Frost Laws, as they are commonly called, have been around in most Canadian Provinces, in one form or another, since 1949. The laws vary by Province and Territory, but for the most part they reduce loads allowed on designated secondary highways during the spring thaw by anywhere from 10 to 50% of weights allowed during normal conditions. Most jurisdictions exempt main highways from the reductions, although some will re-categorize some main roads during reduced load periods, which does lower the weights allowed. The majority of Provinces will also exempt certain commodities and essential services from these limits, such as Milk, grain, Livestock, heating fuels and some others. Most Northern US states, and some European Countries also have some form of “Frost law” or reduced load period. The reason for these laws are justifiable, and all research shows that reducing loads allowed on roads during thaw periods reduces damage to our roadways, extends their live, and saves billions of dollars over a roads lifecycle. I believe we all are in agreement that these laws need to exist to protect our infrastructure. We do however, need to realize that life and industry needs to continue for businesses that operate and are located on these roadways. Exemptions that are in place in almost all jurisdictions demonstrate that governments are aware of this as well, however some of these exemptions have not been updated since the regulations were originally put in place some 60 plus years ago, and as we all know, times have changed in the years since these laws were first enacted. Space does not allow me to cover the rules and regs for all the Provinces and Territories, as the specific rules and exemptions are different in each region, so for the purpose of this article, I am going to concentrate on the Reduced Load periods and exemptions in place in Ontario.
In Ontario, the reduced load period runs, on designated roads, from March 1st to April 30th in the South, and March 1st to May 31st in the North. Vehicles operating on these roads are limited to 5,000kg’s per axle. This limit is imposed on all axles, including the steer axle.
Exemptions are in place for the following: Complete exemptions exist for Municipal trucks, or those clearing or working on the highways on behalf of Municipalities. Fire Trucks, Waste Trucks and Public Utility Vehicles. A complete exemption also exists for Trucks Transporting Milk.
Partial Exemptions, allowing 7500kg’s per axle for the following vehicles: Two axle tank truck used exclusively for transporting liquid or gaseous heating fuel. Two axle truck used exclusively for the transportation of livestock feed, and any vehicle configuration transporting live poultry.
These exemptions clearly indicate, that when the laws were originally created, the Government realised that a lot of farming operations, and related businesses, are located on the roadways that are most effected by reduced loads. I am going to through the reduced load limit regs and exemptions as listed, and explain where, in my view, the problems exist with how there are currently written in the Highway Traffic Act (HTA).
5,000kg’s on all axles, including steer axles: This creates a major problem, and one that cannot be rectified by the carrier in a lot of situations. A lot of vehicles today, especially vocational straight trucks, are manufactured with 20,000lb (9,072kg’s) front ends. In most cases, the weight on the steer axle of these vehicles will be over the 5tonne limit when empty. So these vehicles can’t legally operate on the
road at all under the current HTA regs. A simple solution to this would be to exempt the steer axle from this reg, or increase the limit to 7500kg’s on the steer, as a lot of other jurisdictions already have in place.
Partial Exemptions: The partial exemptions that allow certain vehicles to carry 7500kg’s on the axles, in my view, is a good compromise. It shows that the legislators understand that certain vehicles still must be allowed to operate at reasonable weights to allow business to continue, and not suffer undue hardship with massively increased costs. It also shows that industry understands the damage that can be done to roads during the thaw season, and that they are willing to pay a portion of these costs through reduced loads. The partial exemption is a good compromise, which is how sound partners do business. The problem I have with this exemption is who and what types of vehicles are allowed to utilize it. The list includes: Two axle tank trucks used for home heating fuel (gaseous or liquid) and two axle trucks used exclusively for feed. While these laws may have made sense decades ago when they were created, they are extremely limiting and no longer serve the purpose they were created for at the time. Farm operations have changed over the years, and the majority of farms are no longer small family operations with a few hundred acres and a few hundred animals or less. A lot of farms are now big business, and operate thousands of acres of land, and thousands of animals. As a result, the amount of product that needs to be delivered to these operations has increased substantially, and as a result is delivered to these operations with the use of multi axle vehicles. When the laws were created, the majority of vehicles delivering to farm operations were 2 axle trucks, this is no longer the case, and has not been for years. This law, in my view needs to be updated to 7500kg’s per axle, regardless of the amount of axles on the vehicle. This exemption (7500kg’s per axle, regardless of the number of axles) is already in the HTA, as any truck transporting live poultry is allowed 7500kg’s per axle, regardless of the amount of axles in the configuration (provided they comply with normal HTA axle limits) It would make sense to extend these exemptions to the trucks that supply the heat and feed to the poultry. Which leads me to another point, why is this exemption in place for live poultry only?? Is it not just as important to remove and supply live pigs, cattle, sheep, goats and any other form of live animal from the farm as well???
Full Exemptions: Complete exemptions exist, with no limits imposed, for Municipal trucks, waste trucks, Public Utility vehicles and Milk trucks. I completely understand the need to exempt Municipal Trucks in order to ensure roadways are allowed to be maintained and safe for the public, and for the removal of waste and utility repairs, what I don’t understand is why a milk truck is exempt, while a livestock or feed, and home heat truck is not? It seems to me one is just as important, and essential as the other, and the same exemptions should be in place for all.
In conclusion, I believe it is time the reduced load limit rules and exemptions are reviewed, with the updates made to reflect the business world as it exists today. I am not proposing exemptions are lifted and we go to a free for all and carry full weights year round, as I understand that reduced loads do need to exist in order to protect our infrastructure. I do however believe these rules need to be updated in order to ensure essential services and businesses related to these services, are allowed to operate without suffering unrealistic costs and hardship. In some cases, if the rules were followed to the letter of the law written, some operations would have to shut down for 3 months of the year…and/or the livestock that they raise will suffer, and even die as a result of no feed or heat. I don’t believe anyone believes this should be a cost of doing business, nor do I believe that is what legislators intended when these rules were put in place.
About the Author
“Mike has 25 years’ of wide ranging experience in the trucking industry, performing such duties as a livestock and grain hauler for 3 years, followed by 5 years of long haul across North America hauling refrigerated and general freight. Mike was also a full time certified driver trainer for 2 years, and then transitioned into Safety and Compliance for 2 years, and then spent over 12 years as a Fleet manager for a Private Fleet. Mike is now the President of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, Canada’s only National Association that represents the views and interest of today’s Private Fleets.” Mike can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org