Krueger wants truck ban on Kamloops-Merritt Highway
This time, it was two truckers.
Next time, it could be “a school bus full of children.”
That’s the word from Kamloops-South Thompson Liberal MLA Kevin Krueger in the wake of a fiery double-fatality on Highway 5A last week that has renewed his call for a ban on big rigs on the secondary route between Merritt and the Tournament Capital.
“I think everyone in their hearts knows this is going to happen again,” Krueger told KTW.
“It might be worse and it might be tomorrow.”
On Friday, Oct. 5, two trucks collided head-on near Stump Lake, about 40 kilometres south of Kamloops.
Both truckers were killed and the ensuing blaze sparked a sizeable wildfire. The BC Coroners Service has identified one of the drivers as 59-year-old Gary Joseph Miller of Kamloops.
The identity of the other trucker has not yet been made public.
Krueger has been calling for a big-rig ban on Highway 5A since 2010, but last week’s wreck brought the issue back to the top of his priority list.
“I think my constituents have the right to argue this particular highway must not be subject to this kind of danger,” he said.
“I’m determined. I’ve got half a year left [before retiring from politics] and this is going to be a major push from me. I’m going to do it.”
However, not everyone agrees with Krueger.
Louise Yako, president of the B.C. Trucking Association, said the ban Krueger is pitching would create new problems on area highways.
“Notwithstanding the fact Friday’s incident was quite tragic, we don’t think closing the highway to truckers is a viable solution,” she said, explaining many truckers save time, fuel and maintenance costs by choosing 5A over the Coquihalla Highway.
“For those truckers that are using it, it’s the most logical route for them to use,” she said.
“Causing trucks to move to another route will result in other unintended consequences.”
Those consequences, Yako said, would include increased emissions and potentially longer travel times for haulers.
The traffic displacement could also create delays on other highways — notably the Coquihalla.
“Essentially, you’re moving the problem,” she said. “I’m not saying do nothing. I’m saying what we do should be based on clear evidence.”
But, according to Krueger, the only thing left to do is to ban big rigs.
“We’ve done all the engineering stuff that can be done there without creating another Coquihalla through that little valley,” he said, referring to Highway 5A as “a little country road.
“Why would we do that when we have the Coquihalla sitting there, just over the hill?”
Krueger said he will be bringing the issue up in Victoria, but said he’s not sure how a ban might come into place.
One option, he said, would be for the municipal governments in Kamloops and Merritt to pass laws — with the support of the province — banning non-local semis on the highway.
“In Merritt and in Kamloops are where the highway starts and stops,” he said.
“They could do bylaws closing that route to truck traffic and we’d have what we want.”
In the past, Krueger said, when he’s called for a ban on big rigs on Highway 5A, the result has been a flurry of angry calls and emails from truckers.
“I want it very clear to all of those guys in the industry that I’m not backing off,” he said.
“They don’t have to send me emails telling me to because I’m not going to. I’m going to fight for this until I’m no longer elected, and even after that if I have to.”
According to ICBC, the number of crashes and injuries along Highway 5A has been generally in decline dating back to 2006.
In 2010, there were 25 accidents along the highway, resulting in 28 injuries.
That was an increase from 2009, in which there were 18 crashes involving 14 injuries.
In 2008, there were 33 crashes and another 18 people injured.
In 2007, officials recorded 30 crashes injuring 22 people.
In 2006, there were 47 accidents on Highway 5A injuring 32 people.