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No rest for the weary

CALGARY, Alta. - The shortage of suitable rest stops in Alberta is a major concern for truck drivers, and the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) is getting tired of the province's unwillingnes...


TOO CLOSE: The AMTA complains existing stops don't shield highway noise.
TOO CLOSE: The AMTA complains existing stops don't shield highway noise.

CALGARY, Alta. – The shortage of suitable rest stops in Alberta is a major concern for truck drivers, and the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) is getting tired of the province’s unwillingness to improve them. AMTA executive director Lane Kranenburg says that the current lack of appropriate rest areas is appalling, and improvements must be made. Unfortunately Alberta Infrastructure says it will cost at least $1 million to construct each stop, and that is simply too expensive.

“That doesn’t make any sense to me,” says Kranenburg. “If you have one fatality then you’ve got a heck of a lot more wasted than $1 million.”

Alberta highways have a number of widened areas where truck drivers can pull over to rest, but the AMTA says it’s not enough.

“There are a totally inadequate number of areas where a truck can safely pull over so that driver can get out and stretch or put his head down for 20 minutes,” says Kranenburg. “A proper rest area has a deceleration lane, a pull off that would accommodate a dozen trucks and an acceleration lane, and ideally a place where a driver can relieve himself.”

He adds it is also important that the rest area is located away from the highway so the drivers are safe from passing motorists.

Alberta Infrastructure has met with the AMTA to hear their concerns, but little has been done to provide better rest stops.

“I’ve had mixed reviews from Alberta Infrastructure,” says Kranenburg, who is still hopeful a solution will be reached.

Meanwhile, in response to growing concerns about the problem, Alberta Infrastructure has formed a partnership with existing privately owned establishments to provide truckers with more options.

The Partnership Rest Area program is a pilot project that saw Alberta Infrastructure offer signage to companies that improved their facilities to accommodate truckers.

“Basically, we partner with existing service facilities,” explains Richard Chow, traffic operations specialist with Alberta Infrastructure. “They provide the rest area and the department will sign it accordingly.”

The companies that participate benefit from increased business, signage and placement on the official Alberta roadmap. Due to the success of the pilot project, Chow says the program may be extended throughout the rest of the province.

“The feedback is that it’s beneficial and the program should proceed with province-wide implementation,” says Chow. “We’ll start with the major highways first and then we’ll see how it goes after that.”

The service centres that wish to participate in the program must be located in rural areas, and they must meet certain criteria.

“If the facility doesn’t have all the requirements then they would have to provide the additional facilities if they want to partner with (Alberta Infrastructure),” says Chow.

Kranenburg says the program is a start, but there’s still a long way to go.

“I think it’s a partial answer but it’s not enough because they are in the business to have the driver come in, use the conveniences and leave,” he says. “Not to sleep for eight hours.”

“There are some areas where a commercial enterprise may do that and that’s acceptable, but they do have to be strategically located. Our fatigue management program is geared toward allowing the driver naps but our highways are not designed for that convenience,” adds Kranenburg.

In order to be effective, Kranenburg suggests that rest areas should be strategically placed at intervals of about 75 to 100 kilometres.

Kranenburg says Alberta should try to follow in the footsteps of states like Oregon, which offers drivers plenty of well-equipped rest areas.

“Oregon has tremendous rest stops,” says Kranenburg, adding many of them offer free coffee and large parking areas which are far enough from the highway as to offer shelter from highway noise and passing motorists. n


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