RMOW asked to lobby province on logging truck pilot project 

New monitoring technology notifies drivers of safety hazards

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A longtime Whistler local, and mechanical engineer, is asking the RMOW to consider lobbying provincial officials to implement a pilot project aimed at preventing hauling truck accidents.

Peter von der Porten is the CEO of Redmond, WA.-based Vehicle Monitoring Corporation (VMC), a company that develops and installs technologies that monitor heavy-haul truck safety for clients around the globe.

He was motivated to present in front of council Tuesday, Jan. 28 by two logging truck accidents — one of them fatal — on the Sea to Sky Highway in the month of October. He said his company's load-tracking technology would result in fewer accidents, and he hopes the RMOW will push B.C.'s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) to implement a pilot project.

"Highway 99 is a prime example of mixing tourism and industry, and we're a No. 1 resort municipality, so I thought it was probably appropriate we take a leadership role," von der Porten said.

The monitoring technology uses GPS, satellite and cell communication to transmit information back to a server, or website, for monitoring. It then provides real-time feedback to drivers in order to notify them of any safety issues or potential load tipping.

VMC has installed the tracking devices on tankers in China, where the technology is mandated for all liquefied natural gas (LNG) haulers, and in Australia, where it's expected to become an industry requirement within three years. The cost of implementing the technology for one truck is between $800 and $1,000, on top of small monthly satellite and data usage charges.

Hauling companies can expect to see a return of investment through accident prevention, lower insurance rates and an estimated increase in driver productivity of 15 per cent, von der Porten said.

"Imagine that we are effective here with a pilot project; it means there'd be fewer accidents, (insurance) rates for logging trucks would go down, and WorkSafe BC rates would go down, all of which are significant costs to logging companies," he added.

The technology would also assist investigators in identifying the cause of accidents, with real-time information on a vehicle's exact location, speed, trailer weight and brake performance, von der Porten said.

Acting mayor Jack Crompton said the municipality would support such a project, but added it was not in the RMOW's jurisdiction to implement it.

"If the MOTI initiates a project like that, then we would for sure get behind it," he said. "We are looking for ways to make this highway safer and make sure that the traffic that goes through Whistler is safe."

Two logging truck accidents in the span of a month last year made lumber hauling safety a priority for Whistler officials. The first incident occurred Oct. 2 in the Cheakamus Canyon, where no one was seriously injured. The second took place Oct. 19 when a southbound logging truck lost its load near the Nordic turnoff on Highway 99, fatally striking 65-year-old West Vancouver man Hugh Craig Roberts, who was riding his motorcycle northbound at the time.

The investigation into the crash by the Integrated Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Service, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement unit and the BC Coroners Service is ongoing.

RMOW leaders met transportation officials in the wake of these crashes, and a November accident that killed two 19-year-old UBC students after their SUV crossed the Highway 99 centre line north of Lions Bay and collided with an oncoming pickup truck.

A stretch of road was closed for over 10 hours as a result of the fatal SUV crash, snarling traffic on a busy Saturday and leading to calls for improved safety measures on the highway.

Whistler's chief administrative officer, Mike Furey, said discussions with the coroners service, transportation and law enforcement representatives centred around finding ways to improve information sharing on road closures to prevent traffic backlogs.

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