West Vancouver Police and the Ministry of Transportation’s commercial vehicle safety enforcement unit are investigating after a loaded dump truck barrelled down one of West Vancouver’s steep hills Friday, after losing its brakes, eventually crashing into trees near the bottom of the hill near Bellevue Avenue.
No one was injured in the truck crash, which police are calling nothing short of a miracle.
Police began receiving 911 calls shortly after 12:20 p.m. as the runaway dump truck picked up speed down 21st Street after turning off Highway 1 and apparently losing or burning out its brakes on the hill. The truck continued to rumble down 21st, “somehow avoiding collisions with other vehicles” said Const. Jeff Palmer of the West Vancouver Police Department, before clipping railings near a roundabout at Fulton Avenue and careening across a busy Marine Drive, eventually coming to a stop after hitting trees at the side of the road near Bellevue.
Palmer said if the traffic light at the Marine Drive intersection had been red, the damage and injuries caused by the runaway truck could have been far more serious.
“I don’t know how much more fortunate you could be than to have a green light when you crossed Marine Drive under that circumstance,” said Palmer.
The commercial vehicle safety enforcement unit is conducting a mechanical inspection of the dump truck, a 1998 Kenworth dump truck, which was loaded at the time.
The name visible on the side of the cab was Triple B Trucking Ltd. – a Surrey trucking company.
An employee who answered the phone Tuesday said they don’t have much information about the accident until they speak with the driver, who is currently off work.
Commercial safety inspectors will also be looking at whether a proper pre-trip inspection of the truck was logged by the driver, said Palmer.
“Their focus will be on ‘Was there any proper pre-trip inspection of the brakes done?’” said Palmer.
Under West Vancouver bylaws, it is illegal for dump trucks with a gross vehicle weight over 10,000 kilograms to drive down the steep hills of West Vancouver and has been for the past 20 years. Trucks are only allowed to enter the municipality from the Marine Drive exit near the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal to the west and from Taylor Avenue in the east. Signs are posted at the top of 15th, 21st and 22nd streets, warning dump truck drivers not to proceed.
The bylaw was put in place following several accidents with runaway trucks on West Vancouver hills, including a fatal crash in 1996.
Friday’s accident was eerily similar – although less dramatic – to another crash in 2003, in which an overloaded commercial dump truck pulling a trailer also lost its brakes on 21st Street, smashing 10 parked cars as it hurtled between Mathers and Bellevue avenues.
Palmer said he remembers the previous accident vividly because he was on duty in the vicinity that day and only narrowly avoided being in the path of the dump truck.
Palmer said the company that owns the truck in Friday’s accident was issued an immediate $500 ticket for violating the local bylaw, but “further enforcement action is possible.”
Depending on the results of the truck inspection, commercial vehicle inspectors can also issue tickets under the Motor Vehicle Act for the condition of the truck or for operating the truck when it is unsafe to do so.
The driver of the truck – a 26-year-old Surrey man – could also face a ticket for disobeying traffic signs.
Palmer said truck drivers disobeying the signs banning their vehicles from West Vancouver hills is “an ongoing concern for bylaw services.”
In 2016, the municipality issued 48 tickets for heavy trucks travelling downhill on a prohibited route, said Jeff McDonald, spokesman for the district. So far there have been 22 tickets handed out in 2017.
“Perhaps they believe they can trust their own brakes and take the chance that they won’t get caught,” said Palmer.
In Friday’s example, “It would appear the vehicle’s brakes weren’t up to the risks that were posed by heading downhill.”
Following the 2003 truck accident, the company that owned the dump truck had its licence to operate suspended by the province, putting it out of business.