Truckers call for improvements to B.C. highways after series of overpass collisions

A truck crashed into a Highway 1 overpass in Langley on Monday

A truck crashed into a Highway 1 overpass in Langley, B.C., on Monday, becoming the latest in a string of collisions that has truckers raising safety concerns.

In response to what it called a “recent spate” of such incidents, the province’s Transportation Ministry said Monday it’s stepping up enforcement, particularly for over-height vehicles.

The ministry said the trucking industry as a whole is “extremely professional and safety conscious,” but there are some drivers “who fail to take the proper precautions” with potentially over-height loads.

“Overpass collisions like the one in Langley this morning are taken very seriously by the ministry and we understand people’s frustration,” said a Ministry of Transportation spokesperson in an email.

“In response to the recent spate of overpass collisions, the ministry has increased its commercial vehicle safety and enforcement patrols with an emphasis on enforcing height restrictions.”

The B.C. Trucking Association says that while driver error is often a significant factor when commercial trucks hit overpasses, the province needs to do more to improve highway infrastructure and share what it knows about overpass collisions. 

Dave Earle, CEO of the B.C. Trucking Association, says his group is working with the province to improve infrastructure for commercial drivers and would like to see the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure publicly share findings about incidents.

“Without getting more information about what the ministry is learning, that’s going to be really hard for us to work cooperatively to figure out what we can do to improve things,” Earle said.

“We just don’t know enough about when [the collisions] happen and what’s causing them.”

Since last month, there have been at least four incidents where commercial trucks carrying oversized loads have hit overpasses along B.C. highways.

A tow truck and multiple police vehicles attend the scene of a cherry-picker truck that struck the Glover Road overpass on Highway 1 in Langley, B.C. on Monday. A long line of traffic is backed up in the lanes beside the incident.
A tow truck and multiple police vehicles attend the scene where a truck hit the Glover Road overpass on Highway 1 in Langley, B.C., on Monday. (Curtis Kreklau)

In early June, a truck collided with the Cambie Road overpass in Richmond, causing part of Highway 99 to shut down. A couple of weeks later, a dump truck towing an excavator slammed into the 232nd overpass on Highway 1 in Langley.

And last week, a flatbed truck hauling an excavator caused significant damage to the 192nd overpass on Highway 1 in Surrey, sending two people to hospital.

The latest in the series of overpass incidents took place Monday, when a cherry-picker truck crashed into the Glover Road overpass of Highway 1 in Langley. The bridge has a sign listing its lowest height as 4.46 metres.

7 trucks hit overhead bridges in past year

The province says in the past 12 months there have been at least seven incidents of trucks carrying over-height loads striking overhead bridges. 

Jim Weber is a heavy-haul truck driver who says infrastructure in B.C. can be very challenging when transporting oversized cargo such as machinery, farming equipment and construction materials.

“B.C. has a lot of old infrastructure, a lot of low overpasses, and roundabouts … they’ve even put roundabouts on the main highways,” he said. 

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says all new infrastructure will be built at least five metres in height to help alleviate challenges for commercial truck drivers. (Spruce Hollow Heavy Haul)

The province says all new infrastructure will be built at least five metres in height to alleviate some of the obstacles facing commercial truck drivers. 

Earle says there could be multiple reasons why commercial trucks have been hitting overpasses.

“It can be people taking shortcuts. It can be people making honest errors in measurement. Sometimes it’s companies and drivers just not thinking that they have an oversized load and knowing what those issues are. And that’s where education and outreach has to come in,” he said. 

The province says to increase transparency and accountability, new measures will be introduced in the coming weeks, including a published list of “B.C. carriers who have been cancelled for cause … this includes serious safety violations.” 

Earle says the aim of the public reports wouldn’t be to find blame, but rather to prevent similar collisions in future. 

Upgrading infrastructure

Rob Wiebe drove commercial trucks for nine years, before becoming the general manager at K-Line Trailers in Langley.

His company works with customers on what they need transported, and how best to design and build a trailer fit for the job. 

“The loads are getting bigger, the equipment is getting bigger, that’s not going to change,” said Wiebe.

Rob Wiebe with K-Line Trailers says cargo loads are getting bigger, as is the equipment used for hauling. (CBC News/Janella Hamilton)

He says some of his customers have to bypass B.C. in order to transport oversized cargo. He says upgrading and improving existing infrastructure would be better for the economy and the environment.

Weber says regardless of where drivers are travelling, it comes down to doing the necessary homework, being prepared and getting the proper permits.

“At the end of the day, us as drivers are responsible to check our route before we leave.”