Significant Penalty Increase for Overheight Violations

Province of BC LogoThe provincial government has announced it's intent to implement a significant penalty increase for commercial vehicles involved in infrastructure collisions. A fine of up to $100,000 and imprisonment of up to 18 months could be faced by drivers of overheight loads that collide with an overpass.

This is the second announcement of increased sanctions against commercial vehicle companies and drivers who do not operate oversize loads safely.

BC announces new significant penalty for crashes like this one

First Reading Bill

Bill 10 - 2024 Commercial Transport Amendment Act, 2024 has passed first reading in the legislature and amends section 12 of the Act.

The legislation does not take effect until after a third reading and proclamation.

Legislative Intent of Significant Penalty

“With these new penalties, we are taking the strongest action possible to keep our roads safe and to keep people, goods and services moving,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “This also sends a message to commercial truck drivers that they are responsible for the safe transportation of goods and services on our roads, and a lax attitude toward safety will not be tolerated.”

BC Trucking Association

The CBC Radio program On the Coast interviewed Dave Earle, CEO of the BC Trucking Association.

Mr. Earle advised that this significant penalty increase was legislated following consultation with the Association.

The Courts

It will be some time before a case involving the significant penalty increase will be heard in the courts and it will be interesting to read the resulting case law.

Adrian Raeside has already drawn an editorial cartoon on the subject.

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Or quartering, or splitting, or maybe sitting on a bamboo shoot?

Is it just me, or putting a prospect of imprisonment on such incidents is a little too close to the throat? I get that this is preventable, I get that this is an expensive occurrence, I even get that it affects a lot of people, sometimes for weeks. But imprisonment for the driver who may not have had a lot of choice in doing what they're being told?

I reckon that the drivers that have hit the overpasses recently have all been invited, trained and employed by families (family owned companies) involved in trucking and there is a big dis-balance of power in these employment relationships, that pits the person's entire livelihood and immigration success against doing what the company tells them to do.

The editorial cartoon is kind of on-point, but I'm thinking it aims in the other direction:

This is outrageous. Where are the armed men who come in to take the protestors away? Where are they? This kind of behavior is never tolerated in Baraqua. You shout like that they put you in jail. Right away. No trial, no nothing. Journalists, we have a special jail for journalists. You are stealing: right to jail. You are playing music too loud: right to jail, right away. Driving too fast: jail. Slow: jail. You are charging too high prices for sweaters, glasses: you right to jail. You undercook fish? Believe it or not, jail. You overcook chicken, also jail. Undercook, overcook. You make an appointment with the dentist and you don't show up, believe it or not, jail, right away. We have the best patients in the world because of jail.

Gee, I just thought that the penalty should fit the crime!

But the ones who are dumb enough to hit overpasses - including an ICBC Driver Examiner conducting a C1 Road Test - should definitely suffer punishment of a severe nature. Being trained by family is NOT a rationale for being stupid ...

It would be inhumane; we've tried, we truly tried, but it was grotesque and ineffective, and we as a society are still paying settlements for that. And I'm not so sure that unintentionally hitting an overpass whether due to stupidity, overwork, under-training or supervisor orders should even be considered a crime. An offense - sure, an inconvenience - definitely. A 2-4 year CDL ban is more than appropriate to the incidence than jailing somebody over it in my opinion.

What the government has done is to change the maximum penalty that may be applied for offences under the Commercial Transport Act. The ticketed amounts remain the same.

In order to invoke a penalty greater than the ticketed amount, the offender has to be charged in court rather than ticketed, and then it is up to the provincial court judge to decide how much of that maximum is necessary for appropriate punishment if the driver is convicted.

It will be interesting to see what happens if this occurs.