Foothills council is taking steps to eliminate a traffic safety issue around Cargill, but an area business owner says it may be placing the target on the wrong people.
Jonathon Emsheimer, president of 4E Welding, wrote to Foothills County in hopes of having the municipality address truck stacking of cattle liners and other large semis outside of Cargill. He said often trucks are waiting their turn to get into the meat plant parking lot and parking along the road at 82 Street, in Abilds Industrial Park where 4E is located, and on 466 Ave., the access road from Highway 2A to the park and Cargill’s shipping and receiving yard.
Sometimes the stacking gets backed up enough that truckers are lined up on Highway 2A as well, he said.
“It’s a nightmare,” said Emsheimer. “Safety is the biggest issue here.”
He said when trucks line the side of 466 Ave. or 82 St., the roads are turned into one-way streets because there isn’t room for two-way traffic. That poses a problem for businesses in Abilds, many of which also have large trucks and equipment that needs to access the highway.
When those trucks are backed up on Highway 2A in the turning lane trying to access 466 Ave., traffic on the highway is impacted and Emsheimer said it’s just a matter of time before a motorist is t-boned because the line of trucks is inhibiting visibility.
In addition to safety concerns, he said the heavy truck traffic is taking its toll on roads in the industrial park, which business owners pay to maintain.
Emsheimer took the matter to County council and Alberta Transportation last month to implore both governments to press Cargill for a solution, and was not impressed with the Province’s response.
“They’ve determined there isn’t a significant risk and that the pictures we sent them they can see trucks that are not Cargill-specific also sitting on Highway 2A, so it’s not a Cargill problem in their mind,” he said. “The problem is it’s the Cargill trucks that are backed up on 466 Ave. and causing the rest of us to be stacked up. Their response is missing the forest for the trees.”
County council considered the matter at its Dec. 9 and Dec. 16 meetings, with Coun. Rob Siewert first proposing a “no stopping” bylaw that could be enforced by County peace officers. At its Dec. 16 meeting, council opted instead to erect “no stopping” signage along both roads at the suggestion of emergency services manager Darlene Roblin.
She said the benefit to the County is, should a not-guilty plea be entered for tickets issued, the Province would foot the bill for taking the matter to court instead of the municipality.
The new signs would be enforced under the Traffic Safety Act’s sections on use of a highway and rules of the road, she said.
“Once the signage goes up for no stopping, Section 44 prohibits the stopping or parking of a vehicle at any place where a traffic control device prohibits stopping or parking,” said Roblin.
She said the provincial fine is $81 and if someone was a repeat offender, officers could look at issuing a summons to bring offenders to court, where their penalties could be increased.
Council agreed, though many questioned the validity of fining the truckers for what they perceive as a Cargill issue.
“We’re penalizing the truckers and it’s not really the truckers’ fault, it’s the security at Cargill that’s not getting them in the plant fast enough,” said Coun. Alger. “It’s unfortunate, but I guess we’re stopping the build-up on the road but we’re penalizing the truckers and I don’t think it’s their fault.”
“The pressure should be on Cargill,” he said. “This isn’t the truckers’ fault. What the County is choosing to do is punish the wrong person and I don’t want to be attached to that in any way whatsoever.
“I’m glad the County is trying to do something, but I’m disappointed with their decision, because I think it punishes the wrong person.”
Foothills County also approached Cargill manager Dale Lagrange, who said he is working on a solution at the plant to address the issues and prevent truck stacking.
He said the issue stems from a slower entrance into the lot due to COVID screening processes, some construction inside the gate where trucks typically turn around, and truckers not following their scheduled times.
“Some of these guys are coming sometimes two or three or four hours ahead of their scheduled time, so they think they can wait,” said Lagrange. “We started turning them away and sending them to Petro Can up at Aldersyde, but not everyone does that, either.”
To address the issue on-site, he said Cargill is putting down gravel inside the gate to accommodate drivers who might arrive 15 or 20 minutes ahead of their scheduled time.
In addition, the lane thru is being expanded so cattle liners can move straight through to the scale rather than waiting behind box trailer haulers, who have to stop for inspection prior to being loaded.
“I’m making another lane over there to try to address some of the flow issues,” said Lagrange. “I think those things, as we get those things done, the issue will be addressed pretty quick.”
There was also room made inside the yard by getting companies that had left broken trailers behind to collect them and clear space for truckers, he said.
Some of the work should be completed by the end of December, and although gravel laid at this time of year will have to be graded and packed properly in the spring it should be a good interim solution, he said.
“So I hope that does it, otherwise they’re going to get expensive if they get ticketed,” said Lagrange.
County council will make a final decision at its Jan. 6 meeting after hearing from area business owners and residents.