Semi-trucks roar up and down the Highway getting to their destinations. Many people are intimidated by the massive hunks of steel as they can be threatening when they are hitting a decent speed. Many accidents have occurred throughout the highways of BC; some in part because of semi-trucks, others not at all. Over time, they have become a scapegoat. There is a growing tendency to blame every semi-truck driver on the road for the close calls or harsh accidents. Not to say that semi-trucks do not cause accidents, they in-fact, do.
I recall my mother being smashed into by a semi-truck, spinning her into the three lane highway ultimately crashing into the centre meridian. Luckily, the only thing that was taken way that day was the vehicle, she went home upset, sore but more important- alive. The driver of that semi took off. So these incidents do occur. However, many long haul drivers follow the rules of the road, obey speed limits and are generally safe to ride near. It is the smaller vehicles that need to ‘just get ahead’ that cause these drivers to shake their head and worry not only for their own safety, but for the safety of the vehicles around them.
“You’re that much bigger, that much stronger and someone whips around you, you can do some serious damage.”
Revelstoke local, Chris Parker has been driving for Kepex Services for nine years, but has been driving for many more. Kepex Services is owned by Doug Kepler and for years this outfit has been hauling various forms of earth from one destination to another as well as a major part of the snow removal here in town.
Parker drives predominantly around the local area, but does do short haul trips to and from Sicamous and as far as Golden. According to Parker, it is not always the highway that brings the worst out of drivers.
“The biggest issue is that people are not paying attention to the blind spots. There is a big steel box behind me…if you are hovering right behind the truck and I go to change lanes, I have no idea you are there…or right outside the passenger door. I can’t see you. You can adjust your mirror all you want, there are still blind spots. It’s not a perfect system and can’t be a perfect system.”
When driving a bulky, imposing piece of solid machinery (heavier if hauling something), can be hazardous to maneuver on short notice when cut off. Parker finds that the worst area is by the water tower in town. “When you pass through Revelstoke Gate, vehicles are on a race against time to pass, sooner or later, they figure out you are bigger.”
The summer time brings its own driving concerns on the highway. Whether the licence plate is blue and white, red and white or green and white, RV drivers can cause traffic to come to a crawl when the roads begin to wind. “…they can’t drive straight, let alone back up, they will be doing 40 (km) in a 90 (km) zone, but as soon as they hit a straight stretch passing lane, they are up to a buck forty and you can’t keep up to get by’em. You come to the next corner; they are down to forty again. That’s the biggest piss off.”
Although the concern is always the David vs Goliath situation on the road, at times David has to worry about David. Parker shared a story of working an accident clean up at the bottom of Glacier Hill; he was coming around the corner by Cougar Creek chain up and in his vision is a set of lights sliding down the road towards him. With a lineup of traffic behind him, he had nowhere to go. “When a 53 foot trailer sliding towards you, it will open your eyes.” Parker was fortunate enough that the sliding semi stopped in time.
Dangerous driving is not specific to the highway. Poor driving skills, ignorance and failure to follow the rules of the road happen in the downtown core on a regular basis according to Parker. After many years of experience he feels that the general public expect the snow to be removed when they wake up, however, the lack of respect is insurmountable.
“There is a reason we do it at night. It’s not because we prefer it, it is safer. We’ll be doing Fourth Street from the Illecillewaet up to the tracks and you’re constantly being passed on the right. If I have to swerve, I am going to nail you, and I will hurt you.”
Driving in town or on the highway is dangerous. A level of comfort flows over most drivers upon passing through the bridge into town as it is familiar territory. The roads are known, the side streets are familiar and the location where an illegal U-turn can be easily made is on the mind. Familiarity can be as dangerous as the unknown.
“It’s not just around semis; you need to look further down the road. The general population does not, they look at the vehicle in front of them and that’s the vehicle they drive with. If the vehicle in front of you pins the breaks, you have already hit them…you need to be looking 500 meters in front of yourself and anticipating your next move.”