Safety concerns peak over logging trucks 

Whistler looking at issue as union calls for sweeping changes to industry

Earlier this winter a loaded logging truck flipped over in the path of an empty bus, seriously injuring the bus driver. Clare Ogilvie photo
  • Earlier this winter a loaded logging truck flipped over in the path of an empty bus, seriously injuring

    the bus driver. Clare Ogilvie photo

By Andrew Mitchell

Two recent incidents of logging trucks tipping over on Highway 99 in the Whistler area were addressed by council on Monday.

The issue was raised after Councillor Ralph Forsyth’s wife, Stephanie, sent a letter to the municipality, expressing concerns about the heavy volume of trucks, the speeds that the trucks are moving, and the fact that both incidents occurred at a time when school buses are on the road.

Council referred the issue back to municipal staff, who will look at the issue.

According to Councillor Forsyth, his wife sent the letter after discussing the problem with other members of the community.

“A lot of people see these trucks flying through town, and they’re concerned,” he said. “Both accidents with trucks losing their loads happened around three o’clock in the afternoon, when school buses are on the road, and when you put those things together it’s a none-too-pleasant recipe.

“We can do a few things about it. One of the initial things is to write a letter to the Ministry of Transportation, and to call the RCMP to see if we can get a crackdown on drivers that might be speeding. Maybe we need a meeting with the minister. We’ll have to see what staff comes up with, and what they recommend. We’re not powerless in this issue.”

Whistler Council is not the only entity concerned about safety issues in the forest industry. The union representing most of B.C.’s forest industry workers drew a line in the sand recently, demanding the province reconsider recent changes to the industry that they claim have devastated the economy of rural B.C. communities while increasing the risks for workers and the general public.

Specifically, the union is concerned about the scuttling of a long-standing law that the majority of wood cut in any region be milled or processed locally. The result has been the closure of 39 mills in communities throughout the province, including Squamish, longer hauls for overworked logging truck drivers, and the downloading of dangerous work to contractors at every level of the industry that makes it harder to maintain or enforce safety standards. Forestry workers that were once on salary are now paid hourly or by commission, a system that rewards people for working long hours or for working quickly.

According to Steve Hunt, the Western Canada director for the United Steelworkers, which represents many forestry workers, the Canada-U.S. Softwood Lumber Agreement is the primary reason for the changes, although the companies that own the bulk of forest tenures in the province had been pushing for many of the changes even before the trade dispute. The result, he says, has been carnage.

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