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B.C. transportation minister vows to raise fines, recover repair costs after overpass strike

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The day after a large truck hit a Highway 99 overpass in Delta causing substantial damage, B.C. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming is vowing to raise fines and recover repair costs from truck drivers and companies involved in overpass strikes.

“It’s absolutely crazy that this kind of thing is still happening. We have had a number of incidents before,” said Fleming.

There have been 21 overpass strikes on provincial highways since December 2021.

“Even though 999 out of 1,000 drivers probably do the proper things each and every day as they are moving goods around our region, it just takes one that careless, negligent driver to create the kind of traffic congestion and damage to our infrastructure we saw yesterday. And that’s unacceptable,” said Fleming.

He said the province will dramatically increase fines for drivers who hit overpasses, and if the driver or the company they drive for is found to be responsible for the strikes, Fleming’s ministry will take them to court to attempt to recover repair costs.

“We are going to be tougher on companies, we are going to be tougher on drivers, fines are going up, that’s already happening, that’s been actioned already," Fleming said. "And we are also going to work with the industry to see what additionally over and above what we already do to make that tiny percentage of drivers who somehow are not getting it to understand what they need to do.”

Doug Clarke, the owner of Over the Road Truck Driving School in Langley, says overpass strikes are totally preventable with proper instruction and attention by the driver.

“It’s more than skill. It goes into thinking, into planning. Most of this stuff is all because of no planning or very poor planning,” said Clarke. “We have to measure the load to make sure what the height is.”

Steve Houghton, an instructor at Gold Star Professional Driving School, agrees no driver should be guessing how tall their load is.

“Measuring tape. It does wonders, and it takes seconds. Honestly, you’re doing your pre-trip inspection before you go out on the road anyways, using a tape measure or a stick or something, it takes seconds,” said Houghton.

“Ultimately, it is the driver's responsibility to make sure their load can fit where they are intending to go," he added. "And the reason they’re not is really beyond me.”

Since October 2021, new tractor trailer drivers have been required to pass a 140-hour certified training course before going for their road test. Clarke thinks those who have completed the course are less likely to make big mistakes.

“I think there would be a much better adherence or understanding of it with a student who has just come out of a school when it’s top-of-mind and fresh,” he said.

While most drivers are independent contractors, Houghton thinks the transport companies they drive for also have a role to play in preventing overpass strikes.

“It’s in their best interests to make sure their drivers are aware of the load they are pulling and the size of it, and also that they are following the rules,” he said.

Bright Sky Disposal, the company involved in the overpass strike on Tuesday, had no comment when contacted by phone. The southbound lane and sidewalk of the Highway 17A overpass of Highway 99 remain closed while crews assess the damage.  

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