I am going to begin this column by providing a bit of background on Safe, Productive and Infrastructure Friendly Vehicles in Ontario, or “SPIF” vehicles. These vehicles are covered under HTA regulation 413/05, Vehicle Weights and dimensions. The “SPIF” regulations came into effect in four different phases that started in 2000 with phase 1, with the fourth and final phase being announced in 2010, and coming into law effective July 1, 2011. The fourth phase covered what I will refer to as “Straight” trucks. The regulations were designed to provide safer vehicles for our highways, and protect the infrastructure. The regulations lay out 31 different “Prescribed Combinations” that set out, among other things, allowed vehicle dimensions, including height, width, length, number of axles, type(s) of axles, and weight allowed per axle and total gross vehicle weight. Laws were brought in through a grandfathered approach. For example, in the fourth and final phase, any truck manufactured prior to July 1, 2011, can operate under the pre SPIF rules until December 31st of 2020, and with a permit, can extend this out further until the vehicle reaches 15 years of age. Any vehicle that was manufactured after July 1st 2011 was to comply with the rules effective immediately.
The SPIF rules did not come with out their pain. In my previous job as a Fleet Manager, I dealt with the pains involved. Once the laws came into effect, we saw reductions in pay loads for the newer spec’d SPIF
vehicles when compared to the previous configurations we were using. There were also increased maintenance costs associated with self steer axles. We suffered some initial performance issues with traction and steering control as weight distribution in some cases was les than ideal and weight was taken off the front steer, which is less than ideal in winter driving conditions. In short, I am acknowledging there were issues, however over time most of these issues were overcome by manufacturers and fleets. Loading of vehicles to ensure legal axle weights, especially vehicles that hauled bulk products, of which we had several, took some time to figure out, both for loaders and drivers. However, these pains were overcome once drivers and loaders gained experience in loading the new “SPIF” configurations. The gross vehicle weight losses were never fully regained, and a new business structure to account for this loss of revenue had to be found to stay competitive. As the laws applied to all, we were all in the same boat though. I am not saying we were happy, or that we even agreed with all the changes, but once it was clear things were not going to revert, we adjusted and did what was required and found ways. This did come at a great deal of cost, and we, like many other players in the industry, paid our share to accomplish what was now legally required. Several PMTC Members “paid their dues” and phased out old equipment and had to learn to deal with the new reality. Several of these members operate in what I would call essential services, such as delivery of home heating fuels, livestock feed, waste, to name just a few.
All this background leads me back to the title of this column….on September 23rd Ontario Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca issued a letter to Aggregate Producers, Haulers and other industry representatives, notifying them that the MTO would return to a phase 1 enforcement regime that had been in place until August 1st of 2016. Effectively, this means the MTO will allow aggregate haulers to be overloaded on axle weights, if there are within legal Gross Weights, are not beyond tire load limits and Manufacturers Gross Axle Weight Ratings. The MTO reached this decision, in part, because of strike actions that had been occurring at the Milton, On weigh scales since September 20th. A segment of gravel haulers, mainly from the GTA, had been occupying the scale in protest of a return to strict enforcement of SPIF rules for the aggregate industry that had resumed on August 1st. In May of 2012, the MTO issued a similar notice, under then Transport Minister David Turnbull, indicating the MTO would not enforce a hard line on axle weights for the aggregate industry. This was to be a short-term solution…which lasted 4 years and 3 months….. The return to proper enforcement only lasted slightly over 6 weeks, and then because of the strike action, phase 1 enforcement has been returned. In the view of the PMTC, the decision to not apply hard enforcement on axle weights to the aggregate industry either needs to be extended to all facets of the industry that are affected by this, and there are many….or more to the point, the exemptions need to be removed in short order, and the real issue dealt with. It has been over 5 years since the last phase came into effect, it is time we move forward and ensure the laws apply to all, fairly and equally.
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 email@example.com