Industry Canada to make it easier for those on remote roads to communicate

Truckers, sportsmen and residents who use British Columbia’s 650,000 kilometres of resource roads will soon have better radio connectivity when deep in the back country.

Industry Canada said Thursday it will dedicate 40 new radio channels to improve communications, helping to reduce interruptions or interference on the narrow and often isolated roads.

The announcement was made in conjunction with the province, which been looking into resource road safety since 2006 in part due to the death of a logging truck driver.

Drivers on resource roads rely on two-way radios to keep in touch with each other, warn of oncoming traffic and weather, but often have to dial through a number of different channels to find the one dedicated for a particular road. The addition of more dedicated channels will mean drivers won’t have to have the right radio channel, says Industry Canada.

“With the growth of the resource industry, the number of these resource road channels has increased,” the department said in a background paper. “What’s more, high demand for spectrum across all industries has made it difficult to add new channels. As a result, we currently have an unwieldy patchwork of resource road channels in use, which strains spectrum efficiency and jeopardizes safety.”

A 2007 B.C. coroner’s inquest into the death of a logging truck driver travelling on a northern radio-assisted forest service road cited poor communication as one of the key factors which led to the fatal accident. The inquiry’s jury recommended that B.C.’s forest service road signage be standardized and efforts be made to develop standardized radio use protocols.

The province set up two pilot projects to try some changes to improve safety. In 2009 standardized signs identifying radio channels for motorists were adopted, and the following year standard radio protocols were adopted. This month a set of standardized channels was scheduled to be implemented in the southern part of the Peace Forest District and in October in the Strait of Georgia Business Area of B.C. Timber Sales.

“The new resource road radio channels will significantly improve the safe use of industrial forest roads,” Gordon Todd, roads co-ordinator for wood products manufacturer West Fraser Mills Ltd. said in a statement with the government announcement.

“All provincial users can have a complete set of established channels, allowing them to immediately integrate to the local radio control rules wherever they work. It’s a very positive initiative in support of improved road safety.”

Ninety-five existing spectrum users will soon begin moving to new channel assignments to make way for the 40 new channels, Industry Canada said. Existing users will only move when a replacement channel has been identified that fully meets their needs, it added.

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