Long-distance truck drivers are raising red flags about what they say are dangerous — even deadly — winter conditions on B.C.'s mountain highways this year.
Several drivers told CBC News the maintenance of B.C.'s major highways is inconsistent. They say the removal of hazardous ice is either too infrequent or the de-icing products used are ineffective at making major routes safe to drive.
"I've actually started getting frightened to leave my house in the morning when I leave for work to Edmonton and Calgary," said Deep Dail, a truck driver from Langley, B.C. He frequently drives the province's mountain highways to Alberta.
"All these accidents are happening and sometimes it's not even your fault, you could be driving perfectly fine and then it could just be another truck that loses control and hits you," he said. "And you can lose your life, right?
"Even my family is starting to get afraid to send me on the road ... They want me to change my job."
The West Coast Trucking Association is organizing a rally for better road maintenance next Saturday, with truckers planning to drive their rigs from Surrey to Vancouver.
The drivers' group said many drivers find it difficult to know which of 28 government contractors are in charge of particular highways across the province, and that there are noticeable differences when crossing between contractors' turf.
"This year it's gone from bad to worse, and every year we lose so many truckers on the highways," said Vijaydeep Singh Sahasi, president of the West Coast Trucking Association. "The ice is very, very bad ... and more needs to be done by the Ministry of Transportation to give us clean roads.
"For our families, it's as if we are going to war. Whereas we are going to work."
Black ice and large potholes are creating hazardous driving conditions, the association says, which have resulted in several crashes over the past few weeks. Truckers are encountering black ice, particularly at night, and some are worried they're putting their lives at risk while on the job.
The association adds that truckers who report harsh highway conditions on the government's DriveBC website are being informed that so many complaints are coming in that they should be emailing highway maintenance contractors instead.
"The conditions have been challenging for sure," said Dan Dickey, a Chilliwack truck driver who was heading from Surrey to Alberta and on to Prince George when CBC News spoke to him by the roadside.
"A lot of road maintenance is, in my opinion, being missed or inadequate products are being put on it, or intervals between [snowplow] passes are being extended from previous years," he said. "Maintenance contractors ... in different areas, the quality of the road maintenance increases or decreases. The drivers are trying to figure out which areas are going to be looked after."
The association contacted the Transportation Ministry last month, it says, and has also reached out to members of the legislature, but has had no response.
Sahasi said it is challenging for drivers to put chains on tires in areas with piles of snow and low temperatures so it's up to the government to take action.
Truckers who cross into Alberta are driving on cleared and repaired roads, he said, adding that he can't understand why transportation safety concerns don't seem to be a priority in B.C.
The province's Transportation and Infrastructure Ministry did not respond to request for comment Sunday.
On its website, the ministry says that any route hazards or questions "should be submitted directly to the respective contractor" hired for that particular region or route.
The ministry said in a press release it has "made many changes to make B.C. highways safer and more reliable during the winter months."
Those changes include stricter chain-up rules, "enhanced road-maintenance contractor monitoring and auditing," and 27 new maintenance contracts that require contractors "to adhere to improved measures that require a more proactive approach to winter maintenance."