Truck drivers are urging BC to improve ice removal on dangerous mountain highways

Long-distance truck drivers are hoisting red flags over what they say are dangerous – even deadly – winter conditions on BC’s mountain highways this year.

Several drivers told CBC News that the maintenance of BC’s major highways is inconsistent. They say the removal of dangerous ice is either too infrequent or the de-icing products used are ineffective in making larger routes safe to drive.

“I’m actually starting to get scared of leaving my house in the morning when I go to work in Edmonton and Calgary,” said Deep Dail, a truck driver from Langley, BC. He often drives the province’s mountain highways to Alberta.

“All of these accidents happen, and sometimes it’s not even your fault you can drive just fine, and then it might just be another truck that loses control and hits you,” he said. “And you can lose your life, right?

“Even my family is starting to get scared of sending me on the road … They want me to change my job.”

An aerial drone photo shows the Coquihalla Highway, halfway between Hope and Merritt, BC, on Saturday. (Gian Paolo Mendoza / CBC)

That West Coast Trucking Association organizes a rally for better road maintenance next Saturday, where hauliers plan to drive their rig from Surrey to Vancouver.

The chauffeur group said many drivers have difficulty knowing which of 28 public contractors are responsible for specific motorways across the province and that there are noticeable differences when crossing between contractors’ turf.

“This year it’s gone from bad to worse, and every year we lose so many truck drivers on the highways,” said Vijaydeep Singh Sahasi, president of the West Coast Trucking Association. “The ice is very, very bad … and more needs to be done by the Department of Transportation to give us clean roads.

“For our families, it’s like we’re going to war. Whereas we have to work.”

Black ice and large holes create dangerous driving conditions, according to the association, which has resulted in several accidents in the past few weeks. Truck drivers encounter black ice, especially at night, and some worry that they are putting their lives on the line while at work.

The association adds that hauliers who report harsh highway conditions on the government’s DriveBC website are being informed that there are so many complaints that they should instead send an email to highway maintenance contractors.

“Conditions have certainly been challenging,” said Dan Dickey, a Chilliwack truck driver who was on his way from Surrey to Alberta and on to Prince George when CBC News spoke to him at the roadside.

“A lot of road maintenance is, in my opinion, being missed, or insufficient products being put on it, or intervals between [snowplow] passes are being extended from previous years, “he said.” Maintenance contractors … in various areas, the quality of road maintenance is rising or falling. The drivers are trying to figure out which areas to look after. “

The association contacted the Ministry of Transport last month, it is said, and has also reached out to members of the legislature, but has received no response.

Sahasi said it is challenging for motorists to put chains on tires in areas with snowdrifts and low temperatures, so it is up to the government to intervene.

Truckers crossing into Alberta are driving on cleared and repaired roads, he said, adding that he can not understand why transportation safety issues do not seem to be a priority in BC

The province’s Department of Transport and Infrastructure did not respond to a request for comment Sunday.

On its website, the ministry says any route hazards or issues “should be sent directly to the respective contractor” employed for that region or route.

The ministry said in a press release that it has “made many changes to make BC highways safer and more reliable during the winter months.”

These changes include stricter chain-up rules, “improved road maintenance contractor monitoring and auditing” and 27 new maintenance contracts requiring contractors to “comply with improved measures requiring a more proactive approach to winter maintenance.”

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