Photo: Cornelia Naylor
When crossing a street or cycling along with a large truck in Burnaby, it is reassuring to know that there are laws in BC that say the multitone vehicles must have proper brakes and loads that do not fly off and hit you and the drivers should be trained in operating the large machines.
But does that mean the thousands of trucks and truck drivers who drive through the city every day are actually safe?
According to RCMP Const. Kevin Connolly, more than half of the trucks pulled back by police in the city are not fit to stay on the road and the problem appears to be worse in Burnaby than in other towns in the lower mainland.
By 2020, 62% of the inspected vehicles in Burnaby were taken out of service against 52% throughout the lower mainland.
‘Very, very regarding numbers’
Connolly has seen it all — drivers with driver’s licenses driving large commercial vehicles, a truck pulling a smoky trailer with uncovered jerry cans of gasoline throwing itself around it, a truck with truck driving a large piece of unsecured metal plate ready to fly around a corner, trucks with wobbly tires, trucks with unsecured cargo that can move and turn the vehicle to the one who happens to be next to it, trucks on steep hills (like Royal Oak Avenue and Cariboo Road) where they do not must be, truck drivers who keep getting caught on their cell phones, big trucks with air brakes not working.
“There are times when I want to be down there and I want to ask them to hit the brakes, and the brakes are not even activated, period; there is no movement in the brake pads, nothing, ”Connolly said.
Connolly, a member of Burnaby RCMP’s traffic enforcement unit, has been the expedition’s expert in the commercial vehicle department since training to become a Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) inspector in 2019.
He said he methodically began tracking statistics from his enforcement activities when he saw how little information there was about commercial vehicle safety in BC compared to the United States.
“It became clear from the statistics I got that it was a concern that there were very, very worrying numbers that we saw,” he said.
No dedicated device
The city’s public safety committee began hearing about Connolly’s work in May 2019 in quarterly police reports, and Connolly himself has given two presentations.
The committee routinely hears that more than half of the vehicles inspected in the city under enforcement flashlights with commercial vehicles are taken off the road.
Yet the issue of commercial vehicle safety is not mentioned at all in the city’s 2020 Community Safety Plan 2020 or its draft transport plan for July 2021.
Public Safety Director Dave Critchley said the Community Safety Plan “is not intended to capture all the different initiatives / concerns for each department they are currently working on,” but the city is reviewing the plan and commercial vehicles “have been raised as part of it. discussion. ”
Connolly would like to see the Burnaby RCMP establish a dedicated commercial vehicle unit owned by other Metro Vancouver police agencies, such as Vancouver, Delta and New Westminster.
He said police agencies have set up the specialized units because commercial vehicle safety and enforcement, the provincial agency responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement does not have sufficient resources to perform the job
The BC General Employee Union, which represents 185 members of the CVSE, also told NU that the agency is understaffed.
More trucks, fewer inspectors
But the Department of Transport and Infrastructure said the CVSE “remains a robust and resilient organization.”
“CVSE is active in all areas of the province and provides training and enforcement programs aimed at continuously improving the safety of commercial vehicles on motorways in BC as well as speeding up the economic viability of the industry,” the ministry said in an email.
But staff at the agency have not kept up with an increase in truck traffic in the province.
According to ICBC, there were 49,130 heavy trucks (11,795 kilos or heavier) registered in the province in 2003; in 2020 there were 68,000 – an increase of 38%.
120,000 lower-duty commercial vehicles (between 5,000 and 11,794 kilograms) were also registered in the province last year.
But there are actually 39 fewer inspectors today than there were in 2003.
And the number of inspections carried out by the Agency has also fallen from 26,635 in 2003 to 24,161 in 2019/2020.
(COVID “will have had some impact” on the latest inspection numbers for 2019/2020, the ministry said.)
It would require a “significant amount of training and experience,” according to Critchley, that the local Mounties would address a dedicated commercial vehicle unit, and he said it was up to the local department to “determine the operational effort of their resources.”
After months of training in 2019, Connolly is currently the only local Mountie qualified to conduct Level 1 CVSA inspections, but he has trained his colleagues in traffic units to perform Level 2 checks.
“It does everything I do except crawl under the truck and start looking at the things down below, the transmission, the driveline, the brakes,” he said.
Over the last few years, traffic sections around the region have also come together for enforcement vehicles in commercial vehicles in each other’s jurisdictions.
Since commercial vehicle safety is a regional issue, this approach just makes sense for Connolly.
“That truck, maybe it’s coming from Abbotsford, and it’s moving on to Vancouver, and if those problems are there, well, then it’s a danger all the way,” he said.
Burnaby’s location, right in the middle of the lower mainland, may be why the number of lorries taken off the road here was about 10% higher than in other cities in the region, according to Connolly.
The Burnaby RCMP has not “ruled out” a specialized commercial vehicle unit in the future, according to a statement from the detachment, but its focus is currently on supporting Connolly’s training work with other officers and his cooperation with other lower Mainland police.
“The current system enables our traffic unit to balance (enforcement of commercial vehicles) with other priority tasks, such as speed, reduced driving and distracted driving enforcement,” the statement said.