Drivesmart column: Reporting commercial transport traffic violations

Depending on how threatened you feel by the encounter, you have a number of options

By Tim Schewe

A commuter asked “I would really like to see the article written about what to do when we see a commercial transport vehicle that is driving in an unsafe manner. You gave us a phone number to call that specifically relates to tractor trailers, and who to call when we witness a driving infraction. I see it on a regular basis and most of the times the trucks are unmarked.”

I understand what this person feels as I had a recent encounter with a tractor pulling a van trailer at the south end of the Nanaimo bypass last Friday afternoon. I was in the right lane keeping to the speed limit and was followed at a frighteningly close distance. Why the driver felt comfortable with this or did not pass me I cannot understand.

After I changed to the left lane the truck passed by me and I could read the company name, TRANSport, off of the driver’s door. Unfortunately, that’s all I was able to read as I had to pay attention to where I was going.

Recording the trailer licence plate might help, but it frequently belongs to another company or is leased, leaving no simple trail back to the commercial driver.

Depending on how threatened you feel by the encounter, you have a number of options ranging from calling 911 to shrugging your shoulders and carrying on.

Obviously, a continuing danger should be reported immediately by calling 911 and providing as much information as possible.

If this is not the case, there are other options to initiate enforcement action. I’ve outlined the process of reporting bad drivers to police in the article “Q&A – Making a Driving Complaint to Police”.

You may also report commercial vehicle safety violations to Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement (CVSE) by telephone: 1-888-775-8785. CVSE personnel are provincial police officers charged specifically with commercial vehicle traffic enforcement.

To be effective, you will have to be ready to act as a witness in court to support charges against the driver. In cases where you are unwilling to do this, the information is passed on to the driver or company for action as they see fit. Repetitive complaints without charges do not result in any public sanctions being taken to halt the improper behaviour.

The trucking community shares your concern. The majority of the drivers don’t care to be labeled as dangerous because of the actions of a few. They also point out that the majority of collisions between heavy trucks and light vehicles are the fault of the light vehicle driver. This is difficult to corroborate in B.C. as ICBC does not publish determination of fault in their annual collision statistics report.

Reputable companies share your concerns and will act on valid complaints themselves. If you choose not to report to law enforcement you can search the company name and provide the circumstances to them. If your internet search is not successful, the BC Trucking Association and local weigh scales can be a good source of knowledge.

Heavy trucks intimidate other traffic through sheer size. I wonder if we tolerate identical behaviour from drivers of smaller vehicles because we see it more often and don’t feel as threatened by it. Food for thought…

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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