B.C. to hike commercial vehicle crash penalties after 35 over-height truck incidents

B.C. to hike commercial vehicle crash penalties after 35 over-height truck incidents
Penalties for commercial truck crashes into overpasses or other infrastructure in British Columbia are set to soar, including fines of up to $100,000 and jail sentences up to 18 months. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming speaks at a press conference near Hope, B.C., Monday, Dec. 20, 2021.

British Columbia is looking to put the brakes on crashes into highway overpasses by imposing the highest fines and penalties in Canada.

Penalties for crashes into overpasses or other highway infrastructure by commercial vehicles in B.C. are set to rise sharply, including fines of up to $100,000 and jail sentences of up to 18 months, Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said Tuesday

The New Democrat minister has proposed changes to the Commercial Transport Act that currently prescribes crash fines for over-height vehicles of $500 to $598, levels that have not changed for decades.

Fleming said the proposed changes are in response to 35 crashes involving over-height commercial vehicles since late 2021.

“What we’re trying to zero in on is the 35 infrastructure crashes over the last several years that have cost taxpayers, cost the economy and put lives at risk,” Fleming said at a news conference following introduction of the proposed legislation.

He said the vast majority of truck drivers and commercial operators in B.C. work safely but there’s “still a tiny, tiny percentage that are not taking all the safety checks necessary and we’re going to assign responsibility in the most egregious cases.”

Commercial truckers are the lifeblood of B.C.’s economic supply chain, Fleming said.

“They deliver our essential and needed goods on a daily basis,” he said. “They keep our businesses running. They supply parts for different businesses and virtually everything that is on our plate or in our homes is delivered by a commercial vehicle. That’s why it’s important that we support them to do their jobs efficiently and safely.”

The province last month cancelled the operating licence of B.C. trucking firm Chohan Freight Forwarders after one of its commercial vehicles lodged a steel girder in an overpass over Highway 99 in Delta in December.

Fleming said laws surrounding highway infrastructure crashes in B.C. have not changed since the 1970s.

B.C. Trucking Association president Dave Earle said the association supports the proposed penalty increases.

The increased penalties and fines will send a message industry-wide, to truckers, operators and customers that safety must be observed at all points along the journey, from start to delivery, he said.

“While it’s not going to necessarily solve everything overnight, it’s a really, really critical part of what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Earle who attended the news conference with Fleming.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 12, 2024.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian PressDirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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