Our recent coverage of the latest semi-truck to strike the Kemnay bridge also struck a chord with Brandon Sun readers.
Tuesday’s front page photo of a Canadian Tire truck smacking the bridge and Wednesday’s full story on the frustration of government officials and RCMP to end this semi-regular occurrence prompted many readers to wade into the conversation on our Facebook page and suggest solutions.
There were a few highly creative suggestions to our query as to “what more can be done to prevent another hit,” but unfortunately few workable solutions that haven’t already been thought of.
Manitoba’s highways department is not going to put a dangerous low-hanging bar on the highway that can take a windshield out. Not only would several lawsuits be in the offing, someone could easily die.
Raising the bridge height or lowering the dip in the highway would simply cost too much money — we simply don’t believe that CP Rail or the Manitoba government will ever be willing to spend millions of dollars because a few wayward truckers don’t take notice of obvious signage.
The bridge will have to be on its last legs before that option is ever on the table.
Another much more popular option among Sun readers was to introduce stiffer penalties and fines for drivers who hit the bridge with the top of their semi-trucks.
The idea has some merit, certainly. The 42-year-old Calgary man who was driving the Canadian Tire semi-truck on Monday was charged with failing to obey a traffic control device and handed a $203 fine. And the 23-year-old Lethbridge, Alta., man whose semi-trailer’s back end was sheared off in January was also fined $203.
On the face of it, a stiffer fine sounds like a good idea — raise it to $1,000 and give him a few demerits to teach him a lesson. But as Herb Mahood, the director of regional operations with Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation, told the Sun, the majority of operators who crash into the bridge are from out of the province.
He also believes these drivers are relying on their GPS and ignoring the signs while they drive. Presumably the GPS is telling them that Highway 1A is the quickest route in and out of the city.
While smacking errant drivers with a huge fine might teach them a lesson after the fact, it will do little to prevent semi-truck operators who are not familiar with Brandon roadways from making the same mistakes as their peers.
Over and over and over again.
And though the addition of warning signs and flashing lights has improved the situation — there are fewer bridge-truck collisions at Kemnay than there used to be — adding more signs along the highway will do absolutely no good in our opinion. As we illustrated on the front page of Wednesday’s Sun, the roadway to the Kemnay bridge in both the eastbound and westbound lanes on Highway 1A is already saturated with signage warning drivers that a tall load will not make it through that bridge.
And if, as Mahood suggests, drivers are paying more attention to their GPS than the road signs, it’s more than likely that attempting to ban semi-truck traffic from using the highway altogether would accomplish little. If they’re not going to pay attention to the myriad of signs already near the bridge, why would they pay attention to a road sign along the Trans-Canada Highway or within the city?
“If we could think of anything else that would be reasonable to do, we would’ve already done it,” Mahood said.
No wonder the RCMP and government officials are frustrated.
On Tuesday, a CP Rail spokesman assured the Sun that the Kemnay bridge is a well-built structure. He said the bridge “must pass the full inspection” following these kinds of semi-truck hits before train traffic can resume. We would expect no less.
Yet considering the fact that rail shipments of flammable crude oil from the Bakken region have nearly doubled — and that includes train traffic through Brandon — it remains worrisome that an average of six semi-trucks still smack into the Kemnay bridge every year.
So what can be done then? Brandon RCMP Staff Sgt. Mike Zens says it all comes down to driver awareness, and we agree with him.
We believe organizations like the Manitoba Trucking Association, which was unavailable for comment on Tuesday, and the Canadian Trucking Alliance, which dismissed the Kemnay bridge problem as a local issue, have a role to play in warning their membership on the dangers and penalties of ignoring traffic signs.
Maybe you can’t legislate stupid, but surely stupid can be educated.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 27, 2014