Second tanker overturns on Dempster Highway

Another fuel truck has overturned on the Dempster Highway north of Eagle Plains, in the so-called "Hurricane Alley." The accident happened on Thursday at kilometre 458 of the highway.

Another fuel truck has overturned on the Dempster Highway north of Eagle Plains, in the so-called “Hurricane Alley.”

The accident happened on Thursday at kilometre 458 of the highway. An Environment Yukon spokesperson said the diesel was pumped out of the tanker by noon on Monday. He said no fuel was spilled.

This is the second fuel tanker to roll over on the highway in the last two weeks. Another truck, carrying 13,000 litres of diesel, overturned just north of Eagle Plains on Feb. 26. About 200 litres of diesel spilled onto the road, but did not reach any waterways. The rest of the fuel was pumped out.

Clint Ireland, director for the transportation maintenance branch of the Department of Highways and Public Works, said there was drifting snow and poor visibility when the second tanker drove off the road. The driver was uninjured.

Ireland said there were a couple of similar accidents last year on that stretch of the road.

“It’s kind of typical, I think,” he said. “Nothing out of the ordinary.”

He said the foreman at Eagle Plains does close the road during especially bad weather. But he said the maintenance crew tries to minimize road closures, because commercial traffic doesn’t like to be stopped.

“It’s always a constant judgment call,” he said. “I think that we provide a really high level of service for the Dempster Highway.”

But Scott Lindsay, a truck driver who’s been travelling the highway for the last four years, said he’s fed up with the government’s “blase attitude” toward the maintenance of the road.

“(The Dempster Highway) is the end of the world, and nobody wants to put money into proper maintenance.”

He said it takes a long time, sometimes several days, for crews to clear the road after snowstorms, and that tankers often have trouble climbing hills on the Dempster Highway in winter.

He also said there are some sections of the highway without snow poles to delineate the sides of the road.

Lindsay claims the portion of the Dempster Highway in the Northwest Territories is much better maintained than the Yukon section, though he did say the stretch south of Eagle Plains has been clearer this year than in the past.

He said he reached out to Highways and Public Works Minister Scott Kent last year about conditions on the highway, but little came of it.

“It just doesn’t seem like they’ve got enough ducks in the pond,” Lindsay said. “And they don’t seem to care about it so much because it costs them money.”

Ireland said he’s heard similar criticisms before, but said there’s only so much the government can do.

“When there’s a blizzard and zero visibility, there isn’t anything you can do to make it different.”

Ireland said three of the Yukon’s 21 permanent road maintenance camps are stationed along the Dempster Highway. He said those camps receive 19 per cent of the total camp budget for the territory, even though the Dempster represents just 9.6 per cent of the Yukon’s highway network.

The Dempster Highway camps received $5.19 million in this year’s budget, he said.

He said the maintenance crews also try to replace the snow poles as they get knocked down, but “when the ground is frozen, it’s not an easy thing to do.”

Ireland said people should check www.511yukon.ca for current road conditions, and should avoid travelling on the Dempster Highway if there’s an advisory in place.

Contact Maura Forrest at

maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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