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Eastern MOU rolling along

WINDSOR, Ont. - Atlantic Canada is again bracing for harmonized weights and dimensions for rigs rolling across provincial boundaries; this time they say it's going to happen.Soon you'll be able to hau...

WINDSOR, Ont. – Atlantic Canada is again bracing for harmonized weights and dimensions for rigs rolling across provincial boundaries; this time they say it’s going to happen.

Soon you’ll be able to haul from Newfoundland into Nova Scotia, run northeast to New Brunswick and then head out across the fixed link to P.E.I. and if your gear is good enough for one jurisdiction, it’ll be good enough for them all.

Among the four provinces the rules and regulations for weights and dimensions were many and often varied greatly.

In all likelihood, on Oct. 1, those headaches will largely become part of the past giving way to three things the industry has sought for years: simplicity, clarity and consistency.

“The resulting harmonization rules that we have now, are the first of their kind in Canada and in North America and I think this is very, very positive,” says New Brunswick’s Minister of Transportation Margaret-Ann Blaney.

All four truck ministries that call Atlantic Canada home will have one document to reference, she adds, and that’s a tune truckers are willing to dance to.

“This is a major piece of legislation in the fact that it is leveling the playing field for those people in the trucking business, irregardless of the province that they live in,” says Ralph Boyd, the president of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association (APTA). “It’s allowing us to move goods more efficiently from one province to another. We will now have access, by common configurations, into Quebec and the majority of common configurations will be able to access Ontario.”

Tom Beckett, the director of policy and planning in the Works, Services and Transportation Department of Newfoundland insists the process has included any and all stakeholders who wanted a seat at the table.

“There were meetings held across Atlantic Canada, two sets of meetings, and an exchange of documents with the trucking industry,” he says.

In the whole Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the official name given the deal, there will be some equipment grandfathered into the system with a set time frame when its useful life will expire.

“We already knew that in 2005, in New Brunswick, the tri-axle trailer was going to be discontinued as a useful piece of equipment. In the case of other provinces, in Nova Scotia for example, they may not have had a particular date by which they would eliminate tri-axle trailers,” explains Boyd. “Now, the deadline has been extended to 2009, which allows the industry a little bit more time to get the useful life out of that equipment. At the same time we know that in 2009 the tri-axle trailers will not exist, if they do they will be at much lower weights.”

For the province of Newfoundland, the biggest change will be on tridem spreads. These will shorten up to three meters compared to its previous 3.6m and the weight will go from 27,000 kg down to 26,000 kg.

As well, the allowable weight on the drive axle will increase by 1,000 kg bringing it to 6,500 kg in total.

Islanders, assures safety coordinator Wilfred MacDonald, will not face a whole lot of change.

“We made a number of changes when the Confederation Bridge opened. Some of the changes will be allowing us the twin steer, which is a new configuration for P.E.I.,” he says. “I don’t see a big influx of those initially but certainly some of the specialty industries will be looking toward this kind of unit.”

He states as far as other changes go, “they are not that significant.”

In New Brunswick, new regulations will apply to any number of configurations. “Some of the changes proposed include – medium spread tridem axle groups permitted up to 24,000 kg; trailers will be permitted to be hauled by tandem steering axle trucks; and the introduction of tandem and tridem equivalent axle groups with no weight penalty for a properly deployed liftaxle,” says Blaney.

Nova Scotia can also expect its own variances with the MOU. Don Evans, the coordinator for vehicle compliance, says the feedback from the industry has been positive.

“The trucking public shouldn’t see a big change,” he insists. “The change is that they are going to have to have the same rules throughout the region.”

Dave Roberts, of the Truckers’ Association of Nova Scotia, says it is quite curious that his members haven’t been calling about the MOU.

“We usually take it as no news is good news,” says Roberts.

He said his workers were all aware of the meetings and some people went to them, which demonstrates there is no hidden agenda on the government’s behalf.

“If anything, harmonization is giving us a little bit extra. I think that’s why a lot of the guys aren’t complaining,” he insists.

Boyd says the process was missing one key element: discussions on over-dimensional rigs.

“Those are things we should be looking at now, knowing harmonization will take place in October,” says Boyd. “If there is any one thing that is a little frustrating, it is the process, the length of time. We as industry have to respond to our customers today. The customer is not asking for service five years from now, he’s asking, ‘What service can I get today?'” n

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