THERE ARE THOSE WHO SAY they are good drivers and then there are those who actually are. Albert VandeVelde is one of those drivers who doesn’t need to say anything about his driving. His record speaks for itself.
Albert is a Local 66 member from Terrace, BC. He started driving truck for Bandstra Transportation Systems Ltd. in 1986 shortly after Expo finished when he was living in the Lower Mainland. After four years, he moved back home to Terrace and continued working for Bandstra.
“Truck driving has always been part of my family,” says Albert. “My father drove haul truck for years, and my two older brothers worked for the company as well.”
A third generation of VandeVeldes recently joined the industry, too. Albert’s two sons, Jason and Eric, are also currently driving truck for Bandstra, following in their father’s and uncles’ footsteps.
IF HISTORY TELLS US ANYTHING, they too will have a long and successful career riding the highways of northwestern BC. Their dad has an unbelievable—and likely unbeatable—safety record.
“Albert has a record of 1.6 million miles of accident-free driving,” says Sid Bandstra, one of the owners of the company. “That is a huge accomplishment in this industry.”
When asked about how he’s been able to drive for 33 years without one single accident, Albert says, “I try to be very careful on the road. I don’t tailgate. But mostly it’s luck. I’ve had my fair share of close calls, and sometimes things are out of your control. But so far, I’ve been fortunate to avoid any issues.”
Tony vanHengel is CLAC’s BC transportation coordinator and a former class 1 driver himself. “Thirty-three years of driving on the highways of British Columbia without one accident is almost unheard of,” he says.
And it’s not just his safe driving that Albert is noted for.
“What comes to mind about Albert is his professionalism and his courtesy to others,” says his dispatcher, Derek Foisy. “He’s looked up to and he’s a mentor to the team—whether he wants to acknowledge it or not.”
ALBERT HAS SEEN MANY CHANGES in the industry over the past four decades since he started in the mid-1980s. Technology has had a major impact on trucking, and the newer rigs are far more advanced than those he first drove.
“The tractors have a lot more power now than they did back then,” says Albert. “The Volvos we drive can move a lot of freight. Also, when the company introduced electronic logs a number of years ago, it helped to make sure everyone is honest. It’s been a big help in the industry.”
The trucks today come with many more safety features than in the past. The latest Volvo trucks can exchange information with each other about traffic situations, which lower the risk of accidents. Like many new cars, they offer dynamic steering and lane keeping assistance, electronic stability control to reduce skidding and rollovers, and airbags. A driver alert system keeps track of driving behaviour and if patterns change, it will alert the driver that it’s time to take a break. Cameras and radar work to provide collision warning and emergency braking.
BUT ULTIMATELY, SAFETY IS IN the hands of the person behind the wheel. And on BC roads, there’s no safer person than Albert.
To honour his incredible safety record, Albert was recently awarded the 2019 BC Transportation Association Volvo Truck Driver of the Year.
“I’m really honoured to be chosen for the award and grateful to those who nominated me,” says Albert, in his typically modest manner. “Bandstra has been a great company to work for. They’ve always been good to me. They treat me well.”
Albert’s 1.6 million accident-free milestone is a testament to the professionalism and commitment to safety of the thousands of CLAC members around the country who drive truck every day delivering goods that we depend on.
“On behalf of CLAC and his fellow Local 66 drivers, we congratulate Albert on receiving the Volvo Truck Driver of the Year award,” says Tony. “He’s an example and an inspiration for CLAC’s truck driving members across the province and across Canada.”
50,000 Lives—And Counting
After 1.6 million miles, Albert VandeVelde has never had an airbag deploy in his truck, but for thousands of other truckers and motorists, the invention of the airbag has literally saved their lives. The origins of the airbag can be traced as far back as 1919, and the first patent for an air-filled bladder for use in cars was issued in 1953 to John Hetrick. Many different designs have been developed over the years. They were big and bulky and some were dangerous. One used gunpowder to heat Freon gas creating phosgene gas, which is extremely poisonous!
In 1968, chemist John Pietz pioneered the use of sodium azide as a solid propellant with a metallic oxide to produce a burst of nitrogen to inflate an airbag. Nitrogen-generating airbags soon replaced older, bulkier systems and were introduced in cars in the 1970s.
Since 1998, cars sold in the US must have airbags, but Canada has no such requirement, although they are a standard feature on most cars. According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), from 1987 to 2017, front airbags saved 50,457 lives. The NHTSA found that airbags reduce driver fatalities by 29 percent and front-seat passenger fatalities by 32 percent. Although airbags caused 290 deaths in the US from 1990-2008—90 percent of whom were children and infants—serious injuries from airbags are rare today because of government regulations and better design.
Sources: newworldencyclopedia.com, encyclopedia.com, Globe and Mail, iihs.org, nhsta.gov, wikipedia.com