British Columbia

'These aren't accidents, they're crashes': Families of truck-crash victims pressure province for action

Two women who both lost loved ones in crashes with semi-trucks are pressuring the B.C. government to catch up with other provinces and improve safety standards in the trucking industry.

Ginny Hunter and Pattie Fair both lost loved ones and want to see more training, oversight

A passenger vehicle and a commercial trailer wound up in the ditch in this accident on the Coquihalla Highway last year. Families of peopled killed in such crashes, as well the trucking industry itself, are calling for more to be done to make the roads safer. (Shane MacKichan)

Two women who both lost loved ones in crashes with semi-trailers are pressuring the B.C. government to catch up with other provinces and improve safety standards in the trucking industry. 

B.C. is the only province west of Quebec that has not changed its commercial licensing rules since the Humboldt Broncos bus crash last year.

Ontario made mandatory entry-level training a requirement for commercial truck driving licences in 2017 and Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba recently followed suit, in large part prompted by the Humboldt crash last year, in which 16 people were killed when a transport truck hit the junior hockey team's bus in Saskatchewan.

Okanagan resident Ginny Hunter's stepson Logan Hunter, 18, was on the bus and died.

"He got in that bus trusting the roadways and trusting that he would be safe," she said.

Logan Hunter was 18 when he died in the bus crash. (Humboldt Broncos website)

Hunter and Pattie Fair — whose husband, Steve Babij, died in a crash near Revelstoke, B.C., in 2017 — met with Attorney General David Eby on Thursday as part of their push for legislation to make entry-level training mandatory and ensure more oversight for commercial truck drivers. 

"We've become very, very complacent and we accept these as accidents," Fair said. 

"These aren't accidents, they're crashes." 

Truck driver Stephen Babij, right, was killed in 2017 when his semi collided head-on with another big rig on a mountain road near Revelstoke, B.C. (Pattie Babij)

Her husband, who was driving a semi-trailer, died when another semi crossed the centre line and hit his vehicle head-on. 

"He complained all the time that drivers don't know how to chain up on the Coquihalla [Highway]. He would stop and help them," Fair told Gloria Macarenko, host of CBC's On The Coast.

"He always complained about the lack of training."

Fair, who comes from an occupational health and safety professional background, started talking to players in the trucking industry, often hanging out at truck stops along the road, to find out more after her husband's death. 

A pileup is pictured on the Coquihalla Highway. Hunter and Fair are pushing for more stringent safety rules for the trucking industry. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation)

She then launched a petition calling for national training standards for semi drivers.

"It was absolutely shocking the support the industry gave me with my petition. They've been asking for this change for 20 years," she said. 

"When you have industry asking to have more safety regulations put into place in their industry, why has our government not heard that?"

'People taking crazy risks'

Clint Lenzi owns Sure Haul Transportation, a trucking company based in Revelstoke, and knows first-hand the tragedies that can unfold on the roads. 

"I've lost employees," Lenzi said.

"We had a huge accident many years back where a bus crossed the centre line and hit one of my transport trucks and killed my employee."

He ensures that all his drivers are properly trained and equipped, he said, emphasizing the importance of conscientious driving.

Road safety is not just the responsibility of truck drivers though, he told Michelle Eliot on BC Today.

"We have drivers coming in all the time who have near misses and close calls, people taking huge risks," he said.

"It's impatience and people taking crazy risks for next-to-no benefit." 

The wreckage of the fatal Humboldt Broncos' bus crash outside of Tisdale, Sask., in April 2018. Sixteen people died and 13 others injured. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Hunter agrees it's not about punishing trucking companies or drivers. 

"There are good trucking companies out there and they're reputable — we would also like to see the government giving them benefits for being safety conscious," she said. 

"We're not lobbying against trucking companies, we want to make safer roadways for everybody."

Hunter and Fair are planning to meet B.C.'s Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena on Friday. 

With files from On The Coast and BC Today

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