Welcome to the Spring Olympics

The Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea have concluded, with a record medal count for Canada. But no sooner have those successful Games concluded than the Spring Olympics have come to southern Ontario.

Haven’t heard of them? They feature the high-skilled, high-risk sports such as pothole slalom driving, and even an event that combines the loosely related skills of driving with roadside tire changing. These are exhilarating events, fraught with danger, and best of all, they can be viewed live – for free! – any day of the week.

All you have to do is take a drive on Hwy. 401, for example, or many other well-traveled roads in the province (and others).

All joking aside, I do wonder how much damage our pothole-filled roads inflict on our vehicles. How many trucks and cars are jarred out of alignment? How many tires are prematurely destroyed by the jagged edge of a pothole? How many lives are endangered as motorists attend to these problems at the side of the road, with vehicles flying past at 120 km/h?

Well, you might argue, this is Canada, potholes are inevitable. Not true! There is a viable alternative – and that is building highways with concrete instead of asphalt.

Yes, it’s more expensive, and concrete highways produce more tire noise. But they are so much more durable.

Look to Ontario’s toll Hwy. 407 as an example of this – long stretches of concrete roadway that withstand extreme temperatures, temperature fluctuations, and heavy traffic. This is exactly what’s needed in Canada. Not only that, but the firmness of concrete compared to asphalt is said to improve fuel economy substantially thanks to reduced rolling resistance.

So, why don’t we have more concrete highways in Canada? For starters, they’re more expensive to build. But anyone in trucking understands the benefit of paying more now, to save later.

That message is lost on government, however, which always prefers to choose the lowest cost option and kick the cost of maintenance down the road to the next regime.

The other impediment is that the asphalt industry has a powerful and effective lobby movement behind it. Think of all the jobs that would be lost filling potholes each Spring if our roads were to be built of durable concrete.

So for now, it’s likely we’ll have to make the most of the hand we’ve been dealt, and continue watching and participating in the Spring Olympics. Be careful out there, folks.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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