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Tougher penalties for truckers who hit overpasses proposed by province

Fines as high as $100,000 and 18 months in jail
Trucks sat idle at the Chohan lot in Aldergrove on 30A Avenue in February after the company’s safety certificate was pulled following six overpass collisions. On Tuesday, March 12, the provincial government proposed changes that would mean massive fines and even jail time for drivers who hit overpasses and other infrastructure. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

Drivers who hit overpasses and other infrastructure face a massive increase in fines, as well as jail time, under proposed changes by the provincial government.

They would allow courts to impose fines as high as $100,000 – up from $500 – and 18 months in jail, if convicted of the violations, the provincial Transportation and Infrastructure Ministry announced Tuesday (March 12).

Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said the province is “taking the strongest action possible” with the proposed changes to the Commercial Transportation Act.

Fleming called it “a message to commercial truck drivers that they are responsible for the safe transportation of goods and services on our roads, and a lax attitude toward safety will not be tolerated.”

A string of impacts in recent years across the Lower Mainland have damaged overpasses, causing millions of dollars in damage, and snarled traffic with each collision.

There have 35 crashes since late 2021 by over-height commercial vehicles, the province says. Laws surrounding highway infrastructure haven’t changed since the late 1970s.

READ ALSO: Licence yanked for Aldergrove truck firm that hit six overpasses

After six overpass collisions in two years, Aldergrove-based Chohan Freight Forwarders saw its safety certificate suspended on Dec. 29, 2023, a day after the most recent collision, when overheight ironwork being transported by a Chohan contractor crashed into the Highway 99 overpass at 112th Street in Delta.

Losing its safety certificate meant that Chohan Freight’s 65-vehicle fleet in BC. was brought to a halt, which it said has caused losses of more than $1 million a week, along with losing contracts and clients worth around $2-3 million.

In court, the company’s lawyers argued the driver involved in the most recent crash was an owner-operator, not a direct employee of Chohan, despite the fact that the truck was marked with Chohan logos and the dispatching was handled by the company.

In addition to the Dec. 28 incident, Chohan’s overpass crashes included:

• June 6, 2022 on Highway 1 in Langley

• June 1, 2022 on Highway 1 in Richmond

• Feb. 17, 2022 on Highway 99 in Delta (the same overpass struck on Dec. 28, 2023)

• Feb. 12, 2022 on Highway 1 in Langley at 264th Street

• Dec. 10, 2021 on Highway 1 in Surrey

Chohan’s petition notes that those incidents were attributed to either driver error, failing to follow an approved route, or having an incorrect permit.

Fines were raised in December to the maximum allowable penalty of $500 from $100.

READ ALSO: Contracts tendered for Langley highway widening

The 264th Street interchange in Aldergrove has the highest number of crashes in Langley.

It, and the 232nd Street interchange, are among the last remaining highway interchanges in the Lower Mainland that date back to the original construction of the highway in the 1960s. They feature large cloverleaf loops, and relatively low overpasses which have each been hit by overheight trucks in recent years.

Provincial plans call for them both to be replaced as part of a series of road widening projects along Highway #1 to Abbotsford, first the 232nd Street overpass, then 264th.

  The new changes include formalizing “progressive-enforcement” framework, but it will still include escalating consequences for carriers who commit repeat offences. Those consequences could include a possible loss of safety certificates, prohibiting them from operating.

Beginning June 1, there will also be a requirement for an in-cab warning device to alert dump-style vehicle operators when the dump box is raised. Speed limiter devices have also been mandated, preventing heavy commercial vehicles from travelling more than 105 km/h on B.C. highways.

- with files from Black Press Media

Dan Ferguson

About the Author: Dan Ferguson

Best recognized for my resemblance to St. Nick, I’m the guy you’ll often see out at community events and happenings around town.
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