May 16, 2022

Time to Rethink Construction Site Trucks in Metro Vancouver Neighbourhoods

Everything stops when the unbelievable happens-a 14 year old student was killed by a dump truck in the first week of May  in Burnaby, when she got caught up between the truck and its adjoining trailer.

This terrible fatality happened in the 7100 block of 11th Avenue in Burnaby near the New Westminster border. The site is near a school and a park: there is signage on the end of the street suggesting that pedestrians not use the street that is uncurbed and with no sidewalks.

That street  is probably the best way home for groups of school kids, suggesting that the construction project’s transportation plan that was put in place between the City of Burnaby and the Southgate City construction team may need a rethink.

But more than that, this terrible tragedy should inform how other construction projects proceed in Metro Vancouver where there are often different uses competing for the same space on roads and properties.

The point in discussing this is to ensure that this type of deadly incident never happens again.

And there are some clear lessons about the use of construction trucks on city streets from the City of London Great Britain. In  2016 London outright banned “construction trucks” from  the city because of the high tires, high driver seats and  big blind spots. In London trucks MUST use protective sideguards so that people cannot be trapped below a truck. (Canada has no such legislation and the industry is self regulating.)

A British study found  that these construction trucks were  responsible for 70 percent of all bicyclist deaths and more than 20 percent of pedestrian deaths  in the City of London. That is a remarkable number when these trucks only make up 4 percent of all vehicular traffic.

Tandem trailers attached to a construction truck are completely banned in London.

Of course there was pushback on the banning of these construction trucks in London-but the industry has adapted.

Trucks in London also must have large refracting mirrors and perimeter proximity monitors and alarms which indicate if a cyclist or pedestrian is too close.

Canada has gone a different direction with having the trucking industry regulate itself.

Hamilton Ontario has stood out  in banning all trucks with five or more axles  in their downtown.

In British Columbia the provincial agency called the  Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement (CVSE)  stops trucks on roads and check the drivers and vehicles for infractions. Sadly in Burnaby 67 percent of vehicles in CVSE inspections  failed and were taken off road for servicing at road checks last month, versus 52 percent for all of Metro Vancouver.

In a quick stop, a truck will take two or three times the distance to  come to a halt compared to a smaller vehicle. It is vital that brakes and  safety equipment are in working condition.

If trucks are failing random road inspections because the industry is not complying to regulations except if they are enforced, either the Province needs to ensure compliance or else municipalities must ensure that these vehicles do not ever operate in residential or mixed use neighbourhoods.

Site construction traffic  plans filed with municipalities must determine the size of vehicle  allowed to service site, how those vehicles are monitored, and how they are  managed in neighbourhoods in terms of timing, frequency and size. That information must also be posted and public for the impacted neighbourhood.

There is also a need for a roll out of temporary and permanent street infrastructure used during all construction projects that ensure the safety of the most vulnerable street users.  This could be a travelling package  installed as part of the permit cost by the municipality and monitored to ensure compliance. Installing temporary pavement sidewalks after a fatality is a band aid solution-we need proactive measures to keep the most vulnerable  road users safe.

Even if temporary signage says the street is not to be walked on, making a protected walking area with temporary bollards, plywood boards and tape should be in place to allow access for pedestrians along a safe side of the street. Think always of the most vulnerable road user, and mitigate all other activity to ensure their safety.

If there are school or parks nearby the construction site or route, ensure no trucking traffic is allowed at times that children will be walking to/from the school.

Look to the use of flaggers to accompany truck drivers  in/out of construction sites and through any residential neighbourhood. Insist that trucks stay outside of neighbourhoods, and if they must travel through one, use a flagger and have the driver go through at 10 kilometers per hour.

Ban tandem trucks in cities. Do that today.  And take a look at the City of London’s regulation and see whether we should also be banning construction trucks in favour of smaller vehicles.

Let’s not let this loss of young life, and the ongoing trauma to family and friends ever happen again due to Metro  Vancouver’s construction practices. We must do better.

 

 

 

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