VANCOUVER — Truckers in this province are not happy with a recent roadside billboard and radio campaign implying that because B.C.’s heavy-truck inspection force is understaffed, big trucks are unsafe.
The ad campaign comes courtesy of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU).
The union says data shows that road safety in the province is in decline since the Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement (CVSE) branch was brought back into government service from ICBC in 2003.
Since then, the union claims, more than a quarter of roadside inspector jobs have gone unfilled but big-truck traffic has increased by almost half.
The people representing the trucking industry have responded with air-horns a-blaring.
Kamloops-based Larry Hall is president of the North American Truckers Guild, a professional driver group, and he says, noting the irony, that the very first billboard went up near his house.
“You gotta see this thing,” he told todaystrucking.com “On the left hand side there’s four CVSE officers but the fourth’s a silhouette. On the right hand side there’s a picture of enlarged rear-view mirror with a semi in it and it says, ‘That truck behind you may not be safe.’”
Under the image, the billboard states that one in four inspector positions goes vacant and the billboard directs viewers to the union website, where, Hall says, “ they have a full-blown bashing campaign against the government for not keeping up.
“There’s a whole bunch that is correct with their information but they’re waging a fear-mongering campaign, and they’re using us as leverage.
“The union are in full bargaining mode and they don’t care who they’re throwing under the bus.”
Hall also says the campaign is fostering bitterness between truckers and roadside inspectors who, he said, probably had no influence in the billboard design.
Hall has written to the president of the BCGEU in protest and told todaystrucking.com that the discussion “is not over yet.”
Hall is not the only trucker to react.
“This ad campaign,” states Louise Yako, the President and CEO of the B.C. Trucking Association (BCTA), “is unjustly tarring an industry whose safety record is far better than the public is being led to believe.”
In an elaborate prepared statement, Yako points out that according to B.C. vehicle registration statistics, the number of heavy commercial vehicles in the province has increased by 20 percent since 2003, from just over 49,000 to just under 59,000.
But, she adds, “over the same period, injury and fatal collisions involving trucks decreased by 30 percent (364 injury and 20 fatal collisions in 2003 compared to 245 injury and 21 fatal collisions in 2011). And, truck inspections increased by 15 percent, from 26,635 in 2003 to 30,453 in 2011. So, according to those numbers, the truck travelling next to you is more than likely safe and being operated and maintained responsibly and professionally.
“Our collective goal should be to reduce the consequences of crashes, by reducing the overall number as well as the severity. Every driver, no matter what kind of vehicle they drive, bears responsibility for road safety. And no one feels that responsibility more keenly than the people who make their living in the trucking industry, because so many things depend upon it: their drivers, customers, loads, equipment and reputation are only a few.
“That being said, we believe effective enforcement is taking place on B.C. roads. Consider a few more numbers. According to Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement (CVSE), the provincial government branch responsible for regulatory compliance by commercial vehicles, the total number of CVSE staff positions (i.e., from inspectors to clerical support) has only increased by three since 2003 (283 to 286) and there are fewer inspectors (227 vs. 214). Yet CVSE increased the number of inspections by 15 percent during that time and crash rates are down.
“How? A detailed breakdown of CVSE’s staff positions shows that CVSE is working more strategically in terms of both staff deployment and procedures – something the public demands and deserves because they’re using our tax dollars to do it
“For example, prior to 2005, CVSE stationary inspectors spent on average 20 to 30 percent of their workday issuing commercial vehicle permits instead of conducting inspections. That changed with the creation of the Provincial Permit Centre (PPC) in 2005. Now, 18 staff at the PPC dedicate their time solely to permit processing.
“In terms of inspection staff, although the total number hasn’t changed much, CVSE has shifted more inspectors into its mobile force, almost doubling the number since 2003 (159 vs. 82) and increased the number of inspection vehicles by one-third. These changes give CVSE inspectors the flexibility to work either at stationary scales or on roads throughout the province, increasing the opportunity to identify trucks with obvious maintenance issues or those that are otherwise negligent in following regulations (including poorly secured loads).”
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