Dump truck operators who are fighting recent changes to Ontario weights and dimensions have found an ally in former provincial transportation minister and current Ontario Liberal leader Steven Del Duca.
“In 2016, our government signed an agreement calling for joint resolutions on matters related to SPIF and the industry,” he says, referring to Safe, Productive, Infrastructure-Friendly configurations which require self-steering axles and load equalization systems.
That agreement emerged when aggregate-hauling truckers occupied provincial inspection stations to fight a crackdown on axle weights. But while the Ontario Ministry of Transportation committed to rules that had been in place prior to Aug. 1, 2016, the grandfathering deadline for dump trucks built prior to 2011 did not change.
Dump truck operators including members of the Ontario Dump Truck Association (ODTA) organized another series of protests this December as the grandfathering period was coming to an end. The new SPIF rules took effect in January.
“It’s absolutely deplorable that [the provincial government] decided to use the cover of a pandemic to go in this direction. I think it’s bad for our economy. It’s certainly bad for the individuals employed or operating in the industry,” Del Duca says.
Dump truck protests
The ODTA estimates about 1,000 dump trucks manufactured before 2011 do not comply with the SPIF-related rules.
“They’ve had people’s trucks towed at job sites. They’ve had their plates taken off,” ODTA spokeswoman Sarbjit Kaur told our group publication Today’s Trucking. Another 1,200 dump trucks under 15 years old are currently operating under permit, but will face the same weight restrictions as their older counterparts once their grandfathering period ends.
“Who in the industry said that a truck lasts 15 years?” asks Alec Cloke, president of United Soils, a clean fill disposal business that receives 600 loads a day. “What I have a problem with is the age of the truck they’re grandfathering. We’re not arguing that SPIF is the way to go.”
But the group is arguing that the Ontario Ministry of Transportation has been unwilling to hear concerns and offered little warning as the grandfathering period was coming to an end.
“They can give you a CVOR ticket in two minutes,” Cloke says. “They can send you a bill for a licence … They can’t send out a notice?”
“This is an industry-wide issue that affects many, many people. It’s not a small group of rulebreakers or people who just don’t want to [follow] the law, or been lazy, or straggling,” Kaur says.
She says the ODTA declined to participate in a November technical briefing because they knew what the rules were. The association wants to meet the government to make the case that the grandfathering period should be extended.
“In the middle of the pandemic, where we’re already losing work and income, to have this happen was a disaster,” says Jagroop Singh, president of the Ontario Aggregate Trucking Association, which organized the 2016 protests. “We have members who simply can’t work … Their trucks are their only business and without them they are stuck.”
‘Don’t dump on us‘
Del Duca’s show of support comes as a coalition of more than 100 industry representatives including trucking companies, owner-operators, and members of the construction industry launch an online information campaign at www.dontdumponus.ca.
A petition calling for an extended grandfathering period for the life of the trucks has collected more than 3,000 signatures.
There is a way to get older equipment to comply with the rules, but it is pricey. Retrofitting existing lift axles and equipment would cost an estimated $20,000 to $40,000.
“Nobody is going to spend that money to put five more years on a truck. Your truck is 15 years old and you’re going to spend $25,000 to stretch it out?” Kaur says.
“This is a relatively low-cost, no-cost fix: [They] simply need to grandfather the trucks for their proper lifespan. Let them go to their natural end of life. In five years they’ll all be off the road anyways.”
Low safety risk
“I’ve heard from many individual drivers, trucking companies, and some of the largest construction companies, that these measures are impacting their livelihoods and will wreak havoc on the entire construction industry,” said MPP Stephen Blais, Liberal transportation critic. “The trucks pose a low safety risk. It’s time to let these essential workers get back to work.”
Any safety risks are not as significant as the regulation’s name implies, Blais says.
Ontario Ministry of Transportation concerns about traditional lift axles have focused on related infrastructure damage. When fixed lift axles are raised on loaded equipment, the remaining axles are overloaded. The axles that are lowered and fixed in place will drag laterally across pavement.
“The alternative to all of this is these guys going out on the side of the road when it’s busy,” Cloke says, referring to the onset of construction season. “We do not want to have anything like that.”