Coroner recommends annual truck safety inspections

Saying that the construction industry cannot police itself, Chief Coroner Percy Kinney is recommending that government step in.

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

MICHAELA RODRIGUE
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT — Commercial trucks should undergo annual safety inspections to reduce the risk of potentially fatal runaway tires, says the NWT’s chief coroner.

In his report on the 1997 death of a four-month-old child, chief coroner Percy Kinney calls upon the Northwest Territories and Nunavut to clamp down on unsafe commercial vehicles through annual mandatory inspections.

Jamesie Qaunirq-Mitsima died in Iqaluit after a runaway tire from a dual-wheel flatbed trailer operated by the Rankin Inlet based Kudlik construction company struck his mother from behind.

Kudlik recently won a contract from the town of Iqaluit to do work on a new subdivision near the Road to Nowhere.

The mother fell backwards on top of the baby she carried in her amautik. He later died from severe head injuries.

An investigation later revealed the truck was not licensed or registered for road or highway use. And a mechanic’s inspection found that wheel bearings on the vehicle were dry.

“This vehicle was totally unserviceable for use and they used it anyway,” Kinney said.

Commercial vehicles in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut do not have to undergo mandatory safety inspections to receive a licence or registration.

And some national and territorial road safety codes only apply to communities connected to the highway system.

For example transportation departments in other jurisdictions will conduct safety checks on vehicles travelling between provinces.

None of Nunavut’s communities are connected to highways and drivers aren’t forced to meet national safety standards.

Because cars can’t drive as fast in “off-road” communities, the likelihood of a serious accident is reduced. But in the case of Qaunirq-Mitsima the trailer was moving at a slow pace. Kinney said the death shows commercial vehicles in off-road communities should be forced to undergo annual inspection.

“Certainly in the use of commercial equipment, there should be a minimum standard of inspection to licence it,” he said.

“The industry cannot police itself — here’s a prime example.” Kinney is recommending a very basic check that should be available in every community.

Kinney also recommends the Nunavut government adopt safety standards legislation that applies to commercial vehicles in all communities.

But for new legislation to work, Kinney said the government must ensure strict enforcement.

He’s calling on the territorial government to make sure communities enforce the regulations through their bylaw officers and RCMP. And he recommends communities be allowed to keep any revenues from fines.

“If the revenue was to go to the municipality of the bylaw officer, that would maintain an interest for them in enforcing these laws,” Kinney said.

Kinney has also recommended the territory promote the use of “loose wheel management systems.” These systems keep wheels that would otherwise fall off attached.

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