Professional truck drivers haunted by Humboldt Broncos bus crash

The sheer size of the two vehicles involved in the fatal collision on Friday is just one of the factors that will add to the complexity of the RCMP investigation. It’s a crash that is impacting the entire province, members of the public across the country and worldwide. It has also shaken those who make their living driving Canada’s highways to their core, and left heartbroken those involved. At a truck stop on the outskirts of Saskatoon where a flag flies at half-mast, Rick Tompkins said after 22-plus years on the road, he is hanging up his keys for good. The horrific bus crash at the intersection of Highway 35 and 335 helped him make up his mind about whether or not to retire.

“This is actually my last trip and I think that accident kind of brought everything to a head with me coming off the highway,” said Tompkins. The images from the horrendous collision involving a semi and the Humboldt Broncos’ hockey team charter bus have just been too much to bear. “I feel for the driver that was involved in the accident — it has affected me quite a bit,” Tompkins added. Professional truck drivers say they can’t even begin to imagine what the victims are going through and that safety is always top of mind every time they hit the highway. John Maclean has gone 2-million kilometres accident-free in the last 12 years but has had his fair share of close calls.

“I talked to my dispatch Thursday before this happened last week, and I had an impatient driver just about take the side off of my truck,” said Maclean. “If everyone would just relax, take their time and do what they’re supposed to do, everybody would be a lot safer.” Maclean said this applies to truck drivers as well, who far too often become complacent on the wide open Prairies. “It’s patience and doing your job properly.” On Monday, RCMP said they had no significant update on the crash and the scope of the investigation will require time in determining the cause of the collision and circumstances surrounding it. Councillors in the area are now exploring the idea of rumble strips before the stop signs on the eastbound and westbound roadway. At the time, the semi-driver was heading westbound against the sunset — there is no word if he blew past the sign.

“In Alberta, they have the flashing red stop signs at intersections and some of them, you don’t even see them until you’re right on top of it,” Tompkins said. “They should actually change the position of those stop signs to the centre of the road instead of on the side so it is more visible for the driver and people to be able to see.” Tompkins, along with many others, have said it wouldn’t hurt either to perhaps cut down some of the trees in the southeast corner of the intersection. He also spoke to some of the near misses he’s had with drivers during his time on the road. “People don’t respect the amount of weight that we have,” Tompkins said. On Tuesday, he was hauling 25 tons.

“All we have is a very thin piece of aluminum holding that load in on the trailer so if I have to hit my brakes really hard, there’s a chance the load’s going to come through the trailer and into the cab — I’ve actually had that happen.” Thoughts like that are often on their mind as they haul their loads across the country. Something else they’re thinking about these days, are the lives that were shattered in Saskatchewan and will be forever changed. “To the families of Humboldt — my heart goes out to you,” said Maclean. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through, just stay strong and know that the rest of this country is here for you. God bless.”

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