TORONTO, Ont. -- When the province of Ontario gave the green light to the first of its long combination vehicles (LCVs) in 2009, it did so under the condition that truckers and shippers would have to pay for the engineering studies needed to prove interchanges could handle the Twin-53s.
Given the potential cost savings LCVs could provide, the industry was happy to do so. But now there’s concern those studies may have to be conducted once again when construction is done to LCV-approved interchanges. The issue arose this summer when the LCV-friendly Hwy. 401/10 interchange was reconstructed. Roy Monk, president of RAM Consulting and pioneer of the LCV program for SCM (Walmart’s third-party logistics provider), was surprised one night in June to learn LCVs were being prevented from accessing the major access point for the nearby Walmart distribution centre. SCM had already paid $20,000 to have the interchange approved for LCV use, but when Monk visited it the next morning, he found jersey barriers were placed too close to the lanes to allow LCV traffic to safely navigate.
In talking with the site supervisor for HCIO - the Ministry of Transportation’s road construction division - he found there was no consideration given to the needs of LCVs during the redesign. More worrisome, Monk noticed the redesigned interchange didn’t appear to be LCV-friendly. And the construction crew hadn’t even heard of an LCV. Monk hooked up a set of trailers and had an LCV brought to the construction site for an impromptu ‘show-and-tell.’
The same thing, meanwhile, was happening at the Boundary Rd. exit in Cornwall. What happened from there were two vastly different outcomes. When he called the on-site supervisor at Boundary Road, they then checked with MTO, ensured the new construction was done with LCVs in mind and then produced a blueprint stamped ‘LCV COMPLIANT,’ all at no additional cost to SCM.
At the Hwy. 401/10 interchange, the crew was less cooperative. Eventually, Monk said, SCM will have to fork over another $20,000 for a second engineering study to ensure the redesigned interchange can handle LCV traffic. And if it can’t, LCV drivers will have to continue using the trickier route across Derry Road, approaching the distribution centre from the north side, requiring a more difficult swing into the facility. The worst-case scenario could see the company spending $20,000 on a new engineering study, only to find the interchange is no longer compliant and then have to use the alternative route anyways.
Naturally, that doesn’t sit well with Monk.
“What you’re really telling me is that you don’t trust the construction at Hwy. 401/10 to be LCV-compliant,” Monk complained to the province. “Now, you want me to prove it to you, at my expense.”
He harbours some concern that what was once an LCV-friendly interchange - providing easy access to the Walmart distribution centre, where nine LCV deliveries are made each day - will no longer be navigable.
All this caused Monk to question: “Are the interchanges under construction now or in the future within Ontario 400-series highways being constructed to LCV compliancy? If not, why not?”
Rob Penner, executive vice-president and COO with Bison Transport, said the 401/10 interchange is not along its designated route, but said the issue raised by Monk is “a huge concern.”
“I would expect that if MTO was doing any work on ramps on and off the 400-series highways, that they would be obligated to ensure they would meet LCV standards,” Penner told Truck News. “I could see scenarios where it may not be physically possible for some ramps to accommodate LCV specs, but there is no way they should be able to alter a compliant interchange in such a manner that the ramp no longer meets the requirements.”
For a full report, check out the September issue of Truck News, available now.