Alberta announced a one-year pilot project on Friday that will give tow truck operators the option of using blue lights to increase their visibility and safety.
The pilot project starts June 30.
Members of the industry, including the Towing and Recovery Association of Alberta and the Alberta Motor Association, have been asking for permission to use blue lights for years. They even got the support of the Alberta Chiefs of Police.
They were worried about tow truck drivers’ safety and believe other motorists have become complacent to seeing amber lights.
Brad Rutherford, a former police officer turned MLA, brought forward the blue lights idea in a private member’s bill. Bill 207, the Traffic Safety (Tow Truck Warning Lamps) Amendment Act, was introduced in the Alberta legislature on April 28.
“I want to thank MLA Brad Rutherford for advocating for this change,” Minister of Transportation Rajan Sawhney said. “Too many tow truck drivers are involved in collisions or dangerous situations because motorists have difficulty seeing them while they’re working.
“This pilot project is intended to increase safety for these operators and will help determine the best lighting for tow trucks in Alberta.”
In a statement Friday, Rutherford said he was extremely pleased to see the government act on concerns raised by the tow truck industry.
“This pilot project will be critical to enhancing roadside safety for not only tow truck operators but the Albertans they are helping. This issue has been supported by stakeholders in the transportation industry and I want to thank all parties involved for their tremendous effort and advocacy.”
Additional consideration is also being given to include snowplow operators in the pilot this fall. Alberta Transportation is working with the University of Alberta to research possible light configuration changes for snowplows.
“Every Albertan deserves to be safe at work, even if their office is at the side of the road,” said Michelle Chimko, president and CEO of the AMA.
She said the change is simple but “will make a life-saving difference.”
Don Getschel, president of the Towing and Recovery Association of Alberta and Oil Country Towing, said the increased visibility will mean increased safety for roadside assistance workers.
Since December 2019, the AMA reports there have been at least 36 near misses and 14 serious roadside incidents involving Alberta tow trucks and passing vehicles. Between March 2018 and March 2021, there were 128 collisions involving snowplows contracted by Alberta Transportation.
Other rules to protect highway workers were introduced under the Traffic Safety Amendment Act. Starting spring 2023, all motorists travelling in the same direction on multi-lane highways will need to slow down to at least 60 km/h and allow one lane of space, where possible, when passing stopped emergency vehicles, tow trucks and roadside workers’ vehicles when their lights are flashing.