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B.C.’s overpass strike fines now up to $100K, could include jail time

The province says there have been 35 crashes involving infrastructure since late 2021
Emergency crews on scene in Delta after a truck hit the 112 Street overpass on Highway 99 on Dec. 29, 2023. it was the company Chohan Freight Forwarders Ltd’s sixth infrasrtucture hit in two years. (Shane MacKichan photo)

Transportation Minister Rob Fleming says fines of up to $100,000 and potential jail time for drivers hitting overpasses and other infrastructure in B.C. sends a clear message.

“Simply put, there (are) no excuses for crashes and collisions with our infrastructure,” he said Tuesday afternoon (March 12) in the legislature. In addition to the fines, drivers who are convicted could face up to 18 months in jail.

He added families, businesses and the economy suffer when commercial vehicles hit overpasses. There have been 35 crashes by over-height commercial vehicles since late 2021.

While Fleming could not cite a specific figure, these crashes have caused millions of dollars in provincial highway repairs, along with lengthy closures and supply chain disruptions.

“Let me be clear — these crashes need to stop. I want to stress the vast majority of commercial drivers in this province exemplify the utmost professionalism. Only a tiny percentage don’t seem to be getting the message.”

The facts of future investigations will determine whether drivers or their employers will bear the higher penalties, Fleming said.

Fleming made these comments in discussing the proposed legislation, which he had tabled Tuesday morning. Dave Earle, president and chief executive officer of the BC Trucking Association, joined Fleming.

The new fines would be the highest in Canada and come after the province had raised fines in December to the maximum allowable figure of $500 from $100. The fines will come into force with the legislation’s Royal Assent.

READ MORE: Trucks hitting B.C. overpasses to face escalating scale of penalties

Earle, whose organization help shape the proposed legislation, said the changes represent one, but important tool to improve safety. “Imposing stricter penalties for carriers supports road safety and helps protect infrastructure, and ultimately enhances safety for everyone on our roads,” he said.

While the province was planning to implement escalating penalties for companies with repeat offences, the new fines represent the latest in “a series of steps the ministry has taken recently to address the issue.”

These changes include formalizing “progressive-enforcement” framework, but it will still include escalating consequences for carriers who commit repeat offences. Those consequences could include a possible loss of safety certificates, prohibiting them from operating.

Other changes are also on the way. Trucks will have to have in-cab warning device to alert dump-style vehicle operators when the dump box is raised starting June 1. The province has also mandated speed-limiting devices, preventing heavy commercial vehicles from travelling more than 105 km/h on B.C. highways.

Fleming said B.C. is also working with the federal government as well as other provinces and territories to close loopholes that allow so-called ‘chameleon’ companies from operating in one province despite being prohibiting from operating in another.

READ MORE: B.C. suspends trucking company’s certificate after Delta overpass crash

Under the current system, provinces and territories can only monitor and assess operators licensed in their own jurisdiction, thereby not recognizing the inter-provincial nature of commercial trucking.

Last month, B.C. cancelled Chohan Freight Forwarders’ ability to operate in B.C. following six overpass crashes in three years. The company — which also operates in Alberta — has sued B.C. following government’s decision to initially suspend the company’s operations in December following another overpass strike.