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Mayor focuses on logging truck safety

Residents asked to report overloaded vehicles to the RCMP after man killed in accident



Two logging truck crashes in less than a month — one of them fatal — have made lumber-hauling safety a top priority for local officials.

And it has led to renewed calls from a United Steelworkers director for a review of the forest industry.

"The (fatal accident) happened right in the middle of town on a Saturday afternoon when the highway was busy with motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, with motorcycles — people are really worried," said Whistler's mayor, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

She directed Resort Municipality of Whistler staff to liaise with the RCMP on logging truck safety.

"We don't have any jurisdiction, unfortunately, over the provincial highway," said Wilhelm-Morden, "so we can't do something like ban logging trucks, but we do have responsibility for policing."

She reported on Tuesday, Oct. 23 that the investigation into the fatal accident on Saturday, Oct.19 is expected to take some time. Meanwhile, though, Wilhelm-Morden spoke with local Liberal MLA Jordan Sturdy about potential action the provincial government can take.

"In the meantime, we spoke about enforcement and the RCMP is stepping up its efforts," she said. "Anyone noticing speeding or overloaded trucks can call the RCMP with the license number of the truck."

In an interview, Sturdy said he is awaiting the results of the various investigations into the crash. Investigators told him they have a good sense of the cause.

"If regulation changes are required or suggested that will be forwarded," said Sturdy, who was recently given the job of parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. In that role he is part of a province-wide discussion aimed at determining if speed limits on some provincial highways should be increased.

The first crash happened in the Cheakamus Canyon on Wednesday, Oct. 2. No-one was seriously hurt. But the weekend crash, which saw a southbound fully loaded logging truck tip and lose its load of logs, took the life of Hugh Craig Roberts, 65, of West Vancouver as he rode north on his motorcycle near the Nordic turnoff from Highway 99.

The Integrated Collision Reconstruction Team is investigating the crash, along with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement (CVSE) unit and the BC Coroners Service.

Wilhelm-Morden also took to Facebook to express her condolences to the family and friends of Roberts.

"It's absolutely unacceptable that a logging truck should lose its load in the middle of our town, or anywhere for that matter," she wrote.

United Steelworkers Union director Steve Hunt also offered condolences to Roberts' family. In an interview, Hunt reiterated the union's call for a multi-stakeholder review of the entire forest industry, including training and safety.

"We've been calling for that as Steelworkers for quite some time," Hunt said. "There's something seriously wrong when logging trucks tip over and logs spill out all over the place. Over the years, too many drivers have lost their lives because of either a lack of training or bad maintenance or a combination of many other factors that come into play."