A Metro Vancouver truckers’ group said the recent rash of trucks with high loads smashing into highway overpasses cannot be stemmed by tougher punishments alone.
Gagan Singh with the United Truckers Association said his group would write to the provincial government in the coming days asking for better training and support for drivers who have to handle oversized loads but may lack the skills and equipment to measure them.
His remarks come after a semi-trailer operated by Chohan Freight Forwarders crashed into a Highway 99 overpass in Delta on Dec. 28, embedding the load of girders into the concrete and snarling traffic for hours.
The Transport Ministry said it was the sixth such incident involving Chohan in two years, and announced the suspension of the firm’s safety certificate, putting its 65 vehicles off B.C. roads as of Friday afternoon.
Singh said responsibility cannot fall on drivers alone, but must be shared with trucking firms, the companies shipping over-height cargo and the provincial government.
He said while the province had made training available to measure cargo heights, such resources were not reaching truckers at street level.
“Truckers may have measuring tape,” Singh told The Canadian Press. “But let’s say if the load is three or 3.5 meters high, or four to 4.5 meters high. So how can a trucker measure that exactly? The way that the accident happened yesterday, it was only a difference of not more than six inches.”
He said the province’s approach of stiffening fines and penalties should be complemented by more support for truckers, and there could be a need for a registry of drivers certified to handle oversized loads.
The Transport Ministry said resources already exist to help truckers measure loads and it is a driver’s responsibility to use them.
“It’s the responsibility of commercial vehicle drivers to ensure their loads meet the terms of the permit they have been issued … it is their responsibility to ensure their load is properly measured, that they’ve received their permit, and that they travel on an approved route,” a ministry statement said.
It said the Provincial Permit Centre could answer drivers’ questions about their permit conditions, and any height restrictions on a route could be checked by using DriveBC’s Height Clearance Tool before setting out.
17th strike this year
According to provincial records, Thursday’s crash was the 31st overpass strike by a commercial vehicle in B.C. since December 2021, and the 17th this year.
Photos shared on social media showed construction girders wedged into the 112 Street overpass and the road, strewn on the highway, and strapped onto the flat bed of the Chohan semi. A Transport Ministry spokesman said the crash had caused significant damage to the overpass.
“This needs to stop,” Transport Minister Rob Fleming said in a statement after the crash. “We know that the vast majority of commercial drivers in B.C. operate safely and responsibly. However, some operators are not getting the message.”
In a joint statement last Friday, Delta police and the City of Delta said they would push for stiffer penalties for oversized-load violations, but also work with transportation companies and others “to address the root causes of these incidents.”
Delta Mayor George Harvie said in the statement that he would speak to Fleming to request upgrades to “aging overpasses” along key routes, bringing them up to “modern heights and standards.”
Chohan has not responded to emailed requests for comment and could not be contacted by phone.
The spate of overpass collisions prompted the province to unveil harsher penalties for companies and drivers with repeat offences on Dec. 14, raising fines for overheight vehicles from $115 to $575.
“This is not a blame game,” Singh said, adding that collisions continue to happen despite the penalties. “This is only to keep the roads and our highways more safe, and keep the community safe. We do understand that in order to keep the community and roads safer, someone has to step up.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 29, 2023.
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