Hundreds of British Columbia truckers took to the roads in Metro Vancouver on Saturday to protest what they say is poor highway maintenance and dangerous driving conditions.
An estimated 150 big rigs gathered in Surrey on Saturday morning before proceeding in a convoy to downtown Vancouver.
“We’re going to light a candle there in the memory of all the truck drivers who have lost their lives on the highways, who have gone to earn bread for their families but did not make it home because of the highway conditions,” said Vijaydeep Sahasi, president of the West Coast Trucking Association.
Truckers say highways through the province’s Interior suffer from a raft of serious problems, ranging from potholes to black ice to improperly or uncleared snow.
Sahasi said the group is hoping to get the Ministry of Transportation to address the issue, because drivers are unable to take problems up individually with each of the 28 contractors that maintain the roads.
“It gets worse and worse every year,” said Hardeep Dail, a driver with 11 years on the road.
“This year, it’s gotten so bad that there’s not one day during a snowstorm that somebody doesn’t get hurt or lose their lives due to an accident.”
Dail said the issues weren’t unique to the Coquihalla Highway — which suffered recent major storm damage — but are endemic province-wide, including crucial stretches between Kamloops and Alberta.
He said drivers don’t see maintenance contractors out on the road until after there’s been a crash, at which point they are “out like bees.”
“If they had done it before the accident, that could have prevented it and it could save a lot of lives and save a lot of money for us.”
Highway closures due to collisions also often leave drivers stuck waiting on the side of the road for half a day or more in each direction on a trip, he said.
Sahasi said the province needs to ensure road contractors are properly maintaining highways for safety.
He also said drivers need better facilities along routes, including bathrooms with heat, electricity and running water, along with more places to pull out and park their trucks to rest or chain up.
In a statement, B.C. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said the province had reached out to the West Coast Trucking Association “to hear their concerns first-hand.”
“It’s important we have that direct line of communication with them,” Fleming said.
“That is why staff are meeting as soon as possible to continue the productive conversation, and to ensure that we are working together to keep truck drivers safe.”
The ministry says this year’s “extreme winter conditions” have been particularly hard for contractors, but acknowledges that “there have been instances this winter where contractors have not operated up to Ministry standards.”
It says the ministry has followed up with problem contractors, and that its newest contracts include “enhanced specifications that require a more proactive approach, like more frequent patrols prior to and during winter events, and a quicker return to bare pavement after a winter event occurs.”
Saturday’s rally was separate from an unrelated “Freedom Convoy” slated to roll out from British Columbia en route to Ottawa protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates.