Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden is making the issue of two logging truck rollovers in the municipality a priority after an accident killed West Vancouver motorcyclist Hugh Craig Roberts on Oct. 19. Last week she met with the RCMP, talked to Pemberton Mayor and MLA Jordan Sturdy — Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure — and scheduled another appointment with a representative from the Ministry of Transit.
"A logging truck dumping its load on a Saturday afternoon in the middle of Whistler is unacceptable," she said.
One of the ideas being discussed includes more RCMP enforcement of laws regulating logging trucks, such as stacking height and log length. As well, Sturdy indicated that if the investigation into the cause of the accident requires changes to provincial regulations then he would take that on in Victoria.
Wilhelm-Morden is also meeting with the regional manager for the Ministry of Transportation this week to discuss options to make things safer.
"The other thing is that there are a number of organizations that are investigating this last crash — RCMP, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement Group, WorkSafeBC and the Coroners' Office — and I would expect recommendations would come out of those investigations as well," said Wilhelm-Morden.
"Everybody realizes that logging trucks are going to continue using Highway 99, along with other kinds of industrial use vehicles, but joint use of the road has to be done safely, and there are some things we can do in this regard," said Wilhelm-Morden, even if it's just posting signs.
According to the October edition of Rumblings, a publication by the BC Forest Safety Council to support the provincial TruckSafe program, there were six fatalities in the logging truck industry in the first 30 weeks of 2013 — including three drivers that were killed on the job, and three others killed working around trucks. That's one death every five weeks.
The latest Rumblings also includes some data on a Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance inspection of commercial vehicles, including logging trucks. Overall, there were 70,023 truck and bus roadside inspections over a three-day period across North America, as well as 47,771 Level 1 inspections that were more detailed. Some 79.4 per cent of vehicles passed, and 20.6 per cent were placed out of service.
For the vehicles put out of service, brakes were the number one issue accounting for roughly half of the total. Other issues include lighting, unsafe loading and issues with tires and wheels.
A WorkSafe BC report on log haulers does suggest that the industry is getting safer. With two months left in 2013 there have been 101 claims for short-term injuries, long-term injuries and fatalities on the job, compared to 133 in 2012 and 140 the previous year. The other years were lower (107 in 2010 and 80 in 2009), although that was during a downturn in global demand for logs.
In the last five years there were 494 injuries and deaths in log hauling, with transport truck drivers representing 86.1 per cent of those WorkSafe BC claims.