AF CONTRIBUTOR | LETHBRIDGE
Truck safety translates into general public safety, and it is catching on with southern Alberta’s sugar beet growers. Don Bobinec of the Lethbridge division of Alberta Transportation’s commercial vehicle enforcement division said about 180 farm trucks used in the sugar beet harvest voluntarily went through an 18-point vehicle safety inspection prior to the pending start of field operations.
Cindy Bly, an agricultural fieldman with Lantic Sugar, has been involved in all three years of the safety partnership with Alberta Transportation. This year, all seven beet-receiving stations hosted the inspection service. The first year, only two receiving stations participated with about 30 producers sending trucks through inspection.
“We are sure this has become an annual inspection service,” said Bly. “Growers are asking for it.”
Immediate repairs if serious
Bobinec said the bottom line is ensuring the trucks are safe on the back roads and the highways where all receiving stations are located. It is also a benefit for growers because safety violations can be spotted and repairs made while the trucks are not busy. The only mandatory aspect of the program is repairs – if the problem is severe enough, repairs may be ordered on the spot. If not, the truck can return home or to a repair centre for the work. Penalties could apply if an inspected truck is not repaired but retained in business, he said.
Bobinec said one grower whose truck was inspected took the inspection sheet to heart and spent $16,000 on repairs and then submitted the invoice to him. “It was a 1959 truck which likely wasn’t worth as much as he spent on repairs.”
There is room for the program to grow. Bly said up to 400 trucks can be used during the beet harvest campaign.
Part of the inspection is establishing weight limits for each truck, said Bobinec. That ensures the limits of a safe load, something which could affect operation of the truck, including the ability of the braking system to stop the truck in a specified time.
Bly said Lantic Sugar wants growers to meet transportation standards, and that means keeping loads to the specifics of individual trucks. Putting too many beets on a truck not only jeopardizes safety, it can mean beets cluttering the highway, posing dangers to motorists. She said when road clutter is noticed, the company is first to notify the grower of beet spillages on the highways, a note which can also help adjust the loading process while enhancing truck safety.
Bobinec said Alberta Transportation hopes to expand the voluntary inspection program to every farming venture. Meanwhile, if any farmer sees the inspection system in operation, he is free to get in line for the free inspection, knowing he may face costs to bring the truck up to safety standards.