Truckers rally in Vancouver to call on British Columbia to secure inland highways

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Truckers say this winter is the worst they’ve seen for black ice, potholes, uncleared snow

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Hundreds of B.C. truckers took to the roads Saturday to protest what they say is poor road maintenance and unsafe driving conditions that are putting their lives and livelihoods at risk.

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About 150 big rigs traveled in convoy from Surrey to downtown Vancouver. Many came towing signs asking the province to deal with large potholes, sleet and snow on highways in the interior of the province.

“We’ve never seen British Columbia’s highways as bad as they were this winter,” said Vijaydeep Sahas, president of the West Coast Trucking Association, who has been driving to deliver goods since 2006 after leaving India.

“I had to change my route to the United States this week. However, it cost me more money in gas and time away from my family.

The group is calling on the Department for Transport to address the issue facing drivers as they struggle to reach 28 separate contractors who maintain highways to report hazards.

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“Nothing is done and we need clean highways to do our job. It is dangerous for truckers to continue putting tire chains on in areas with piles of snow. Chains also depend on spikes that damage our tires and highway roads.

Abbotsford’s Sukhwinder Sran, who also took part in the rally, is all too familiar with hauling goods over long distances in winter.

Truckers gather to protest road conditions in British Columbia, Vancouver, January 23, 2022.
Truckers gather to protest road conditions in British Columbia, Vancouver, January 23, 2022. West Coast Trucking Association Photo /PNG

The now jobless truck driver was returning home from his usual trip to Sicamous in February 2018 when his tractor-trailer skidded on a patch of ice that covered the Coquihalla Highway between Hope and Merritt.

“Several of us in vehicles were sent over a 30ft cliff,” the 54-year-old said.

Sran’s clean driving record proved no match for the black ice that caused his tractor-trailer to jackknife.

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“I was hung upside down by my seatbelt in the cab of my tractor-trailer for five hours before being pulled from the vehicle. The police initially told me that I might have to m ‘amputate the leg with a knife to survive,’ he said.

The father remained in the hospital for nine weeks without any feeling in his left hand and right leg. Persistent hip and back injuries left him out of work for years.

“We almost lost our house last year because I no longer qualified for a mortgage. My 23-year-old son had to take over,” Sran said.

The province has the ability to prevent future accidents from happening to truckers by ensuring road contractors properly maintain highways in the winter, Sahasi said.

“Over the past week, I have learned of several accidents that have injured or killed drivers. One happened to a 33-year-old Abbotsford husband who was crushed between two vehicles while trying to help a motorist stuck in the snow.

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In an emailed statement, BC Transportation Minister Rob Fleming admitted that in some cases “contractors failed to meet ministry standards” this winter.

“In these cases, we followed up with the contractor to ensure they were performing their required maintenance tasks,” he said.

The department is dealing with problematic contractors with new contracts that include “enhanced specifications that require a more proactive approach, such as more frequent patrols before and during winter events and faster return to bare pavement after a winter event.”

“It is important to note that descending onto bare pavement will not be a requirement at all times and it is not possible to achieve this at all times.”

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