The Thompson-Nicola Regional District officially supports banning non-local commercial trucks on Highway 5A between Kamloops and Merritt.
The BC Trucking Association, however, is opposed to the proposal.
At its regular board meeting on Thursday, April 22, the regional district board voted to write a letter in support of the request from Stump Lake Ranch.
TNRD Area P (Rivers and the Peaks) director Mel Rothenburger said safety concerns can be seen in news headlines of accidents on the winding highway, which he noted often include the term “fiery crash.”
Barriere Mayor Ward Stamer said he had a logging company, noting Highway 5A was not built for lumber trucks.
“Common sense says those trucks should be kept off Highway 5A and kept to the Coquihalla [Highway, also known as Highway 5],” Rothenburger said.
Lauding the regional district’s decision was Stump Lake Ranch spokesperson Bob Price, who said the ranch is “relieved” and “thankful.” He said the adjacent Coquihalla is more suitable for semi-truck traffic.
“Four and six lanes versus two lanes with no shoulder,” Price told KTW. “It’s not as windy.”
Price said truckers choose Highway 5A to save gas and prevent wear and tear on their brakes, due to less steep inclines.
Price said Stump Lake Ranch owner Bruce Chernoff is frustrated after a number of close calls on the highway involving semi-trucks. He said semis may be driving too fast, cross the centre line or take a wide turn. Price said ranch staff and longtime ranchers along the highway have been involved in dangerous swerves and crashes. Price said the Coquihalla runs adjacent and there is no need for semis to be driving on Highway 5A.
“What is a life worth?” Price asked. “Is it more important for that trucker or trucking company to save some money or is it … more important to make sure, you know, Joe Shmoe from Stump Lake Ranch goes home to his family tonight?”
Support from the regional district, however, doesn’t mean the ban is a done deal and it’s not the first time there have been calls for a prohibition of commercial truck traffic.
The decision lies with the province and former Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Kevin Krueger advocated for change in the past, even receiving a similar letter of support from the regional district board of the day — all to no avail.
Price is hoping this time will be different, noting more community support and a different provincial government.
Price said the vision for Highway 5A is not only to ban non-local commercial truck traffic for safety reasons, but to obtain a scenic route designation, with drivers choosing the highway to showcase Interior B.C. grasslands, lakes and ranch country.
TNRD board members opposed to supporting the ban were TNRD chair and Electoral Area L (Grasslands) director Ken Gillis, Merritt Mayor Linda Brown, TNRD Area J (Copper Desert Country) director Ronaye Elliott, Cache Creek Mayor Santo Talarico and TNRD Area B (Thompson Headwaters) director Stephen Quinn.
Brown said she has heard from her community that not all truckers drive dangerously. Instead of a ban, she suggested speed enforcement and further training for truckers.
She noted the road is public, as it is paid for with tax dollars.
“They’re [highways] not meant to be private roads just for the people that live on them,” Brown said.
BC Trucking Association president Dave Earle said the association is opposed to removing numbered highways from truck routes, calling the system “critical” for the safe movement of goods within British Columbia. He said the association is willing to work with residents concerned about traffic, but argued truck route revisions should be considered carefully, based on data.
“Making social policy based on headlines, without doing a very comprehensive review with data and understanding the nature of the problem and exploring solutions, is something that we will always oppose,” Earle said.
Considerations include altering routes used in poor weather and creating spinoff traffic congestion.
KTW reached out to the Ministry of Transportation and is waiting for response to questions about whether or not the province would enact a ban.