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B. C. Gets Tough On Forest Road Speed Demons

PRINCE GEORGE, B. C. - Considering the vast distance of B. C. forest roads, with a total of 59,000 kms, many B. C. log truckers are doubtful about a provincial speed clampdown on isolated service road...

PRINCE GEORGE, B. C. – Considering the vast distance of B. C. forest roads, with a total of 59,000 kms, many B. C. log truckers are doubtful about a provincial speed clampdown on isolated service roads.

The B. C. Ministry of Forests and Range announced earlier this year that it was purchasing six new radar guns, for a total of 10, to monitor and enforce speed limits on all provincial forest service roads. The plan met with some skepticism from Roy Nagel, former executive director of the Central Interior Logging Association (CILA).

“I don’t think this makes much difference, really,” said Nagel. “We’re talking about six more radar guns for the whole province. So, when you think about it that way, there may be somebody from the ministry that shows up with a radar gun on the road in the region – or maybe not. We don’t know. But in any case, the vast majority of these guys are driving within the rules, so it shouldn’t really make much difference.”

However, even the perception of a higher level of speed enforcement may contribute to the overall safety of driving in the bush, according to Nagel.

“Simply the word getting out is likely a good thing, as far as those few that are speeding, or are inclined to speed. It may cause them to be a little more cautious and slow down some.”

Nagel suggested the volume that’s been harvested this year and last, compared with previous years, is “way, way down.” Therefore the number of trucks on forestry roads is reduced and the amount of hauling is reduced, all of which takes the pressure off the average truck logger, he added.

“All in all, it is a much more sedate pace of logging and hauling right now.”

CILA was a founding member of the B. C. Forest Safety Council and Nagel said the organization has supported the many safety initiatives that came out of that organization. It’s a mindset that has been endorsed by most of those who work in the forestry industry, according to the former director. “You have to watch the odd maverick that doesn’t do it right, but by and large these people have gotten the message.”

The director of B. C.’s Forestry TruckSafe Program and Northern Initiatives agreed with Nagel on this topic. MaryAnne Arcand believes logging truck drivers are much more aware of safety and driving on forest roads than they were a few years ago.

“Several areas of the province have a company-appointed ‘road marshal’ who has been enforcing the company’s rules of the road, using contractual and financial penalties as their ‘teeth,’ since they have no legal authority to stop speeders and other offenders,” she explained.

However, speed is still a major issue on forest roads she added, but not so much with logging trucks, but rather other road users, primarily in pick-up trucks. Part of the challenge is that the Ministry of Forests enforcement policies only apply to Forest Service Roads, a small portion of the 400,000 kms of total resource roads in the province. So, in essence the enforcement isn’t broad enough and doesn’t cover all the roads, she explained.

“But this initiative is a good start. It has certainly raised the awareness of forest road users, and has busted the myth that there are no rules on the forest roads of B. C. It is not the ‘Wild West’ out there.”

Previously, speed enforcement tended to be localized and focused on high-risk, high-traffic roads. However, Ministry compliance and enforcement officers will now practice speed enforcement on a daily basis, province-wide with the use of the 10 radar guns.

“Expanding the use of radar guns is another step toward improving safety for forest workers and the public,” said Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell, in a press release when the announcement was first made earlier this year.

The Ministry also plans to place three speed boards – one per region – in different locations around the province to increase driver’s awareness of speed.

“Initially, the main focus is to improve compliance and safe driving practices through education and awareness,” said Bell. “But make no mistake, officers are empowered to give tickets and chronic, repeat offenders could be subject to fines of up to $1 million for speeding and dangerous driving on a Forest Service road.”

The maximum speed limit on B. C. forest service roads is either as posted or 80 km/h.

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