LANGLEY, B.C. - Over the last five years there have been 69 fatalities in B.C.'s general trucking industry, with five of those deaths occurring this year. That sobering statistic has prompted WorkSafe...
LANGLEY, B.C. – Over the last five years there have been 69 fatalities in B.C.’s general trucking industry, with five of those deaths occurring this year. That sobering statistic has prompted WorkSafeBC (formerly the Workers’ Compensation Board) and its partners to launch an aggressive campaign aimed at reducing the number of truck-related injuries and fatalities.
The new TruckSafe Strategy was unveiled to industry and the public at a luncheon in Langley, B.C. Sept. 20. An enthusiastic congregation of industry representatives was on-hand for the launch, including B.C. Trucking Association (BCTA) president Paul Landry, WorkSafe BC president and CEO, David Anderson and senior advisor to the B.C. Forest Safety Council, Keith Rush.
Family members of truckers who lost their lives on the job were also present to share their stories. Their emotional message was clear – improve truck safety now so their loved ones didn’t die in vain. Widow Shannon Payne gave a tearful first-hand account of what it’s like when a loved one doesn’t come home from work. Her husband Craig died in a logging truck accident near Burns Lake, B.C. in February, 2003.
“I never worried about Craig, because he was a safe, conscientious driver,” Payne said.
Now, she shares her tragic story in hopes it will help motivate decision-makers to take action and improve truck safety.
“I am always searching for one more thing I can do for Craig and I know he would be so proud of me for doing this,” she said. “If by sharing my story I can change just one person’s thinking for one second into taking the time to do things the right way – the safe way – it will be worth it. My message is this: Always be as safe as you can, never take life for granted, and if you love someone, don’t be afraid to tell them.”
While the B.C. trucking industry’s driving record is “commendable and improving,” according to the BCTA, WorksafeBC’s Anderson insists it’s not good enough.
“Every claim we accept, every check we mail out represents a failure,” he said. “We accept workplace deaths because we as society see them as inevitable and that attitude is wrong.”
He also pointed out that when a truck’s involved in an accident, other members of the public are also often caught up in it.
“There’s no other area where workplace accidents cause so many injuries to non-workers, because our workplaces are in fact public spaces,” he said.
While B.C. employers in general have enjoyed WCB rate decreases of four to five per cent over the last year, trucking rates have recently surged 15 per cent.
“The accidents and death tolls continue to climb and the problem is getting worse as those numbers would attest,” Anderson said.
BCTA’s Landry added an important component of the TruckSafe strategy will be educating motorists how to share the road with big trucks. He pointed to statistics that show the vast majority of truck/car collisions are the fault of the passenger vehicle driver. However, he also admitted industry must improve its safety record not just on the highways, but also at terminal docks and shipper locations.
Among the first sectors of the industry to get involved in the program has been the forestry industry. The B.C. Forest Safety Council’s Rush said “There’s no log or piece of lumber out there that’s worth losing a life or limb over.”
Driving log trucks and articulated rock tucks off-highway poses unique dangers that need to be addressed, Rush said.
As a case in point, he discussed the tragic death of young truck driver Ryan Hudson, who died when he lost control of the 25-tonne articulated rock truck he was driving.
Hudson was a relatively new Class 5 licence holder with very little experience, yet he had been asked to haul 25 tonnes down a steep logging road in a remote part of Vancouver Island.
In response to the accident a Safety Task Group was formed and along with WorkSafe BC, the group formed a new Articulated Rock Truck Training Standard and Qualification Program.
“When Ryan piled up in that articulated rock truck, we knew we had to do something,” said Rush.
“We have hundreds of articulated rock trucks in B.C. and we needed to get to these people and let them know the hazards of driving these things. They’re easy to drive on flat ground but they’re not so easy once you get on a 20 per cent grade.”
The development of the Articulated Rock Truck Operator’s Training Course and Qualification Process is being hailed as one of the first TruckSafe success stories. However, the program represents just a small component of the overall TruckSafe strategy, organizers say.
Other elements include:
Establishing the B.C. Fraser Canyon Truck Safety Corridor
Crash stats indicated that Hwy. 1 had an abnormally high number of truck-related accidents resulting in serious injury or death.
As a result, the following steps have been taken to improve the safety of the well-travelled corridor:
* Funding has been provided for shoulder rumble strips, roadside barricades and improved rollover signage;
* Enforcement has been stepped up focusing on speeders and aggressive drivers;
* More vehicle safety checks were scheduled;
* and a truck driver awareness and education campaign has been launched.
Plans are also being made to improve engineering along the canyon. TruckSafe organizers say “The long-term plan is to use the canyon as a model for other truck safety corridors in the province. TruckSafe believes that implementing initiatives such as this will have direct impact on serious injuries and deaths among all of B.C.’s road users.”
Sharing the Road with Trucks
Another key component of the TruckSafe Strategy is educating motorists how to safely drive around big rigs.
It will focus on teaching drivers how much time and distance truckers need to get their vehicles stopped in all weather conditions. Motorists will also learn about the air turbulence large trucks create and the amount of spray they can produce while driving in sloppy weather.
Other lessons to be taught will include: passing trucks with care; giving trucks enough room to move; anticipating when trucks will have to slow down for inspection stations; and how to safely allow a truck to pass.
TruckSafe organizers are also considering a wide variety of other initiatives that will improve overall highway safety and reduce the number of truck-related accidents. Their goals are as follows: To partner with agencies, organizations and companies on TruckSafe initiatives; to improve the health and safety of the trucker; to improve the level of safety in the trucking industry; to improve the safety of roads and road users; and to improve the safety of trucks and loads. Or as project manager Roberta Sheng-Taylor sums up, to develop “Safe drivers, trucks, loads and roads for the people and drivers of B.C.”
Organizers are appealing to people in the trucking industry to provide feedback on how the program can most effectively reach its goal of reducing or eliminating injuries and deaths related to trucking.
For more information on the program or to provide feedback, visit www.worksafebc.com and click on “New TruckSafe Strategy will make B.C.’s highways safer” on the right.