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Decisions 2004 – Equipment (November 01, 2003)

Original Equipment Manufacturers are often only responsible for building the foundation of a working truck -- consider the array of shops that will take a bare chassis and attach everything from a lif...


Original Equipment Manufacturers are often only responsible for building the foundation of a working truck — consider the array of shops that will take a bare chassis and attach everything from a lift axle to a dump box.

But while these “intermediate manufacturers” prepare new trucks for a variety of applications, they haven’t traditionally needed to ensure that the end results continue to meet federal manufacturing standards regulating everything from brake performance to lighting. Such OEM guarantees ended once a torch was placed to an empty chassis.

That changed Feb. 13, when Transport Canada introduced a National Safety Mark requiring those making modifications to certify that they deliver equipment meeting all federal safety standards. While about 60 companies have earned the right to add a related compliance sticker — it includes a maple leaf and a special registration mark at its center — hundreds of companies are only now learning about the requirements applied whenever they add a fifth wheel or alter a wheelbase.

“These are amended federal regulations that will change the way vocational vehicles come to market,” Canadian Truck Equipment Association (CTEA) executive director Al Tucker said during a recent Toronto meeting of the Technology and Maintenance Council. “We’re raising the bar considerably.”

“A lot of what is happening should put better vehicles on the road,” added Eddy Tschirhart, the CTEA’s director of technical services.

Fleets can ensure their new equipment is built to spec’ by looking for National Safety Mark labels that are stuck inside cab doors. But before applying a sticker of approval, intermediate manufacturers have to re-test any equipment that they alter.

For example, an additional axle can increase a truck’s GVWR by 10,000 kg, but that can also strain braking systems that come with a bare chassis. “So all bets are off with what was certified by the OEM,” Tschirhart said.

Those who make the changes will need to re-test the altered equipment for such things as brake performance and timing. And the results could often require equipment upgrades.

While a 16 cfm compressor might supply 85 to 100 psi of air within 15 to 18 seconds — comfortably within the 25-second limit — a 12 cfm compressor that was attached to a bare chassis might have to struggle for 27 seconds on an altered truck. Larger air reservoirs might be needed to hold 12 times the air required for a service brake application. And 3030 spring brake chambers might need to be upgraded to 3036 models to ensure brakes are capable of holding heavier equipment on a 20% grade.

Such tests are no small matter for smaller shops, since an air brake test to ensure equipment complies with Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (CMVSS) 121 can cost $25,000.

“How many times have fleet operators changed a seat?” Tschirhart added as another example of work that has to be re-tested. Such a change on a new truck would have to meet requirement for anchor points, occupant restraints, seat belt assemblies and even flammability before being sold. “You could end up pulling windshields and doing pull tests.”

Shops aren’t required to conduct tests right away, but they have to register their intent to improve practices in the future, and file the necessary paperwork with Transport Canada.

Tucker hopes that provincial licensing offices will require related compliance stickers by next year, meaning that altered trucks without the stickers could be left without licence plates. Insurers may also begin looking at intermediate manufacturers to ensure they have the ability to test their work, he said.

Still, enforcement is being phased in, Tucker admitted. “If they’d taken any other position, the majority of the industry would be shut down.”


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