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Disharmonious Quartet

DIEPPE, N.B. - Queer as it sounds, New Brunswick and Ontario have managed to come up with dead opposite conclusions on the use of high-mounted lights on the rear trailers of their long combination veh...

DIEPPE, N.B. –Queer as it sounds, New Brunswick and Ontario have managed to come up with dead opposite conclusions on the use of high-mounted lights on the rear trailers of their long combination vehicle (LCV) programs -not good for carriers anxious for an unbroken Toronto-Halifax corridor for this energy-saving configuration.

New Brunswick says the lights improve safety and visibility, and made them mandatory. Ontario declared them illegal. Ontario’s reason must be a charmer, since carriers are allowed to run them on non-LCV trailers.

Of the few points on which the N.B./N. S. LCV rules (N. S. is in full harmony with N.B.) differ from Quebec and Ontario, high-mounted lights are reportedly the touchiest.

“The APTA has had a bad taste in its mouth about them,” says Gordon Peddle, president of D.D. Transport in Newfoundland and, until recently, the chair of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association. “The Ontario Trucking Association is down on us for them, but we didn’t vote for the high-mounted lights. We pretty well had to agree with high-mounted lights as part of getting the pilot project off the ground.”

New Brunswick Transportation Minister Denis Landry says, “The consultant made various recommendations including the addition of high-mounted rear brake lights connected to four-way flashers to allow for speed change reductions noticed during the pilot project field review.”

Who would’ve thought, since LCVs do not have an extra-heavy GVW and their arse ends look the same as any other rig’s, except for that great shiny ‘LONG’ sign on the back? Believing that talking with the Department of Transportation trumps public reamings, Peddle quietly reports, “We are negotiating to discuss it. The government knows they are a source of concern for us. New Brunswick carries its own torch in Atlantic Canada for safety. It went into the LCV pilot project without wanting to hurt people.”

Sunbury Transport, which is running LCVs in N.B., is no stranger to high-mounted lights. Vern Seeley, its technology and specifications manager, says, “We have been putting them on tankers for years, and we order raised lights with all of our new vans. The high-mounted signal and brake lights really stand out on a hill where, say, the lower lights can be hidden by vehicles. I’ve talked with hundreds of (truck) drivers and they say that they increase safety. Car drivers say that too.”

Seeley wonders whether high-mounted lights could be grandfathered in, to give carriers more time to install them on their assets, and figure out how to put them on containers.

While government and industry fuss, Seeley is going to take a break, “We probably won’t put more trailers on LCVs until we find out what is going to happen with this requirement.” As for Ontario, where up is down, he laments, “This puts us out of the running for Ontario.”

The LCV issue has sparked conspiracy theories on both sides of the N.B./Quebec border. For example, there is a rumour that Quebec carriers are blocking the twinning of Highway 185 between Riviere du Loup and the N.B. border, to ward off competition.

Eric Gignac, CEO, Groupe Guilbault sputtered earlier this year that the high-mounted lights rule was protectionism. “(Atlantic Canada) is asking us to put pressure on Transports Quebec (to hurry up and twin) the 185. But I will not be fighting for them for faster twinning or special permits. As the president of Guilbault and the president of the board of the Quebec Trucking Association, I am not in any hurry to help them.”

Peddle scoffs at the idea of a Maritime conspiracy against out of province LCVs. “This would be the most stupid thing the Atlantic Canada trucking industry could do when we have to go to Ontario and Quebec to survive.”

It is all hush-hush (men at work, pride at stake, you know), but word is that the governments are not as blind to the need for LCV harmony as the evidence suggests.

“I think it won’t be too long before everything gets squared away. The four provinces work well together and have frank and open discussions,” says Mike Balsom, program manager, weights and dimensions policy, N.S. Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. “I can’t say a whole lot right now (but) there are sensitive discussions going on. The high-mounted light issue has been blown out of proportion.”

The Ontario DoT says, “There have been numerous discussions between the four eastern provinces on LCV harmonization and further dialogue is expected in the future.”

Peddle thinks there will be harmonization, and Seeley speculates that N.B. might give up the lights if Ontario were to agree to grandfather its roll stability, ABS and bigger brake compressor rules.

Word is that LCV harmonization sticking points will be on the agenda for the Task Force on Vehicle Weights and Dimensions Policy meeting in Montreal Nov. 24.

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