for ever.
Regular vehicles and commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), such as transport trucks, are regulated under Ontario’s Highway Traffic section 158 for following distance as follows:
Headway of motor vehicles, generally
158 (1) The driver of a motor vehicle or street car shall not follow another vehicle or street car more closely than is reasonable and prudent having due regard for the speed of the vehicle and the traffic on and the conditions of the highway. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 158 (1).
Headway for commercial motor vehicles
(2) The driver of a commercial motor vehicle when driving on a highway at a speed exceeding 60 kilometres per hour shall not follow within 60 metres of another motor vehicle, but this shall not be construed to prevent a commercial motor vehicle overtaking and passing another motor vehicle. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 158 (2).
Under subsection (1), regular vehicles are provided a somewhat ambiguous requirement of not following more closely “than is reasonable and prudent having due regard for the speed of the vehicle and the traffic on and the conditions of the highway.” However, subsection (2) specifies that commercial motor vehicles can not be within 60 meters of another vehicle when their rate of speed if greater than 60 km/h.
While the fine for Following Too Closely is relatively small (a $110.00 total-payable fine), the other penalties for doing so are actually quite large. The driver of the vehicle would receive a significant 4 demerit point penalty against their driver’s licence and could also experience a significant increase to insurance costs.
More importantly however in the case of a commercial motor vehicle, the company would face the highest-possible CVOR penalty of 5 CVOR points. This could have a significant impact on the employer, their insurance costs, as well as bring their company into conflict with the Ministry of Transportation. This in turn could result in the driver’s employment being terminated and then having difficulty finding new employment in the transportation industry.
However, something very significant recently occurred in regards to transport trucks and following too closely as reported by Global News:
OPP charge transport truck driver for stunt driving on Highway 401 near London
Ontario Provincial Police have charged a truck driver with stunt driving in an incident that occurred on Highway 401 near London on Sunday.
While conducting aerial enforcement in Thames Centre, OPP say they tracked the transport truck travelling within 10 metres of another transport truck on the highway.
The transport truck that was pulled over was said to be travelling at speeds over 100 km/h.
Gurdeep Singh Dhaliwal of Brampton was charged with stunt driving. His license was suspended for seven days and the tractor trailer was also impounded for seven days.
Using aerial enforcement, which could have been a drone, airplane, or helicopter, the OPP tracked a transport following within 10 meters of another transport truck. That following distance is a sixth of the minimum required 60 meter following distance under Highway Traffic Act section 158(2). However, rather than laying a charge of Following Too Closely, the OPP issued a charge of Stunt Driving under HTA section 172.
Racing, stunts, etc., prohibited
Stunt Driving offences are most commonly issued for driving 50 km/h or more over the posted speed limit. However, the full definition of “race or contest” and “stunt” under Ontario Regulation 455/07 is actually quite complex:
2. (1) For the purposes of section 172 of the Act, “race” and “contest” include any activity where one or more persons engage in any of the following driving behaviours:
1. Driving two or more motor vehicles at a rate of speed that is a marked departure from the lawful rate of speed and in a manner that indicates the drivers of the motor vehicles are engaged in a competition.
2. Driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to chase another motor vehicle.
3. Driving a motor vehicle without due care and attention, without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway or in a manner that may endanger any person by,
i. driving a motor vehicle at a rate of speed that is a marked departure from the lawful rate of speed,
ii. outdistancing or attempting to outdistance one or more other motor vehicles while driving at a rate of speed that is a marked departure from the lawful rate of speed, or
iii. repeatedly changing lanes in close proximity to other vehicles so as to advance through the ordinary flow of traffic while driving at a rate of speed that is a marked departure from the lawful rate of speed. O. Reg. 455/07, s. 2 (1).
(2) In this section, “marked departure from the lawful rate of speed” means a rate of speed that may limit the ability of a driver of a motor vehicle to prudently adjust to changing circumstances on the highway. O. Reg. 455/07, s. 2 (2).
3. For the purposes of section 172 of the Act, “stunt” includes any activity where one or more persons engage in any of the following driving behaviours:
1. Driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to lift some or all of its tires from the surface of the highway, including driving a motorcycle with only one wheel in contact with the ground, but not including the use of lift axles on commercial motor vehicles.
2. Driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to cause some or all of its tires to lose traction with the surface of the highway while turning.
3. Driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to spin it or cause it to circle, without maintaining control over it.
4. Driving two or more motor vehicles side by side or in proximity to each other, where one of the motor vehicles occupies a lane of traffic or other portion of the highway intended for use by oncoming traffic for a period of time that is longer than is reasonably required to pass another motor vehicle.
5. Driving a motor vehicle with a person in the trunk of the motor vehicle.
6. Driving a motor vehicle while the driver is not sitting in the driver’s seat.
7. Driving a motor vehicle at a rate of speed that is 50 kilometres per hour or more over the speed limit.
8. Driving a motor vehicle without due care and attention, without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway or in a manner that may endanger any person by,
i. driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to prevent another vehicle from passing,
ii. stopping or slowing down a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates the driver’s sole intention in stopping or slowing down is to interfere with the movement of another vehicle by cutting off its passage on the highway or to cause another vehicle to stop or slow down in circumstances where the other vehicle would not ordinarily do so,
iii. driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to drive, without justification, as close as possible to another vehicle, pedestrian or fixed object on or near the highway, or
iv. making a left turn where,
A. the driver is stopped at an intersection controlled by a traffic control signal system in response to a circular red indication;
B. at least one vehicle facing the opposite direction is similarly stopped in response to a circular red indication; and
C. the driver executes the left turn immediately before or after the system shows only a circular green indication in both directions and in a manner that indicates an intention to complete or attempt to complete the left turn before the vehicle facing the opposite direction is able to proceed straight through the intersection in response to the circular green indication facing that vehicle. O. Reg. 455/07, s. 3.
There are a few definitions that the OPP may be trying to apply in issuing this offence; such as section 2(2),”Driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to chase another motor vehicle.” or section 3(8)(iii), “driving a motor vehicle in a manner that indicates an intention to drive, without justification, as close as possible to another vehicle, pedestrian or fixed object on or near the highway.”
This is certainly a very uncommon charge for the police to issue in this circumstance. Perhaps there were details of the driver’s behaviour on the highway that were not disclosed by the police that were very dangerous or fit other definitions of Stunt Driving. Another possibility is that with the busy summer months on Ontario’s highways approaching, the police wanted to make a very public and pointed statement to truck drivers. Whatever the reasoning or legal cause, Stunt Driving charges are incredibly serious charges with massive penalties.
Before setting foot in a courtroom, this driver has had his driver’s licence suspended for 7 days and has had his tractor trailer towed and impounded. The truck driver will now be out 7 days of work and income. The employer will now be short an employee for that same period of time potentially impacting their customers that rely on their goods being delivered reliably and on time. The cost of towing and impounding a tractor trailer would likely be somewhere in the thousands of dollars. Who pays that? The low-paid truck driver or the company? All of the businesses that were awaiting their goods and materials on that truck will now be impacted, as well as the other businesses and customers reliant upon them, and so on.
All of this is even before the matter has been discussed before the court.
Keep in mind, that the court may find that the police issued a Stunt Driving offence improperly. The court could also end up dismissing the offence at trial simply based on the objective legal merits of what happened. Even if this truck driver is found to be innocent at court, irreparable harm has occurred to multiple parties due to the police issuing a charge of Stunt Driving rather than the common offence of Following Too Closely.
Even worse. What if the driver simply pleads guilty or is convicted at court? A regular Following Too Closely charge would carry a $110.00 total payable fine, 4 demerit points, and 5 CVOR points against the employer that could result in their termination of employment. A conviction for Stunt Driving would carry 6 demerit points, 5 CVOR points, and could also result in the following court penalties being issued:
(2) Every person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $2,000 and not more than $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both, and in addition his or her driver’s licence may be suspended,
(a) on a first conviction under this section, for not more than two years; or
(b) on a subsequent conviction under this section, for not more than 10 years. 2007, c. 13, s. 21.It is
It is important to note, that the court fine is also subject to a 25% victim fine surcharge. This results in a total-payable court fine ranging between $2,500.00 and $12,500.00 on top of the cost of towing and impounding the tractor trailer and a week’s worth of lost income (if not being entirely terminated from employment). The truck driver could receive up to six months of imprisonment and face up to 2 or 10 years suspension of their driver’s licence depending on their driving history.
A conviction for Stunt Driving would also generally result in no longer qualifying for regular insurance and being forced to seek out ‘high risk’ insurance. This could mean prohibitively high insurance costs resulting in the driver not being able to afford insuring their personal vehicle. This could also mean not being reasonably insurable for driving a commercial motor vehicle. The consequences of a Stunt Driving conviction are staggering in this scenario.
This recent decision by the OPP to issue a charge of Stunt Driving rather than a simple offence of Following Too Closely is certainly cause for all parties involved to pause and consider what has happened. Does the street-level police officer understand the legal definitions of Stunt Driving and the impact that issuing such a charge will have on multiple parties? Do truck drivers and transportation companies now need to pause and take a very hard look at this issue? Families could be financially devastated and transportation companies could be crippled or shut down.
What Can I Do if I’m Charged By The Police?
Whether you are a regular driver or a professional truck driver in Ontario, if you have been charged with Follow Too Closely or Stunt Driving you should immediately seek out help. You are going to need to understand what you are charged with and what consequences a conviction will mean. Hiring a licenced paralegal to represent you at court is generally the most cost-effective may to protect your interests and minimize the stress and anxiety that normally occurs in this situation. Many of these cases can be entirely handled by a paralegal on your behalf without you ever needing to step foot in a court room or ever needing to file a court document. Avoiding a poorly argued defence or legal missteps is critical.
OTD Legal offers a no-cost, no-obligation consultation to help you. Our friendly and experienced staff can be reached via our toll-free number 1-844-647-6869, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by text at 226-240-2480. You can also submit an online consultation request any time of day or night and one of our staff will contact you during regular business hours to assist you.