Del Duca backs protesting dump truck operators

John G Smith

Dump truck operators who are fighting recent changes to Ontario weights and dimensions have found an ally in former provincial transportation minister and current Ontario Liberal leader Steven Del Duca.

“In 2016, our government signed an agreement calling for joint resolutions on matters related to SPIF and the industry,” he says, referring to Safe, Productive, Infrastructure-Friendly configurations which require self-steering axles and load equalization systems.

ODTA
The ODTA organized a series of protests against the regulation. (Photo: Jag Gundu/ODTA)

That agreement emerged when aggregate-hauling truckers occupied provincial inspection stations to fight a crackdown on axle weights. But while the Ontario Ministry of Transportation committed to rules that had been in place prior to Aug. 1, 2016, the grandfathering deadline for dump trucks built prior to 2011 did not change.

Dump truck operators including members of the Ontario Dump Truck Association (ODTA) organized another series of protests this December as the grandfathering period was coming to an end. The new SPIF rules took effect in January.

“It’s absolutely deplorable that [the provincial government] decided to use the cover of a pandemic to go in this direction. I think it’s bad for our economy. It’s certainly bad for the individuals employed or operating in the industry,” Del Duca says.

Dump truck protests

The ODTA estimates about 1,000 dump trucks manufactured before 2011 do not comply with the SPIF-related rules.

“They’ve had people’s trucks towed at job sites. They’ve had their plates taken off,” ODTA spokeswoman Sarbjit Kaur told Today’s Trucking. Another 1,200 dump trucks under 15 years old are currently operating under permit, but will face the same weight restrictions as their older counterparts once their grandfathering period ends.

“Who in the industry said that a truck lasts 15 years?” asks Alec Cloke, president of United Soils, a clean fill disposal business that receives 600 loads a day. “What I have a problem with is the age of the truck they’re grandfathering. We’re not arguing that SPIF is the way to go.”

But the group is arguing that the Ontario Ministry of Transportation has been unwilling to hear concerns and offered little warning as the grandfathering period was coming to an end.

“They can give you a CVOR ticket in two minutes,” Cloke says. “They can send you a bill for a licence … They can’t send out a notice?”

“This is an industry-wide issue that affects many, many people. It’s not a small group of rulebreakers or people who just don’t want to [follow] the law, or been lazy, or straggling,” Kaur says.

She says the ODTA declined to participate in a Dec. 30 technical briefing because they knew what the rules were. The association wants to meet the government to make the case that the grandfathering period should be extended.

“In the middle of the pandemic, where we’re already losing work and income, to have this happen was a disaster,” says Jagroop Singh, president of the Ontario Aggregate Trucking Association, which organized the 2016 protests. “We have members who simply can’t work … Their trucks are their only business and without them they are stuck.”

Don’t dump on us

Del Duca’s show of support comes as a coalition of more than 100 industry representatives including trucking companies, owner-operators, and members of the construction industry launch an online information campaign at www.dontdumponus.ca.

A petition calling for an extended grandfathering period for the life of the trucks has collected more than 3,000 signatures.

There is a way to get older equipment to comply with the rules, but it is pricey. Retrofitting existing lift axles and equipment would cost an estimated $20,000 to $40,000.

“Nobody is going to spend that money to put five more years on a truck. Your truck is 15 years old and you’re going to spend $25,000 to stretch it out?” Kaur says.

“This is a relatively low-cost, no-cost fix: [They] simply need to grandfather the trucks for their proper lifespan. Let them go to their natural end of life. In five years they’ll all be off the road anyways.”

Low safety risk

“I’ve heard from many individual drivers, trucking companies, and some of the largest construction companies, that these measures are impacting their livelihoods and will wreak havoc on the entire construction industry,” said MPP Stephen Blais, Liberal transportation critic. “The trucks pose a low safety risk. It’s time to let these essential workers get back to work.”

Any safety risks are not as significant as the regulation’s name implies, Blais says.

Ontario Ministry of Transportation concerns about traditional lift axles have focused on related infrastructure damage. When fixed lift axles are raised on loaded equipment, the remaining axles are overloaded. The axles that are lowered and fixed in place will drag laterally across pavement.

“The alternative to all of this is these guys going out on the side of the road when it’s busy,” Cloke says, referring to the onset of construction season. “We do not want to have anything like that.”

John G Smith

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, Inside Logistics, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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  • With an over 20 year rollout of the SPIF plan in Ontario and all companies that were asked or got involved as part of the plan why they did not speak up or get involved is a question.

  • Again our political friends looking to gain votes go against what has been put in place for all to abide by. First thing that comes to mind is the money i and every other trucking company has had to spend so as to meet the standards. Tank operations have been forced to buy new equipment as they are unable to retro fit their current equipment to meet the new standards yet not an ounce of backlash from any political party to support us.
    I would ask the question why is it that they react to the comment “there is 1000 dumps” when they said nothing when the changes affected thousands and thousands of other types of trailers. I don’t like to use the word discrimination but …..

  • Steven Del Duca is an idiot.
    The laws were put into place and everyone has had more than fair warning since 2012.
    That’s a long time.
    Maybe the Liberals should pay more attention to how much money has been illegally sifted through the cracks with the “WE” and the SNC Lavalin project.

  • In 5 years they will want another grandfather extension and another and another. SPIF trucks are maintenance nightmares compared to the old, so they just want to keep running the simple cheaper trucks. Anyone claiming they weren’t informed is an idiot.

  • This legislation has been a long time coming, anyone who wasn’t expecting it has not been paying attention or just ignoring it.

  • One of the key elements of a complete and comprehensive fleet safety plan is the requirement of an operator to keep up with legislative changes, both current and upcoming–read your CVOR responsibilities. There is no legal requirement for a government to send ‘updates’ to any operator: take THAT up with your local MPP.
    This [SPIF] has been in the works since at least 2000, with various versions and updates. ‘Grandfathering’ was implemented in 2011, giving operators 10 years to begin the process of converting/upgrading equipment, updating policies and develop/deliver driver training.
    If 10 years is not enough time to become compliant, please tell me what IS enough time. Those operators who failed to prepare for the eventual ‘hard date’, must prepare to fail. Any opposition member who interprets this reality in any other way is simply looking to gather votes for the next election. By the way, have no doubts that the next government will also fail the taxpayers….

  • These protests are great just a wy too late. What about the people that have already spent thousands to update equipment and sold old equipment at discount prices? Are we getting rebates for buying spit equipment? I have been in the business 45 years Covid did not affect construction last year I worked every day just the same as alwaysj

  • Here we go again pandering to the few who wont invest in new equipment and therfore realize the true costs of trucking. Some of theses folks that are quoted in this article have a vested interest in trying to maintain the status quo so they can keep cheap trucking rates,no one has ever gotten rich trucking its time to start charging realistic rates for the times i have sen alot of people come and make a big splash thinking they going to set the world on fire then about 3 or 4 years trucks get older economy changes they go down in flames. The rest of us here are left to try and pull rates back up and takes years to do it.