Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation is showing no signs of wavering in the face of renewed pressure from dump truck operators over a decade-old weights and dimensions regulation.
“This regulation will remain in place,” the MTO said late Monday in an email to Today’s Trucking.
“There is no viable reason to waver from it.”
The dispute is over Ontario Regulation 413/05: Vehicle Weights and Dimensions for Safe, Productive, Infrastructure-Friendly (SPIF) Vehicles.
The so-called SPIF standard was adopted in stages during 2000-11, and operators have had nearly 10 years of grandfathering period to comply with the rule.
That deadline expired Dec. 31, and enforcement was expected to begin on New Year’s Day.
But as of late Monday, there was no report of anyone being caught flouting the law.
“We are unable to comment on any enforcement action taken at this time,” the MTO said.
Trucks with SPIF configurations are allowed a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 36 metric tonnes while non-SPIF vehicles will be restricted to operating at a GVWR of 27 tonnes.
The Ontario Dump Truck Association (ODTA), which has been holding protests against the regulation, wants the province to grandfather their vehicles for their full lifespan without any weight restrictions.
The ministry repeated Monday the majority of the trucking industry has complied with the SPIF regime, or is in the process of doing so.
ODTA gets support
The MTO statement also came after a former industry executive wrote a letter to Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney, urging her to hold consultations with the protesters.
“Sit down with the industry representatives as they have requested so that we all can look forward to a better 2021,” said Al Tucker, a former executive director of the Canadian Transportation Equipment Association (CTEA).
There was no immediate reaction from Mulroney.
Major trucking associations support the enforcement of the SPIF regime, which they say will help ensure road safety, and keep Ontario’s infrastructure intact.
Tucker doesn’t buy that argument.
“They have been safe all along. Otherwise, they would never have been allowed to be on the highway. Would they?” he asked.
“They are still subject to inspections on the roadside and at scales. There was never a question about the safety of these vehicles. If there had been, sure the government would have acted before any legislation” Tucker told Today’s Trucking in an interview from London, Ont., on Monday.
He also said that Ontario has the highest load ratings in North America for vehicles on highways.
“If you wanted to argue that point, that certainly could have been a contributing factor to the wear and tear on our highways.”
The ODTA has said most of its members cannot afford to retrofit their vehicles with steer axles and weight distribution systems because that would cost between $25,000 and $40,000.
Today’s Trucking reached out to Cottrill Heavy Equipment, which specializes in integrating, outfitting and repairing heavy-duty trucks and trailers, to figure out the exact cost.
“On average, it would cost $23,000 and would take one week to complete the job,” said Herb Preikschas, sales manager at Cottrill, based in Kincardine, Ont.
“If these operators had started to prepare for SPIF conversion in 2011, they would have needed to set aside or save $1.15 per hour to pay for it,” he said.
Preikschas thinks fleets have no problem complying with the rule, and it is the independent owner-operator who finds it a challenge.
“The government has implemented this basically to protect the infrastructure of Ontario that we all pay for,” he said.
Tucker, however, considers the retrofit option a bad idea, especially under the current economic situation.
“I don’t think we need to add cost to anything these days. We are all trying to work our way out of a hole in the ground,” he said.
The ODTA had suggested last week that dump trucks should be given the same exemption offered to other categories of trucks such as cement trucks.
The MTO clarified Monday that concrete or cement trucks are not grandfathered for their full lifespan, but rather have been provided grandfathering up to the point where the vehicle reaches 20 years of age.
“These additional five years of grandfathering are due to differences in the durability, duty-cycle, and operating environments of cement mixers as compared to dump trucks, which are eligible for extended grandfathering by permit for the life of the vehicle up to 15 years of age based on the original manufacturers build date,” it said.
Was there any communication gap in the lead-up to and following the adoption of the SPIF regime?
The ODTA said last week that the Jan. 1 date had not been shared or communicated to drivers until very recently.
The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has repeatedly spoke of extensive consultations with the industry before and after adopting the regulation.
Tucker is skeptical about that claim.
“I don’t recall, very many dump truck owner-operators being involved in the conversation,” he said.
In his letter to Mulroney, Tucker pleaded for more consultations and urged the minister to take quick action.
“Please use your ministerial powers to fix this oversight that is about to bring an essential service provider to its knees,” he wrote.
Tucker said Tuesday his views do not reflect the position or policies of the CTEA or its members.