It’s 2:30 in the morning and when most people are fast asleep and dreaming of who knows what, Al and Laura are being wakened by the noise of logging trucks gearing down and clanging along on West Coast Road.
Al Wickheim and Laura Barker live about 300 feet from West Coast Road and they are fed up with being awakened in the middle of the night. This is nothing new, logging trucks have been hauling logs on West Coast Road for the last four years, but this year, it seems, the loads and the trucks are bigger and there is more of them.
“They go by here as early as 2:30 a.m., sometimes 3:30 and most no later than 4 a.m. There’s a fairly steady stream,” said Wickheim. “We’re not talking one, there was 80-100 operators at one time.”
Wickheim said the trucks are coming from Blueberry Flats and out past Shirley but he doesn’t know which logging company they are working or contracting for.
“We’ve been talking to TimberWest and Western Forest Products and they claim responsibility for some,” said Barker.
Wickheim said he understands the logging importance factor for the B.C. economy but he doesn’t feel the companies or truck should carry on business which is so disruptive to others.
“We’re kept awake night after night after night,” said Wickheim.
The couple has heard stories of people having to call in sick because of lack of sleep and tenant and B&B guests aren’t particularly thrilled by the early morning wake up call from the logging trucks.
Betsy Lockwood, another West Coast Road resident, is a transit bus driver and lack of sleep is a concern.
“If I’m over-tired what would it take for me to fall asleep behind the wheel?” she said. “They are still deadheading at 3 a.m. This is not a place for logging trucks anymore.”
They aren’t complaining just because of the noise, they say there is also a safety threat on the road.
“Everyone has had close calls,” said Barker.
Wickheim cited two recent rollovers along Sooke Road and a lost load which, he said, “could have been hugely catastrophic.”
Lockwood said logging 50 years ago was different and she thinks the trucks should be taking the circle route rather than through residential areas and through Sooke.
“It’s a danger, there’s going to be an accident,” she said.
The long and winding road is the main artery between Port Renfrew and up-Island to the mills. Tourist traffic doesn’t necessarily recognize the threat from the logging trucks, said Wickheim. “The trucks though talk to one another and keep in touch,” he said, while the regular driver doesn’t have any idea of what is going on up ahead. He is especially worried about the trucks going through school zones. On Sooke Road there are two elementary school and a high school.
Wickheim is a community coordinator for emergency planning and has concerns about the status and infrastructure of the roads due to the heavy loads. He said there is road degradation in many places which is worsening due to the loads and the trucks.
“That kind of impact won’t cause a collapse but it will destabilize the road in the long term,” he said.
They think truckers should move to regular business hours or even better use the logging roads which criss- cross the area between Sooke and Ladysmith/Chemainus. There are no residences and the taxpayers already subsidized the building of the logging roads in the first place. There is the option of logging truck taking the Circle Route which would land them just south of Duncan, a short distance away from the mills, said Wickheim.
He is also concerned about the Sooke River Bridge which he doesn’t think can tolerate that many heavy loads. In the 1970s when logging was a huge economic driver in the area, the trucks loads were not as large.
Stephen Lorimer, speaking for TimberWest, said the company is well aware of the concerns expressed by residents along West Coast Road and they have modified their operations. They have asked the truckers to make their deliveries earlier. They deliver at 10 a.m. with a start time at 9 a.m.
Lorimer said the company has talked to the contractors about the concerns and want to make sure the trucks are abiding by the rules of the road so as to minimize the issues and disruptions of residents along the road. He said at the outset they did have early trucks but that has since been ramped back.
“Less loads and later times. We’re not the only company. There are other companies and trucks not associated with TimberWest. We have no ability to control that,” said Lorimer. “In this case we made some accommodations at some cost to TimberWest.”
There are no provincial regulations in regard to noise from vehicles, although some municipalities have their own bylaws.
MLA John Horgan said his office is aware at this time of year of the concerns regarding traffic, speed and loads on the highway. He said more enforcement is necessary as are safety inspections of the trucks.
He said enforcement comes down to RCMP resources.
“I hope they obey the law,” said Horgan in regard to the truckers whose actions may be causing worry among the residents on West Coast Road.