Time for truck jail: BCTA

Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement Officer Carl Steele checks a truck on Highway 91 Wednesday as part of an  integrated road check program. - EVAN SEAL / THE LEADER
Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement Officer Carl Steele checks a truck on Highway 91 Wednesday as part of an integrated road check program.
— image credit: EVAN SEAL / THE LEADER

A “truck jail” where the most dangerous big rigs caught by safety inspectors would be impounded for a couple of weeks is an idea whose time has come, according to B.C. Trucking Association president Paul Landry.

Ontario has used the technique for nearly a decade to force the worst trucks off the road and deprive their owners of income.

“We proposed this to government four or five years ago,” Landry said, adding it would make repeat violators think twice about treating the occasional fine as merely the cost of doing business.

“You lose the revenue,” he said. “You pay the costs associated with the towing and impoundment. And you pay to have it repaired and inspected before it goes back into the traffic stream.”

He was responding to reports more than 6,000 trucks a year fail checks when inspectors order them to pull over.

“In our view it’s an embarrassment to the industry and a black eye for all of the hard-working, responsible and professional men and women drivers around the province,” Landry said.

He said the 40 to 50 per cent failure rate in targeted blitzes is partly because inspectors pick and choose which trucks to pull over. They can usually spot likely offenders on sight.

Landry contends true random inspections here usually find a failure rate close to the North American average of 20 per cent.

But he said the failures still “reflect an extraordinarily high rate of non-compliance.”

The problem is most prevalent among local trucks that only serve the Lower Mainland and don’t face the more regular checks at weigh scales that long-haul truckers do, he added.

One of the most disturbing cases was an overloaded truck stopped in West Vancouver carrying twice its legal weight.

The damage a truck causes in a highway speed crash increases exponentially with its weight, he noted.

“The amount of damage that truck would have caused would have been extreme.”

Unsafe brakes were the leading reason inspectors ordered trucks parked last year pending repairs. Poorly secured loads, inadequate lighting, tire or wheel trouble and driver-related violations were also common.

Landry proposes a truck be jailed only if it’s found to have multiple significant safety violations.

He envisions trucks being locked up for two weeks in jail on a first offence and more for repeat violators.

Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon has said he is continuing to consider the idea.

A more detailed review of how the program would work is to be conducted, in consultation with industry groups like the B.C. Truckers Associations and Teamsters.

The plan is to go over records of past inspections and see how an impound policy might work.

Landry said he’s optimistic the province will act.

The province is also considering other measures, including the purchase of heat scanner units to detect trucks with bad brakes.

Landry maintains the vast majority of trucks are safe and well maintained and said only four per cent of crashes are linked to truck defects. Nearly 80 per cent are the result of other drivers’ actions or road conditions.

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