‘It gets worse and worse every year’: Truckers meet in BC with reference to unsafe motorway conditions

Hundreds of truck drivers in British Columbia took to the streets of Metro Vancouver on Saturday to protest what they say is poor road maintenance and dangerous driving conditions.

It is estimated that 150 large rigs gathered in Surrey Saturday morning before continuing in a convoy to downtown Vancouver.

“We will light a candle there in memory of all the truck drivers who lost their lives on the highways who went to earn bread for their families but did not reach home due to the highway conditions,” said Vijaydeep Sahasi, President of the West Coast Trucking Association.

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Truckers say highways through the province’s interior are suffering from a range of serious problems, ranging from potholes to black ice to incorrect or uncut snow.

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Sahasi said the group hopes to get the Department of Transportation to resolve the issue because drivers are unable to address issues individually with each of the 28 contractors who maintain the roads.

“It’s getting worse and worse every year,” said Hardeep Dail, an 11-year-old driver on the road.

“This year it has gotten so bad that there is not a single day during a blizzard where someone is not injured or loses their life due to an accident.”

Click to play video: 'Fatal accidents on Metro Vancouver roads'

Fatal accidents on Metro Vancouver roads

Fatal Accidents on Metro Vancouver Roads – September 2, 2021

Dail said the problems were not unique to Coquihalla Highway – which has suffered major storm damage recently – but are endemic across the province, including crucial stretches between Kamloops and Alberta.

He said drivers do not see maintenance contractors out on the road until there has been a crash, at which point they are “out like bees.”

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“If they had done it before the accident, it could have prevented it, and it could have saved a lot of lives and saved a lot of money for us.”

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Highway closures due to collisions also often leave drivers stuck and waiting on the side of the road for half a day or more in each direction on a trip, he said.

Sahasi said the province needs to ensure road contractors maintain highways properly for safety.

Click to play video: 'Calls for safety improvements to Highway 97A junction after fatal accident'

Calls for safety improvements of Highway 97A junction following fatal accident

Calls for safety improvements of the main road 97A junction after fatal accident – 27 September 2021

He also said drivers need better facilities along routes, including bathrooms with heat, electricity and running water, along with more places to pull out and park their trucks to rest or chain up.

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In a statement, BC’s Transport Secretary Rob Fleming said the province had contacted the West Coast Trucking Association “to hear their concerns first hand.”

“It’s important that we have the direct line of communication with them,” Fleming said.

“Therefore, the staff meet as soon as possible to continue the productive conversation and to ensure that we work together to keep the truck drivers safe.”

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The ministry says this year’s “extreme winter conditions” have been particularly harsh for contractors, but acknowledges that “there have been cases this winter where contractors have not worked up to ministry standards.”

It says the ministry has followed up with problem contractors and that its latest contracts include “improved specifications that require a more proactive approach, such as more frequent patrols before and during winter events and a faster return to bare occupancy after a winter event.”

Saturday’s demonstration was separated from an unrelated “Freedom Convoy” to be rolled out of British Columbia en route to Ottawa in protest of COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

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