Questions linger after deadly crash on Lessard Road in Edmonton

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Questions linger after deadly crash on Lessard Road in Edmonton
Two crashes in two days involving semi trucks are raising many questions. One of those crashes killed an Edmonton teacher and as Nicole Stillger explains, experts say it was likely preventable – Oct 29, 2020

Gary Schultz has been an instructor at the Capilano Truck Driving Training Institute in Edmonton for the past decade. He also has nearly 30 years of driving experience himself.

Schultz said Wednesday’s crash on Lessard Road that killed 36 year-old teacher, Meghan Weis, was a “preventable incident.”

“It’s an unnecessary loss of life,” Schultz said Thursday.

“Whether it was the vehicle inspection side of it, or whether he didn’t recognize a faulty or failing part…”

Weis died after a converter dolly came off a semi tractor trailer at around 7:30 a.m. and struck her minivan that had been heading east on Lessard Road, near the Anthony Henday overpass.

Police said their initial investigation shows that the eight-wheel converter dolly had separated from the semi, which had been travelling west on Lessard Road, crossed the median and struck the driver’s side of the van.

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Read more: Edmonton teacher ‘deeply loved by all’ identified as victim of Lessard Road crash

“Especially when he’s pulling a 5,000-pound tandem axel converter and [it’s] designed for 50,000 pounds. That’s 10 times more the weight. How can that possibly just pop off?”

Schultz added there are multiple levels of securements on a converter dolly.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton teacher killed in crash involving semi dolly on Lessard Road'
Edmonton teacher killed in crash involving semi dolly on Lessard Road

This is the second incident involving a semi in the same area this week.

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On Tuesday, a dual wheel came off a tractor trailer on Anthony Henday Drive, near Lessard Road just after 10 a.m. and struck the roof of a commercial truck.

Police said in that incident the driver of the truck that was hit was able to pull over and only suffered minor injuries.

“Whether it’s a part of the vehicle, cargo inspection, vehicle inspection and if they don’t have the proper training or haven’t attended a school like ours then what are they missing?” Schultz asked.

To his frustration, he often sees varying levels of neglect by truck drivers.

“I’m travelling down the Yellowhead the other day and I see a strap [flapping] in the wind — the driver didn’t remember to tie it down. It’s secured in the roll and the ratchet, but he forgot to tighten it,” Schultz said.

“It’s embarrassing, is what it is, because I bust my buns to teach these guys right.”

READ MORE: Majority of commercial vehicles fail Edmonton safety checks

Edmonton Police Service said it does regular checks and enforcement on semi trucks.

Most recently, On Oct. 27, within a two-hour period, 12 trucks with trailers were stopped.

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  • 46 violations were discovered
  • 83 per cent of the vehicles were pulled out of service
  • 17 per cent passed the inspection
  • $3,400 in fines handed out

Provincial enforcement

There are 17 vehicle inspection stations on major transportation route throughout Alberta and 24 mobile inspection stations.

The mobile stations provide added geographic coverage to give the Alberta Sheriffs flexibility to shift resources to certain areas in response to trends or traffic patterns.

These stats represent enforcement done by the Sheriff Highway Patrol within its jurisdiction on provincial highways:

  • 2019 — 27,050 total inspections; 10,940 out of service inspections; 13,769 violation tickets issues
  • 2020 (to Oct. 29) — 17,345 total inspections; 7,575 out of service inspections; 10,445 violation tickets issued

According to the province, enforcement statistics in 2020 are on pace to be lower than previous years because of a reduction in traffic resulting from strict public health restrictions during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Importance of proper training, enforcement

Schultz believes enforcement needs to be ramped up.

“Because the enforcement is so sparse and it’s hard to catch people at the time they are creating the violation or breaking laws, it needs to be more thorough,” he explained.

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That’s why proper training from the start is critical.

“The pre-trips are slipping and slipping and slipping,” he said.

“Training is of the essence. There isn’t enough of it and there’s not enough of us to give that training.”

He’s asking drivers out there to not gloss over a proper inspection on their vehicles before hitting the road.

Schultz feels especially close to this plea. He’s lost family in a similar manner and feels for Weis’ loved ones.

“It’s a horrible thing to go through.”

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