“I can’t say I’m shocked, but I’m disappointed, yes.”
President and CEO of the BC Trucking Association, Dave Earle, expressed that reaction to the safety blitz near Chase and Kamloops that resulted in 35 of 99 commercial vehicles inspected being taken off the road.
The March 4 to 6 blitz focused on highways 1, 5 and 5A, as well as weigh stations in the area. It was carried out by police and Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement (CVSE) officers. A commercial vehicle includes anything from a five-ton delivery truck to dump trucks and semis.
“First off, I’m always disappointed when I hear any commercial operator is taken off the road,” said Earle, adding his organization is solidly in support of the work CVSE does, keeping both the motoring public and commercial vehicle drivers safe. He also pointed out that CVSE officers don’t inspect every vehicle, often focusing on ones which are struggling or don’t have a good National Safety Code (NSC) rating.
Regarding the rating, he explains that when a carrier is found to have a violation, points are assigned based on severity.
“Those violations can be from air brakes out of adjustment to ‘oh my gosh, you can’t have this on the road,’ to an hours-of-service violation to, literally, a running light bulb is out.”
Rating calculations are based on fleet size.
“Regardless, 30 per cent is a really high number,” Earle said, adding he would like to know if the violations were mechanical or hours-of-service violations, the two main elements of safety.
Regarding mechanical issues, Earle says B.C. has the most stringent regular inspection protocols in Canada.
“Every commercial vehicle has to go into a certified shop and get a complete inspection done every six months. So you’re not seeing those catastrophic stories that you would see from other jurisdictions with, literally, wheels falling off.”
As for hours of service, two-thirds of carriers use electronic logging devices, Earle said and the trucking association has been advocating strongly for them becoming mandatory. The devices help with issues such as fatigue management, ensuring drivers have appropriate work/rest cycles.
Another focus for the BCTA has been mandatory entry-level training.
“Right now it’s a patchwork in terms of how you can actually go out and get a Class 1 licence,” he said, explaining it ranges from top flight training costing up to $10,000 down to “licence factories,” ones with much lower standards.
Ontario has had mandatory entry-level training for a couple of years, Saskatchewan and Alberta are bringing it in this month, while B.C., specifically ICBC, is still working towards it.
“It’s coming,” said Earle.
The really good news, he added is the federal government has told all provincial regulators to develop a federal entry-level training standard, which is expected to be in place by Jan. 1, 2020.
There’s a huge shortage of truck drivers in B.C.—now 5,700 vacancies— and Earle said the industry has not done a good job of telling its story.
According to the trucking association president, truck driving is no longer just the image of a person driving on a lonely stretch of road on the Prairies, away from their family for days.