Drivers working for the company whose logging truck spilled its load across Highway 97 in Penticton just before Christmas received nearly two dozen violation tickets in the preceding two years.
Around 8 a.m. on Dec. 23, 2013, the fully loaded logging truck tipped over as it rounded a sharp curve heading out of the city near West Bench Hill Road.
The truck and trailer, owned by Rod and Doug Webber Logging of West Kelowna, landed on its side, spilling logs across three lanes of the highway.
The driver, a 29-year-old Summerland man, was unharmed, and there were no other vehicles around the truck at the moment it tipped.
“It’s more luck than anything,” said Penticton RCMP Sgt. Rick Dellebuur, who helped with traffic control at the scene that morning.
“It was the 23rd of December, people were still working, there was still a fair amount of traffic,” he continued. “But I guess right at that particular time, it wasn’t so bad, and that’s fortunate.”
Police blamed the crash on incorrect use of a device that is meant to keep the trailer in line with the truck during loading, but which can make rigs unstable at higher speeds
“This was an error, and the guy’s probably never made it before and you can just about bet he’s not going to make it again,” Dellebuur said.
The truck’s operator was later given a ticket for driving without consideration. It was the 24th such ticket the company’s drivers received over the span of just two years, according to documents obtained by the Western News through freedom of information legislation.
Other violations included speeding, insecure loads and improper brake performance.
The company did not respond to requests for comment, but the documents suggest the company had 12 trucks on the road during that time.
Still, the number of violations was enough to prompt a pair of warning letters from the B.C. government.
A manager from the Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement Branch told the company in May 2013 that “records of your operation have raised some safety concerns,” and noted a good safety plan “will assist you with compliance.”
Company owner Rod Webber signed a copy of the letter under an acknowledgment he had reviewed the firm’s safety plan and was committed to improvement. But simply having company owners sign letters committing to safety isn’t enough to protect the public, said Claire Trevena, transportation critic for the B.C. New Democratic Party.
“You’ve got to be able to follow that up. If the company keeps getting issued tickets, there’s a problem there,” she said.
“What we see time and again, sadly, is people get killed because of lack of enforcement.”
Transportation Ministry spokesman Robert Adam said in a statement that Rod and Doug Webber Logging has recently managed a “vast improvement” in its safety performance, and that shows the system in place is working.
“The carrier is now below the provincial median in contraventions with their CVSA inspection score almost 50 per cent lower,” Adam said.
“Based on the changes we’ve seen in this company, our intervention process worked as intended.”