KITCHENER -- The Ontario Provincial Police are launching a new road safety campaign focused on speeding after a high number of commercial motor vehicle collisions in 2019.

They say the number of CMV crashes last year is the highest in 20 years, and includes a 67 per cent increase in fatalities from the year before.

“We had 96 people die last year in over 84,000 crashes that we were called to on OPP-patrolled roads,” said Sgt. Kerry Schmidt of the OPP.

With the launch of Operation Safe Drive on Sunday, provincial police hope to focus on speeding and other contributing factors in these collisions.

John Way, the owner of Wayfreight Services in Guelph, says he attributes the close calls that they review on dash cam footage to improper lane changes, driver inattention, and losing control.

“We’ve seen an increase in close calls fortunately, not necessarily collisions,” he said. “You need to be hyper aware in these kinds of times.

“Trucks are in a hurry, they’re under time constraints to deliver freight, and cars don’t give trucks the room to maneuver or stop.”

OPP say the majority of the CMV collisions in 2019 were linked to the factor of speed.

“We want to make sure drivers of all vehicles are sharing the road properly and understanding what vehicles are around them and what their limitations are,” said Schmidt.

The campaign will also focus on unsafe driving behaviours.

“We have heavy loads,” said Manader Kumar, a transport driver for West Coast Commodities. “If someone is going to break in front of us it’s hard for us to break in an instant.”

On Saturday, Kumar had a 24-hour drive in front of him to North Dakota.

He says some of the drivers he is sharing the road make him worried about arriving safely.

“They’re driving like firefighters today,” said Kumar. “Every day there’s too many accidents going on, people are driving crazy.”

 Other areas of focus in the OPP campaign include making sure drivers are scheduling maintenance and conducting daily inspections.