TNRD backs big-rig ban for Highway 5A

'It's a free-for-all on the twisty roads of the Interior'

In order to put an end to heavy rig traffic and deadly collisions on Highway 5A, regional directors will ask the province to ban tractor-trailers from the windy stretch of road.

The request - which the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board will send in a letter to the Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Environment and MLAs Terry Lake and Kevin Krueger - would exclude semis with scheduled stops along the route from Merritt to Kamloops from the ban.

But chair Randy Murray's motion didn't pass without a fight during a board meeting Thursday, as 12 of 25 directors voted against it.

Although there's no guarantee the province will act on the request, the president of the B.C. Trucking Association is already bristling at the idea.

President Louise Yako said there should always be two routes to a destination. Eliminating Highway 5A takes a secondary route away from truckers if the Coquihalla Highway is closed because of weather or an accident.

"I find the idea problematic," she said.

So did almost half of the TNRD board. Although no one could deny the long history of problems on Highway 5A, a dozen directors don't believe banning rigs is the solution.

Director John Ranta, a retired bus driver, was the first to oppose the motion. He believes commercial drivers can go where they want. To tell them they can't is a violation of their rights and freedoms.

"I support that freedom and oppose the motion. I'd encourage you all to do the same," he said.

A lot of directors did, including Peter Milobar and Susan Roline, who believe better enforcement by the RCMP and Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement (CVSE) officers is needed.

Milobar would like to see officers redirected from speed traps in the Fraser Valley to the Interior so roads can be better policed.

"It's a free-for-all on the twisty roads of the Interior," said Milobar.

Murray said enforcement and upgrades haven't solved the problem. He spent 40 minutes on Highway 5A before 10 a.m. on Sunday morning. During that time 36 rigs passed him, 14 of which were in a convoy with cars wedged between them. Many drove in excess of the speed limit.

He's heard from residents who've met semis in the oncoming lane on blind corners or who have been forced off the road, said Murray.

To him, the answer is to try something innovative that might get rigs off that road. He suggested to not give it a try is insanity.

"Insanity is to keep doing the same thing without getting results," said Murray.

Opponents believe the problem is the drivers, not the road or rigs.

"We should be banning the drivers," said director Mike Fennell.

The trucking association has met with RCMP and the CVSE, who assured Yako incidents on Highway 5A are on the decline.

"I understand they are very vigilant on that road," she said.

Last month, two semi drivers died in a fiery collision on Highway 5A. This prompted Krueger to suggest banning big rigs from the highway.

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