I recently posted this interview with Joe ElBehairy, Meritor’s top engineer, about industry trends including the increasing popularity of 6×2 axles. The spec’ saves fleets about 400 lbs and the electronics available today will automatically shift the load to the powered axle in low-traction situations to ensure viability even in the northern climes. During our discussion, Joe said Meritor is part of a “mini-consortium” lobbying the provinces to approve the use of the new-generation 6x2s with electronic load-shift capabilities. Ontario and Quebec have been the least receptive, he noted.
You can imagine the surprise of a reader who was about to order a 6×2 with load-shift – in Ontario. No one told him it was an illegal spec’. He reached out to me for clarification. I went straight to the MTO and this is what they had to say:
6×2 tractor axle configurations are allowed in Ontario, however they must meet definitions as set-out in Regulation 413/05 in the Highway Traffic Act (HTA). There are some ‘smart’ 6X2 tractor axle configurations coming to market that do not meet the definition of dual axle and tandem axle in Ontario. ‘Smart’ 6X2 tractor axle configuration systems are not legal in Ontario because they do not load equalize at all times and can be considered liftable axles.
Tractors in Ontario are defined as being equipped with fifth wheels. The front axle of the tractor is a single axle with single tires, and drive axle of the tractor is either a single or tandem axle.
Within Regulation 413/05 we define:
“drive axle” means an axle unit that is connected to the power source of a motor vehicle and that transmits tractive power to the wheels;
“tandem axle” means a dual axle as defined in section 114 of the Act that does not include a liftable axle or a self-steering axle and that has the same number of tires at each wheel position;
The HTA defines:
“Dual axle” means any two consecutive axles whose centres are more than one metre apart and that,
(a) are articulated from a common attachment to the vehicle, or
(b) are designed to automatically equalize the load between the two axles. [HTA s114]
Clear as mud, right? My interpretation of the above was that ‘smart’ 6x2s, which would include any products that utilize electronic load-shift capabilities, are prohibited. I consulted with Meritor for a simpler explanation and they confirmed that to be true. But make no mistake, Canadian fleets are ordering ‘smart’ 6x2s because the benefits are real and significant.
Why doesn’t the province of Ontario like them? Apparently because it’s concerned drivers will permanently shift weight to the driven axle, overloading the drive axle and damaging the pavement. But that’s not even possible. The ECAS load-shift system developed by Meritor Wabco automatically redistributes the weight once the vehicle reaches 25 mph, so there’s no risk whatsoever of someone driving down the highway with one drive axle overloaded. Nor is there a benefit in doing so, assuming the second axle isn’t liftable, and that’s clearly illegal and easy enough to identify.
I’m once again struck by the incredible hypocrisy of our provincial rulemakers. Their reticence to allow ‘smart’ 6x2s is not unlike their misplaced worries about trailer tails. Ontario could yet be the first province to allow trailer tails (I’m told the paperwork is on the Minister’s desk and will be stamped any day now, albeit there’ll be a $400-ish permit fee associated with their use). But really, what has taken so long? Trailer tails are proven to provide a significant savings at highway speeds (approximately 5%), and they can be collapsed with one hand, so they don’t present any risk to following vehicles. There are so many good technologies out there that will allow fleets to save fuel and reduce their emissions, but the province would prefer to foist upon industry its own ideas of what works best (ie. biofuel).
BTW, did you read the report that indicates corn-based biofuels are actually worse for the environment than gasoline? Trailer tails and 6x2s are among the most promising emerging technologies to provide fuel savings to users and emissions reductions to the environment so why is the province of Ontario so determined to stand in the way of their adoption? I’m going to pursue this further and should have more to report on it soon.
</END OF RANT>
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