Ontario in late January lifted a number of restrictions that were placed on long combination vehicles (LCVs) operating in the province, paving the way for the more widespread use of double 53s. Key changes included the removal of the cap on the number of permits carriers can obtain (previously 16) and the number of carriers that can participate in the program (previously 100).
The province also added new highways to the approved network and extended the distance LCVs can stray from the primary highway network from two kilometers to five. The LCV highway network was expanded to include Hwys. 403, 412 and the new leg of the 407 and two new configurations have been approved, which will extend the program to container and car haulers.
The changes mark a significant vote of confidence for the LCV program, which was launched in Ontario in 2009. Ontario was very cautious in its initial approval of LCVs and placed many restrictions on their use. To find out what, aside from effective lobbying by the Ontario Trucking Association, led the province to lift some of those restrictions after seven years, I contacted the Ministry of Transportation and sought the safety records for LCVs.
From 2009 to October 2016, carriers ran more than 224,000 LCV trips covering more than 69.7 million kilometers. During that time, there were eight collisions involving LCVs, however none of those accidents were the fault of the LCV driver.
Based on 2013 collision data, a traditional tractor-trailer traveled 3.2 million kilometers per collision. LCVs, in comparison, traveled 8.7 million kilometers per collision – and keep in mind, none of those collisions were the fault of the LCV driver.
Compliance with the restrictions and rules placed on LCV operations has also been impressive. The province has revoked the permit of only one carrier who was found to have violated program conditions.
I asked Geoff Wood, OTA’s vice-president of operations and safety, to what he attributes the success of the program. He credited the drivers and carriers that were first to support the program.
“From the get go, the goal was to have the best drivers, the best carriers, the most up-to-date technological equipment, the most rigorous monitoring and a certified training program,” he said. “There were 30 to 40 carriers involved in the development of the program. That’s where it starts.”
The environmental and economic benefits to the province are significant. In a 2011 policy paper, the MTO wrote that LCVs consume about one third of the fuel used by two tractor-trailers. That translated to a savings of about 67.3 liters of diesel fuel per LCV trip. Extrapolated over the 224,000 trips referenced above, the province’s trucking industry reduced its fuel consumption by more than 15 million liters between 2009 and 2016 through the use of LCVs.
Hudson’s Bay Company estimates it saved about $500,000 per year running just two LCV permits, when adding driver hours and tractor maintenance to the equation.
At a time when fleet managers get giddy over new technologies and devices that can deliver single digit fuel economy improvements, it’s important to remember that the greatest savings come from fully optimizing the use of the equipment and infrastructure that’s available to us today. Ontario should be applauded for paving the way for the use of LCVs.
It took some courage to do so in the face of the public pushback that occurred at the time the program was launched. But the numbers speak for themselves. From a safety, economic, and environmental perspective, there’s no way to dispute the fact the program has been a complete success and the removal of some of the program’s restrictions will ensure the benefits continue and expand.
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