SPIF rules saved lift axles in Ontario, CTEA says

OTTAWA, Ont. – The Canadian Transportation Equipment Association (CTEA) is publicly supporting Ontario updates to Safe, Productive, Infrastructure-Friendly (SPIF) dump truck configurations – and notes that such changes actually helped to save lift axles in the province.

“At the end of the 1990s, there was a real threat from the (Ontario Ministry of Transportation) that lift axles would be outlawed due to the cost of damage that they were seeing to highways and bridges,” says Don Moore, director – government and industry relations for the association of trailer and vocational vehicle manufacturers.

“New steer axle technology was seen as a mechanism to not only avoid this, but to realize heavier loads while causing less roadway damage.”

The solutions that emerged combine SPIF’s steerable lift axles and load equalization systems.

ODTA - Mulroney
A recent protest ended at the constituency office of Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney. (Photo: ODTA/Jag Gundu)

In 2005, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation released a study that determined non-steering lift axles caused about $300 million in annual damage to the province’s roads and bridges.

Much of the problem was linked to operators who kept the lift axles raised when they should have been deployed.

A provincial grandfathering period dump trucks that don’t comply with SPIF rules ended Jan. 1, leading to a series of protests by the Ontario Dump Truck Association (ODTA), which argues that members were not given sufficient notice about the changes, and that the cost of equipment upgrades place a heavy burden on small operators.

The regulations were rolled out in four phases between 2000 and 2011, and nearly a decade of grandfathering periods followed.

Upgrading non-compliant dump trucks can cost $25,000 or more, the dump truck haulers add.

Moore, however, says the cost of such upgrades can be recovered by the revenue that comes with heavier weights.

Trucks configured to meet the SPIF requirements are allowed a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 36 metric tonnes, while the trucks that don’t comply with the rules have seen GVWRs limited to 27 tonnes.

“You’ll be able to haul more weight and bring you in line with the guys who have already done this,” Moore says.

Writing Mulroney

The CTEA reinforced its support for SPIF regulations late yesterday, in a letter to Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney.

“Put concisely, the CTEA has been and continues to be supportive of the SPIF regulations, including the implementation and grandfathering schedules, since the regulations were first promulgated in Phase 1 back in 2000,” Moore wrote in the letter.

“The CTEA staff has been engaged in the process since the late 1990s and have been involved in most of the meetings leading up to the release of each phase since then. Our technical staff have been involved in numerous discussions around the various analyses performed on configurations to determine vehicle stability and maximum load capacity, etc.”

Early technical challenges involving control systems and load equalization were addressed years ago, Moore added in a related interview with Today’s Trucking.

If anything, the shift to self-steering axles makes for safer vehicles, he adds, noting that lifted axles increase the stresses on frames and other components.

Remaining technical challenge

There is still one known technical issue to address with SPIF configurations, however.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has deferred enforcement around emergency override controls, giving manufacturers time to address related programming challenges.

“The dash systems are all electronic now,” Moore explains. “It’s not like the old days when I started and there was a bunch of spaghetti behind the dash.”

In the early days of installing traditional lift axles, the big issue was chasing down the right wire.

The override controls would give drivers extra traction when needed, but only under strictly defined conditions.

When such optional controls are used, the axle will need to lift as soon as the switch is activated, but only stay up at speeds below 60 km/h. The axles will need to fully deploy as soon as a truck stops, when tractor power is turned off, or within three minutes of the switch being activated.

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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  • Does anyone in the mto have the smarts to accually know about this stuff or the cost.
    The biggest part of the axle is dragging well if you really look at a spot axle it drags around corners because the turning radius is to sharp for the draglink and tie rods to turn on most corners. On the hwy they work fine in towns and cities they create major damage to the roads.
    The life axle is far greater to use in cities and towns for many reasons. The damage to roads and infrastructure is far less with lift axles and the replacement of damaged axle seals tires and components is less.
    If the mto or the ontario government is looking for revenue they should be looking into tagged plates on trailers over two axles. The revenue made from these tagged plates could go to fixing roads in the province and a portion can go to cities and towns to fix their road that have truck traffic per say. No cars only roads this would enhance our infrastructure greatly. since most inprovince truck haul over 85 thousand lbs GVW.

  • as usual half the story ,,twisted….before jan 1st 2021 i could haul 35800 kg on my truck..as of jan 1st 2021 i can haul 27000kg..but if i spend $ 25000.00 then i can haul 36000kg..
    i have 2 trucks that are 1 year different in production date ..1 i can still use,,,the other i cannot..they are identical,,so tell me how 1 hurts the road ,but the other doesnt,,

    also they say the problem is drivers do not put axle down when loaded,,,i agree,,so ticket them,,,that is driver error,not axle error

    i own 10 trucks ,and to this day i have not received anything telling me of the new spif laws ..so i have not had 15 years notice..maybe sending information with a CVOR renewal which is done yearly might have been a good idea

    • You mean to say in 15 years, with 10 trucks you have not read in any trucking magazine/newspaper about the SPIF changes. I live in Quebec and read about them years ago. I have to use for self steering axles myself because of the cost and maintenance issues but it was well advanced noticed in my opinion.

    • I agree 100% with everything you have said we have to stand together and fill the courts up with this once we start getting overload tickets

  • The air lift never should of been allowed it only helped to create the haul more for less that the industry seems to want.The same ton mile rate remains the same as it was with an old Ford gas truck with a tag axle

  • The comment from Mr. Moore saying that these axles are not unsafe is totally a mistake. He can ask any owner operator and drivers and they will give him the right answer to that comment. As this is also said on other comment sections. So if we are all saying that they are unsafe why is he saying this? He is not driving these things daily as we are. I think the real problem is the weight that we carry and that is what is damaging the roads, and as the roads deterior the weights do more damage to the roads as we travel. We should all go back to tandems. So I agree with John my older truck was good for 37000kg – 1500kg for aggregate but now with spiff I can max out at 36000kg and do the same damage to roads. Thanks.

  • The SPIF for lift axles has been coming for a long time & truckers were aware of the regulation. They all need to comply.

    • It’s a unsafe axle, this is why nobody has ever used them until now that some idiot behind a desk thinks they are better…you want safe and less damage to infastructure lower Ontario GVWR.

  • Our Company has 2 Tri Axle trucks- One is a 2004 Peterbilt that has low mileage and the other is a 2008 Kenworth. Both are in great shape and should be grandfathered to the end of there life. I thought the license permit every year was to cover the costs of road repairs. Were did that money go too ?? How many trucks in Ontario are licensed and how much is the MTO collecting every year. Also the new Spiff Axle system will not work well on back road cottage country areas.

  • Truck is in hamilton now for spif axle. They say it won’t necessarily work due to computer issues. It may not be able to be certified for spit even though spif is installed. What now? Unemployment?

  • this new rule on lift axles suck.they should really ask experienced truck drives about the safety of these spiff axles on dirt roads or icy roads.as for damaged roads it is the way roads were built that make for damaged roads,have work on road crews in my younger years and i know of corners cut to save money when inspectors were not around or did not care,i can personally give you examples of intersections with doulbe lanes each way,north and south bound lanes are truckers route and east west lanes are 90% cars, the east west bound lanes are severely depressed while the truck road is in better shape.have two 98 dump trucks and they tell me even if i was to try to comply with new ruling i can not get my truck spiff compliant.they are in great shape have only 500,000 kms on them and they are now considered old and useless

  • Now the trucks are not compliant and for 20 years or more they were???. This is a mistake to impose laws that one day you are safe and next day your not. Just don’t make the old system anymore and these regulations will eventually make there way to the new spif compliance or slowly the numbers will become lower and slowly be not even out there anymore- only but a few that don’t put hardly any miles on them anyways so why make it a big deal. Or put a grant to keep smaller companies who cant buy new trucks and then allow 50 % cost grant to upgrade. The money will always go back into circulation so no biggy. Just like the new DEF on trucks, you can buy used predef trucks but eventally most will comply, so dont go back and legislate all trucks need to have DEF system installed. Let it work itself out.

  • Good afternoon John ; may i ask if do you know any grant from government or insurance company in Ontario ; to releasing the huge money amount that we have to pay for retrofitting our dump trucks ? Sorry for the questions but im desperate trying to find money to pay for , good day