Local truckers were acknowledged May 11 at a Trucker Appreciation Day sponsored by Cariboo Chilcotin Truck Compliance Committee (CCTCC). Around 80 truckers were present along with representatives from the committee.
West Fraser Timber named Jim Stewart as Outstanding Driver. Tolko Industries named Matt Guertzen as Rookie of the Year, and Greg Pilkington and Nola Toop for Outstanding Drivers of the Year.
In addition, three former long-time drivers were acknowledged and honoured for their service — including Larry Patenaude, Doug Leik, and John Yuill.
All three have passed away and will have renovated rooms at the Williams Lake Curling Rink named after them.
“All of those three drivers were heavily involved in the truck associations over the years,” said Jerry Mooney, area supervisor for Tolko.
It had been three years since the CCTCC held an appreciation lunch, committee member and fleet owner operator Bruce Coombs said.
“With the downturn in the economy it hadn’t happened, but we felt it was important to bring it back again.”
Committee member George Foisy, now retired from the Ministry of Transporation’s Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement, recalled the climate of trucking in the mid 1990s and the reason the committee was formed.
“We had 70 to 80 per cent of our logging trucks showing up overweight at the scales,” Foisy said. “Now that number is around 20 per cent.”
At the time Foisy along with Dave Dickson, who was working for ICBC in those days, the RCMP and representatives from local mills put their heads together and formed the CCTCC.
They came up with a plan that drivers would only get compensated for legal loads; everything above would go into a fund that would go back into the community.
“You think about the toll of overweight loads. Accidents, damage to roads, and overall safety. I remember attending four or five accidents a week. Now there are very few,” Foisy said.
That local “thinking outside the box” caught the attention of the premier, and in 2004 the CCTCC garnered the Premier’s Award.
Since then the program has expanded to Terrace and Prince Rupert and it is being tried in Prince George, Foisy said.
Today members of the committee include representatives from the Ministry of Transportation, RCMP, Ministry of Forests, ICBC, CVSE, local mills and WCB.
Since its formation, relationships with all those agencies have really improved, Foisy said.
The community has also benefited financially to the tune of almost $600,000 since 2009.
In 2012 alone the Williams Lake Loghaulers Association donated $93,375 to the community through Tolko, and $29,000 was donated through the West Fraser Trucker’s Association.
Before the awards, truckers were updated by Rick Welke, operations superintendent for West Fraser Timber, on the upcoming Logging Truck Driver Training program being offered through Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake campus, starting later this month.
“We’re looking for drivers that will mentor in the program,” Welke said. “You will show the driver, and then as he or she progresses, you will let them take over.”
Betty Turatus from TRU said there are 16 spaces available in the training program and that people who have already completed the Class 1 training are still eligible to apply because while they purse the safety tickets and airbrakes aspect of the training, it will open up funding for more people to pursue the Class 1.
The program is geared to people who are unemployed, not currently receiving employment insurance, or have not had an EI claim in the last three years or in the case of maternity/parental five years, or to people who are employed but are low-skilled workers.
The hope, Welke said, is to have people trained and eligible to work by winter.
“They’ll go out again with a mentor in winter to see if they can handle the roads.”
A heavy equipment operator forest harvesting program is also being offered in January and February 2013 through TRU in Williams Lake. It will include two weeks of theory/classroom component and seven weeks at a logging production site.
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