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B.C. calls for strict measures, safety improvements after 6,000 trucks put out-of-service in 2006

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- About 6,000 transport trucks a year are ordered off B.C. roads after failing a safety inspection...

VANCOUVER, B.C. — About 6,000 transport trucks a year are ordered off B.C. roads after failing a safety inspection, which is causing the Ministry of Transportation and Highways (MOTH) to consider “truck jail” for the worst offenders, according to the Vancouver Province.

Each year, provincial commercial-vehicle inspectors check 20,000 to 25,000 trucks at roadside, in targeted and random stops. Approximately 6,000 are put out-of-service because of problems with lights, brakes, tires, load security and the drivers themselves. Targeted checks of trucks that appear to be in bad shape typically result in 30 to 45% being taken off the road. Random checks taken in rural locations, result in about 20% of trucks inspected taken out-of-service, according to MOTH. Along with truck jail, the MOTH is considering suspending the licenses of truckers who don’t properly maintain their trucks.

“We’re going to have to find ways to increase the pressure,” Minister of Transportation and Highways, Kevin Falcon, told the Province. “I don’t want those people on the road.”

Last year, provincial road-safety inspectors ordered 6,511 trucks out-of-service, about 700 more than in 2006, according to MOTH. Of those violations, 12% of trucks were taken off the road because of inadequate lighting, 31% had unsafe brakes, 8% had problems with tires or wheels, and 15% had improperly secured loads. For 16% of failed inspections, the driver was the issue, with violations in areas such as driving prohibitions, lack of certification for dangerous goods, and failure to keep an accurate logbook.

Statistics are similar for 2005 and 2006, according to the Province report.

In West Vancouver last month, inspectors working with police stopped 30 trucks and put 13 of them out of service. On one truck inspected, five of six brakes were nonfunctional. Provincial regulations require truck drivers to check tires, wheels, brakes, lights, steering, wipers, horn, and load security before each trip. As part of another truck-safety initiative, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority conducted a blitz last month, in cooperation with police and provincial inspectors, with 94 of 206 trucks and trailers inspected taken off the road for violations.

Some drivers of trucks taken out-of-service are able to fix the problems at the checkpoint and get back on the road, but the number of those trucks is not tracked, stated MOTH spokesman Jeff Knight, to the Province. About 20 to 25% of drivers of unsafe trucks simply don’t know how to do proper maintenance or have forgotten, according to a West Vancouver police inspector involved in the same blitz.

B.C. Trucking Association president Paul Landry said the “vast majority” of the 30,000 commercial trucks on provincial roads are well-maintained. But the high number of inspection failures gives the industry a bad reputation, and existing measures to ensure compliance with safety regulations aren’t sufficient, Landry said to the Province.

Over the past year, the RCMP has embarked on a truck-safety training initiative throughout B.C., and plans on having every traffic officer trained to do truck inspections. As well, provincial authorities are evaluating the purchase of heat-scanning units that can check to see if a passing truck’s brakes are functioning. The ministry is also considering a system that would reward safe operators with “gold-star” certification, which is considered to be beneficial for marketing fleet operations.

Another safety improvement being considered by MOTH is the possible expansion in use of reflective, thermoplastic paint for road lines, for highways that are prone to bad weather and accidents. The paint has been used on Vancouver Island’s Malahat, the Coquihalla and the Sea-to-Sky highways. Standard reflective paint costs $308 per kilometre; thermoplastic pain is $10,000 per kilometre. Thermoplastic paint is applied in scraped grooves for durability, lasting up to five years, while the standard paint can wear off in a single winter.

–with files from the Vancouver Province

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