With Adam getting his ears adjusted I got the chance to ask the Truck Stop Question the last couple of months. My girlfriend lives in Milton and the assignment gave me the odd opportunity to have dinner with her during the week a couple of times and hang around the Fifth Wheel with my tape recorder. If they weren’t in a hurry, most drivers didn’t mind giving their opinions on most any topic, and the ones I talked to were mostly waiting overnight to load somewhere in the GTA the next day– they had lots of time to kill.
So this month’s TSQ was about their thoughts on WalMart’s new 60.5 foot SuperCube trailer and the results were pretty much what I would have thought. Some drivers seeing this as a ploy to get more work out of less drivers for less pay, but others genuinely interested in the idea.
I can see both sides. Genuine truck drivers love heavy equipment and are keen to see new technologies introduced. After all, Walmart has created space where there wasn’t any before, and not gone over length in doing so. Contrarily, I don’t think many drivers who do LCV work currently are compensated well enough for the extra responsibility and the extra freight they are hauling, and I can see the same thing in the cards for these trailers..
WalMart kind of did an end run around the OTA by promoting the prototype without asking for the blessing of the OTA, and that certainly ruffled the association’s feathers. The OTA and the other provincial associations are profoundly influential beings who have lots of sway with their corresponding transportation ministries. But WalMart is a world-class monster of a retailer whose economy probably outranks or at least out performs Greece.
So a showdown between WalMart Canada might have been as good battle between Godzilla and Mothra, but it didn’t happen. The MTO revised the permits under which the supercubes will operate, and five qualified carriers will be operating the experimental configurations, each operating four permits.
My understanding is that WalMart operates its own truck fleet in the US, but in Canada uses a bunch of carriers to fulfill its needs. Several trucking companies operate LCVs for them and this was also a bone of contention with some large carriers who only have a limited number of long train permits. The second round of Ontario’s LCV program opened up the field and WalMart brought several carriers and their LCV permits under their shipping umbrella.
Anecdotally, they may have cheap prices but their shipping network is failing the produce section. When buying produce from WalMart always check the expiry date. I suspect the lag time of getting the products from the farms to the floor, and there are kinks in their shipping chain when it comes to perishables. It remains to be seen if Target can do any better. Their new shipping hub in Milton certainly looks state of the art. I’d love to have a tour of it when it’s ready.
But getting back to extra length trailers. I didn’t like the 53s when they first appeared. The first ones had a permit to run Canada between Detroit and Buffalo, but soon enough we were hauling them in the mid-1980s. I get my back up when I see the rules changing. But where else can we go with this? How do we get more capacity and still run down the road safely without scaring the public? There’s a limit to what one tractor can haul, or is there? Maybe we should let triples run up and down the 401 at night. Our brothers and sisters in the prairie provinces do all right pulling them, don’t they?
Oh yes, and about the glider kits with the older model engines that might not meet ministry standards. (see article by James Menzies in January’s Truck News). Maybe some of those cool cabover European tractors will work in this case, one of those Scanias, DAFs or Mans maybe?
Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.
With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude. All posts by Harry Rudolfs