The driver of this propane tanker claimed that the reason why his truck went out of control and rolled over is because he struck a bump in the road. Do we believe him?

It is one of those things we do not talk about in public. Road bumps cannot cause collisions. At least not publicly.

Yet the Kingston Whig Standard was willing to report to the public that, according to the driver of a propane tanker truck, this is exactly what caused the loss-of-control of his truck and subsequent rollover.

This rollover reportedly occurred on Orser Road, just north of Kingston, Ontario. A Googlemaps view of Orser Road in the 2900 block is shown in the figure below. This view was taken in May of 2014 or about 5 1/2 years before this incident. The road surface appears to be a tar and chip material which is known to be less stable than a hard, asphalt paving or concrete. So, depending on how the maintenance was carried out, it is believable that a significant bump could be generated on this type of surface.

Anyone living in the area could easily walk to the vicinity of the tire marks and gouges that would be caused by the tanker truck before its rollover. From this point a walk could be taken for approximately 200 to 300 metres to determine if any significant bump existed. Unfortunately neither police nor the author of the newspaper article provided any indication whether such an exploration was conducted. Whether or not police would have documented the existence of such a bump in any report will remain unknown. The activities of the tanker truck driver will also be unknown with respect to what he/she does in defense of any charges. And the activities of the insurer of the truck in determining where liability may lie will also be kept secret.

There are rare occasions where roadway bumps become so obvious that police and news media have no option but to make them known. An example of this is a “sink hole” that was reported by the OPP in the left (fast) lane of Highway 401 between Brock Street and Thickson Road near Whitby on December 24, 2019. A photo posted on the OPP Twitter account is shown in the figure below.


Much like sightings of rare animal species, sightings of road maintenance workers taking measurements of road disturbances are extremely rare. Here the OPP released a photo of such a happening. Such procedures are generally top secret.

The close up view of the the above photo, shown below, seems to indicate that the road depression is about 6 inches or 15 centimetres. Ontario’s Minimum Maintenance Standards (MMS) indicate that this Class 1 Highway should be inspected 3 times per week. However is that good enough? Published traffic volumes between Thickson Road and Brock Street in 2016 indicate about 151,000 vehicles use this stretch of Hwy 401 every day. If the roadway is not inspected for 3 days that works out to over 450,000 vehicles. While it cannot be known how many vehicles might be travelling in the eastbound left lane, the potential numbers need not require deep thought.

This zoomed in view seems to show that the drop in the road surface is about 6 inches or about 15 centimetres.

Ontario’s MMS also provide examples of what depth and area of “potholes” are permissible and how much delay can exist before they are repaired. But is the depression shown in the above photos a “pothole” or simply a depression? And how with this pothole or depression be measured? Will some investigators use a four-foot carpenter’s level or something much longer? The MMS do not provide a definition and this often means that many highly paid lawyers will argue the point at great length, and expense, should the issue come to trial.

For a paved surface the “pothole” must have a surface area of a at least 1500 cm2, or a square this is about 1.2 by 1.2 metres (or about 4 feet by 4 feet). It must also have a depth greater than 8 centimetres (just over 3 inches). If these conditions exist then the roadway authority is required to make a repair within one week from the time that the problem is discovered. So, if the roadway authority is negligent and does not detect the road problem for one month, does this mean that it now has one month plus one additional week to make the repair? Well this may require another meeting of high priced lawyers, with additional high costs, to make a direction to the trier of fact (judge). Who will pay the bills when individuals need to defend themselves against these massive costs? Legal Aid?

It is no wonder that the tanker truck driver would simply want to plead guilty to charges and then plead no contest to any increased premiums on his or her insurance coverage when the rules are so highly stacked against him/her. That is the least of anyone’s worries as the consequences of not identifying a roadway problem and correcting it in a timely manner could mean the loss of someone’s life. With no one being held liable for taking that life.