Calls for even stiffer fines, infrastructure upgrades after latest B.C. overpass strike

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The B.C. government is facing calls for even stiffer penalties, infrastructure upgrades and more driver training, in the wake of yet another collision between a commercial vehicle and an overpass.

The latest crash happened around noon Thursday, when a driver with Chohan Freight Forwarders struck the 112 Street overpass on Highway 99, blocking southbound traffic for the rest of the day.

It was the sixth overpass strike in the last two years for the company, prompting the province to ground its fleet by suspending its safety certificate while it investigates. The company said the driver had been fired and its other drivers recalled for mandatory safety training.

Click to play video: 'More safety training for truckers, upgrades on B.C. highway infrastructure needed'

2:18 More safety training for truckers, upgrades on B.C. highway infrastructure needed

The province announced a suite of measures intended to crack down on overpass strikes earlier this month. Those include technological requirements, including speed limiters and warnings and escalating penalties for companies with repeat infractions, like the certificate suspension. They also include raising the maximum fine for over-height vehicle violations from $115 to $575.

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But the province is facing pressure to go further.

“The government has been there for seven years, it’s not like this is the first time it’s happened. It has been multiple events over the last number of years, where clearly the problem is getting worse,” BC United Official Opposition Leader Kevin Falcon said.

Click to play video: 'Trucking company suspended after sixth overpass crash'

1:53 Trucking company suspended after sixth overpass crash

“Make sure the fines are so painful that the cost of doing business and operating in that manner is so unpalatable that they will obey the laws, just because they cannot afford the kind of fines we would issue.”

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Delta City Coun. Dylan Kruger also called for the province to massively escalate financial penalties, saying a $575 fine amounts to a “drop in the bucket” and the “cost of doing business.”

“We need to ensure if we actually want to stop this from happening again that the penalties are so punitive that no company would ever risk putting an unqualified driver on the road,” he said.

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Click to play video: 'B.C. announces tougher penalties to crack down on overpass strikes'

2:07 B.C. announces tougher penalties to crack down on overpass strikes

Kruger also argued that Delta’s aging overpasses were built to a height standard that is now out of date.

Several overpasses on Highway 99 had at one point been scheduled for replacement as a part of the plan to replace the George Massey Tunnel with a bridge — replacements that were scrapped when the NDP decided to move ahead with a new tunnel instead of a bridge.

“This is an important time for the province and the federal government to look at our provincial highway infrastructure in Metro Vancouver rand make adjustments,” Kruger said.

“Highway 99 is a national trade corridor. This is a highway that connects Canada to the Blaine-U.S. border crossing, to a B.C. ferries terminal, to Delta Port, the largest container terminal in North America.”

Delta Mayor George Harvie also expressed support for the idea, saying he planned to write to the province calling for upgrades to “aging overpasses along our vital trade routes to modern heights and standards.”

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Click to play video: 'What needs to be done to prevent other overpass collisions'

6:33 What needs to be done to prevent other overpass collisions

The United Truckers Association, meanwhile, said it backs the province’s enhanced penalties, but that the package of reforms is lacking in one key area.

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“The missing part is all about the training,” he told Global News.

Singh said his group is writing to the provincial government asking for better support and training for drivers who have to handle oversized loads.

He said the province also needs to expand its efforts to cover shippers who load the trucks, not just drivers and companies that transport them.

Back in Delta, Kruger wants to see some kind of compensation offered to businesses and residents who face the impacts of the crashes.

“Last time this happened on Highway 17 A we had residents who were stranded, unable to get to Delta Hospital, unable to get their groceries, other essential services,” he said.

“We had businesses who said it’s cheaper to close down, close my doors, because of the loss of revenue.”

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&© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Calls for even stiffer fines, infrastructure upgrades after latest B.C. overpass strike

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