LESSONS LEARNED: Inspectors in Quebec have been examining bridges throughout the province following the deadly collapse of the de la Concorde Boulevard overpass.
LAVAL, Que. – After the Sept. 30 collapse of the de la Concorde Boulevard overpass onto Highway 19, in Laval, Transports Quebec inspectors quickly found 20 similar structures.
All but one were declared safe, but Transports Quebec immediately closed the nearby De Blois overpass, then demolished it in late October.
Once the wreckage of de la Concorde was removed, traffic on Highway 19 returned to normal, but provincial and municipal authorities reduced the weight limits, and even closed one to truck traffic, on four minor overpasses elsewhere; one was out in the Gaspe, one was in Joliette; a 2005 study reported that 57% of the province’s 12,000 overpasses, bridges and similar structures required repairs.
The quick reaction to the de la Concorde collapse, which resulted in a massive fanning out by Transports Quebec inspectors to examine other structures should be commended, but Transports Quebec dropped the ball by not letting the trucking community know that the rules for these overpasses had been changed, with fines ranging from $400 to $4,000 for truckers who failed to obey restricted weight signage.
There were no notices posted on its Web site, which is usually information-rich on such things. Transports Quebec posted signs and asked Societe de l’assurance automobile du Quebec (SAAQ) highway officers to keep an eye out for non-compliant truckers.
Transports Quebec says it put 80 signs up around the overpasses, but SAAQ quickly realised after slapping some stiff fines on some truckers that there were insufficient signs.
One voice at Transports Quebec rather unsympathetically said, “You’d think that when truckers took their training they’d also learn how to read signs.”
SAAQ, on the other hand, began cancelling the fines.