Truck troubles: McCharles wants big trucks off Petrolia Line

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“It is absolutely ridiculous the number of trucks which go through Petrolia that don’t have to.”

Mayor John McCharles, like many other town councilors, is sick of transports using Petrolia Line as thoroughfare.

In July, Dave Menzies, Petrolia’s director of community services, worked with the OPP to stop transports on the outskirts of town. They were to try to determine why they were headed straight into the downtown.

“We did an education session, stopping the transport trucks on a number of different times and days on OPP assistance,” says Menzies. “We gave them a letter and a map of the county and ask the truck drivers for assistance and not travel through downtown area.”

Often the trucks are grain haulers, heading to Suncor’s ethanol plant. The town has called the company asking it to talk to truckers, but the problem persists.

Menzies says the problem appears to be the GPS systems the truckers use. It sends them through Petrolia because it is the fastest route to their destination. While they don’t have to follow the GPS, many don’t know the alternative routes.

And without a bylaw to stop the trucks from using the downtown route, the drivers just keep rolling.

“There are some trucks which absolutely have to go through Petrolia,” says McCharles noting local deliveries have to go on.

“It is absolutely ridiculous the number of trucks that go through Petrolia which don’t have to – they certainly could be going through the area by another route. You would think after the first trip (through the downtown) they’d look for something better.”

McCharles wants to talk to Warden Todd Case about ways the county can help. Several years ago, the county banned truck traffic on Lakeshore Road. It talked at the time about doing the same on Petrolia Line.

“I don’t know why they can’t restrict the trucks like they do on Lakeshore…they don’t let the trucks go in downtown Sarnia,” says McCharles. “It’s kind of a no-win situation here.”

But Jim Kutyba, general manager of infrastructure for Lambton County, says it would not be that easy.

“There were more negatives than positive with banning them,” says Kutyba. “It was the big things like the businesses and how they would be services without having the big trucks coming through town,” he says.

Kutyba says the town could ask the county to ban truck traffic, except local deliveries, but that would not solve the whole problem. “We’re not going to just be able to ban trucks; they have to make deliveries in town,” he says, “You’re not going to get rid of all of them.”

And he says getting the drivers to change their habits would still require a lot of enforcement even if a bylaw banning trucks through the downtown were passed.

But McCharles says something has to be done. He says aside from the obvious safety hazards, the heavy trucks could be causing damage.

“It is certainly harmful to the road and the base, there is a lot of infrastructure that’s quite old under Petrolia line and that causes some concerns.”

– Heather Wright