The Coquihalla Highway is reopening after historic floods washed out sections of the roads and bridges. However, it’s only opening to commercial vehicles and inner-city busses with reduced speeds to ensure driver safety.
“Having the Coquihalla come back online is a huge deal for us. It is far and away the biggest, straightest link we have from Merritt to the Lower Mainland and the Interior,” said Greg Lowis, Merritt Emergency Operations Centre information officer.
The essential travel restriction for non-commercial vehicles on Highway 3 and 7 is being lifted on Tuesday. However, in winter conditions are less than ideal.
“It’s steep, it’s winding. There’s weather challenges. It’s just a very, very hard route so we are really happy to see Highway Number five reopening,” said Dave Earle, BC Trucking Association.
“The road is made for larger vehicles. It’s got a much gentler system to it, in terms of grades and the curves that are associated it’s a safer route for big trucks.”
Only experienced winter drivers should attempt the drive, if necessary and commercial truck drivers have advice for those making it.
“The speed limit is designated for the summertime, so don’t try to do the speed limit in the wintertime. Now when you see the sign 60 kilometres [an hour] slow down to 40 kilometres [an hour] at least,” said Michael Peekhaus, a commercial truck driver.
“We all look forward to the destination but if you’re not careful with the journey, you ain’t gonna get to your destination.”
The commercial truck drivers that Global News spoke to also raised concerns about passing. Uncleared wet snow in the right-hand lane makes passing more dangerous. If you must pass a truck they ask that you drive farther ahead before driving back into the left-hand lane.
Instead of lamenting being stuck behind a large truck, the drivers advise, view it as a safe guide through the mountain passes.
“We’re going slow because it’s dangerous, so don’t try to overtake us,” said Rajveer Sandhu, another commercial truck driver
“Trucks always come in a line up of 20 to 25 because they know if you can follow each other, you can follow the tracks. So it’s good for you if not they are not cleaning down the roads, just follow the tracks,” said Sandhu.
Also, the truck drivers say, prepare for the drive to take a few extra hours.
ICBC recommends that drivers prepare by having good winter tires and packing an emergency kit. The ICBC website recommends a first aid kit, emergency food and water, spare warm clothing, flares or matches, lighters and candles, a shovel, a traction mat, sand or kitty litter, and battery jumper cables.