Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to participate in today's debate on Bill C-603.
At the outset, I would like to remind all Canadians that Transport Canada has a long history of working to improve road safety in Canada. Transport Canada is committed to the safety of the Canadian public.
A significant portion of the improvements to date can be attributed to Transport Canada's regulatory action in requiring vehicles manufactured in and imported into Canada to adhere to the highest possible safety standards. While this is impressive progress, we fully realize that there is more to do. Together with our safety partners, including the provinces, territories, and interested vehicle safety organizations, we have set a vision for Canada to achieve the safest roads in the world.
Statistics from Transport Canada's national collision database, a database of information on Canadian vehicle collisions, shows that out of the approximately 2,000 fatalities on Canadian roads each year, there are an average of 13 cyclist casualties from collisions involving heavy trucks. However, few involve collisions with the sides of trucks. Transport Canada has reviewed the need for a mandatory requirement for side guards and has concluded that they would not be an effective means of further reducing cyclist fatalities.
In 2005, a U.K. study, which is commonly cited for the effectiveness of side guards, clearly stated that side guards are only partially effective in one type of collision, which occurs rarely in Canada. In Canada, most cyclist and pedestrian fatalities around heavy trucks occur at the front of the vehicle. One of the best means of protecting pedestrians and cyclists is to focus on avoiding this conflict from occurring in the first place. Effective solutions for preventing collisions are the first and best line of defence.
It has been shown that a significant factor in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities involving heavy trucks has been the result of reduced driver visibility. There are large blind spots around these heavy vehicles. Due to this, some truck drivers simply do not always see the cyclists and pedestrians. Thankfully, this is a fairly rare occurrence.
We believe that there is a potential to save more lives if we focus our efforts on improving the ability of truck drivers to detect cyclists and pedestrians around their trucks. Some emerging technologies now offer considerably more promise in reducing fatalities and injuries than side guards. Cameras can supplement mirrors to improve the field of view, and when placed in strategic places on trucks, can help enhance the driver's field of view by eliminating these blind spots. It is expected that in future, cameras will be able to provide drivers with a full 360° field of view around a vehicle.
Transport Canada has begun working with the National Research Council of Canada, NRC, to test the performance of camera systems on trucks. Its research shows that cameras have considerable promise but that the technology has yet to be sufficiently perfected for use exclusively in lieu of mirrors.
Transport Canada's collision investigations have shown that the majority of cyclist and pedestrian fatalities occur at the front of trucks or when trucks are turning, which are cases that would benefit from an improved field of view for truck drivers.
A 2013 study in the United Kingdom reviewed cases of cyclist fatalities when a heavy vehicle was turning. The study included simulations of cases and found that 79% of the fatalities could have been prevented with a collision avoidance system on the side of the truck. Transport Canada has been in contact with U.K. officials to learn more.
Camera and radar systems are being developed today to automatically identify pedestrians and cyclists and warn the driver when there is a risk of a collision. If the driver does not take action to avoid the crash, the vehicle will apply its brakes automatically. Several car manufacturers are currently installing these systems, and they are already available in Canada. It is expected that a similar technology will migrate to trucks once it has been further perfected and adapted for trucks. These cameras and sensors can also help detect pedestrians and cyclists in the blind spots beside a turning vehicle.
Ultrasonic sensors have been used effectively as parking aids for many years. Parking aids detect stationary obstacles using sensors, and they alert drivers with escalating audible warning and can also display the proximity of a hazard. While ultrasonic sensors do not have the range to reliably detect moving pedestrians and cyclists, there are radar sensors and laser scanners that can detect people. These sensors are already being successfully used on trucks to warn drivers about vehicles in their blind spots or obstacles ahead.
With full consideration, it is evident that the side guards are an unproven approach relative to the new safety technologies that are being developed and perfected for heavy vehicles. In addition, these same emerging technologies might prevent or reduce the severity of collisions between trucks and vehicles.
Forward collision warning systems sense when the vehicle ahead is slowing or stopped and alert the trailing driver of a potential collision. Dynamic brake support systems automatically supplement the application of brakes when information from forward-looking sensors determines that a crash is imminent and that the braking force applied by the driver is not sufficient to avoid the collision. Autonomous emergency braking systems automatically apply the brakes when the system determines that a crash is imminent but the driver makes no attempt to avoid the collision by braking or steering around the vehicle ahead.
Transport Canada is committed to studying these emerging technologies in the interest of improving road safety in Canada.
Any federal side guard regulations would have no effect on the hundreds of thousands of existing trucks on our roadways, as these do not fall under federal jurisdiction. However, individual provincial and territorial governments are able to require side guards on their existing locally registered fleets. We note that no provinces or territories have done so at the present time. In addition, upward of 25% of the trucks on Canadian roads are registered in the United States and are not subject to the regulations under the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Indeed, American federal regulations do not require trucks to be equipped with side guards.
Municipalities have a responsibility to ensure their infrastructure accommodates for the safe transportation of all road users. For example, it is up to municipalities where to design for bike lanes and wider streets where there is a demonstrated need.
While the side guards do not show the benefits that many people would expect, the emerging technologies that I have described have the potential to improve safety, not only for cyclists and pedestrians but also for other motorized vehicles. Transport Canada has demonstrated that it has not hesitated to regulate when there is a convincing argument and a clear safety benefit to mandate a new safety requirement. While we are not able to support a regulation for side guards today, we assure members that Transport Canada will continue to review the world's research and conduct Canadian research aimed at assessment of innovative technologies that will move us to our vision of achieving the safest roads in the world.