I am going to focus this month’s column on the reduced load period, commonly referred to as Spring Weight Restrictions, or Frost laws. Although I have touched on this subject before, little has changed, and it needs to be brought to the forefront again. These laws have been around in most Canadian Provinces since 1949. They vary by jurisdiction, but for the most part reduce loads allowed on designated secondary highways by 10 to 50% of weights allowed during normal conditions. Most Provinces exempt certain commodities and essential services from these limits. The reason for frost laws are justifiable. Reducing loads during thaw periods limits damage to our roadways and saves significant dollars over a road’s lifecycle. Each jurisdiction has their own variance of regulations, so for this article I am going to concentrate on Ontario regs. In Ontario, the reduced load period runs 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.
The PMTC agrees these laws are needed to protect our infrastructure, however we need to realize that life and industry must continue for businesses that operate and are located on these roadways. Exemptions in place currently in the HTA demonstrate governments of the day were aware of this, however these exemptions have not been updated since they were originally put in place 60 plus years ago.
I am going to go through the reduced load limit exemptions as listed, and explain where, in our view, the problems exist with how they are currently written in the HTA.
5,000kg’s on all axles, including steer axles creates a major problem that cannot be rectified by the carrier. A lot of vehicles today, especially vocational trucks, are manufactured with 9,072kg front ends. The weight on the steer axle of these vehicles is over the 5,000kg limit when empty. These vehicles can’t legally operate on the road at all under current regs. A simple solution is to exempt the steer axle from this reg or increase the limit to 7500kg’s on the front steer.
Partial Exemptions that allow certain vehicles to carry 7500kg’s on the axles is a good compromise. It shows that the legislators understand certain vehicles still must be allowed to operate at reasonable weights to allow business to continue. The problem with this exemption is the limitation of who can utilize it. The list includes two axle tank trucks used for heating fuel and two axle trucks used exclusively for feed. While these laws made sense decades ago when they were created, they are extremely limiting and no longer serve the purpose they were created for. Farm operations and associated business have changed over the years. The majority of these operations are no longer small operations with a few hundred acres or animals. A lot are now big businesses, operating thousands of acres of land and animals. The amount of product that needs to be delivered has increased substantially and is delivered with multi axle vehicles. When the laws were created, the majority of vehicles delivering these essential products were 2 axle trucks, which is no longer the case, and has not been for decades. This exemption needs to be updated to 7500kg’s per axle, regardless of the number of axles on the vehicle. The current regulation in todays reality amounts to no exemption at all.
The 7500 per axle exemption is already in the HTA, as any truck transporting live poultry is allowed 7500kg’s per axle, regardless of the number of axles. It would make sense to extend these exemptions to the trucks that supply heat and feed to these animals. Our membership also questions why this exemption exists for poultry only. It is just as important to remove and supply all forms of livestock. The exemption for poultry only is simply baffling.
Full Exemptions exist for Municipal trucks, waste trucks, Public Utility vehicles and Milk trucks. We completely understand the need to exempt Municipal, waste and Public Utility vehicles. What we do not understand is why a milk truck is exempt, while a truck supplying livestock, feed and heating fuel is not? It seems to us one is just as important and essential as the other. The same exemptions should be in place for all. Under this exemption, trucks removing milk are exempt, however the truck that supplies the feed or heat for the animal that produces the Milk are not. If we have no heat or feed, there is no animal to produce the Milk……..
One of the P.C. Party of Ontario’s current slogan’s is “Open for Business”. The reduced load file in the HTA needs to be updated for this to be true for the agriculture and heating fuel sector, as these laws currently have their business suffering undue hardship and “closed for business” for a significant portion of the year.