Maybe truck drivers should have reassessments

Victoria – The photo of the car crash on page 4 of the May 29 Citizen prompted me to write the following – which I was going to say was regarding driving in the right lane. But it goes a bit further.

Earlier this month while driving north on the highway through Mill Bay I drew alongside a fully-loaded dump truck towing a fully-loaded trailer – the tarp covers on both containers were bulging – as it pulled away from the light at Deloume Road in the righthand lane. The light at the Shawnigan Lake Road (SLR) intersection was red so I eased up to about 80km/h (that is the speed limit, after all), the truck keeping pace with me. As the light at the SLR intersection turned green, and figuring I would be able to get ahead (in the left-hand lane) as we travelled up the incline towards the Cobble Hill/Kilmalu Road intersection, and move into the right-hand lane to let the traffic behind me get by, as the truck fell back, I squeezed the accelerator to about 85km/h. The truck driver did exactly the same and, also at about 85km/h, accompanied me all the way up the hill.

Remembering that the speed limit becomes 90km/h just past the crest of the hill, I squeezed the accelerator harder and was hitting this speed limit earlier than I should have. So was the truck. Not wanting to go too much beyond the new speed limit I accelerated only a little more – to 95Km/h – and was looking in my rearview mirror for the truck to slowly fall back. No such luck. Not only did the truck and trailer not fall behind, but actually accelerated – in the right-hand lane – and went ahead of me.

Letting it go, after 300-400 metres down the gentle decline I was able to move into the now vacant right-hand lane, and let the traffic behind pass. The truck continued to accelerate, and was keeping up with the other vehicles that had passed me. As I had not slowed significantly at this point, and was still hitting doing 95km/h, and the traffic from behind was zooming ahead, I estimated that the truck with its full load (together with traffic that had just passed me) was probably hitting 100km/h (at least).

At this point I must mention the Special to the Citizen (May 6) by retired constable Tim Schewe, which reminded us, among other things, that heavy commercial trucks may have as little as 60 per cent of the braking capacity of a car or regular pick-up truck. Then imagine this fully loaded dump truck doing (an estimated) 100km/h downhill and its ability to stop, even if its brakes were not overheated and were properly adjusted. By the time I reached Hutchinson Road the truck had disappeared from view. Maybe it had left the highway. There was the remainder of a cloud of dust way in the distance.

As a senior driver anticipating reassessment of my driving abilities in about 20 months time (see Times Colonist editorial, May 5) at my 80th birthday, I have to wonder if other drivers – especially those in charge of dump trucks, loader or otherwise – should not be reassessed also.

D.G. Edwards, Victoria Frequent Shawnigan visitor