Is Ontario really open for business?

by Mike Millian

The issues involving spring weight restrictions have not been addressed and need to be brought to the forefront once again. These laws have been around in most Canadian provinces since 1949.

They vary by jurisdiction, but for the most part reduce loads allowed on designated secondary highways by 10% to 50% of weights allowed during normal conditions. Most provinces exempt certain commodities and essential services from these limits.

The reason for frost laws are justifiable. Reducing loads during thaw periods limits damage to our roadways and saves significant dollars over a road’s lifecycle. Each jurisdiction has its own variance of regulations, so I am going to concentrate on Ontario regulations. In Ontario, the reduced load period runs from March 1 to April 30 in the south, and March 1 to May 31 in the north. Vehicles operating on these roads are limited to 5,000 kgs per axle.

The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) agrees these laws are needed to protect our infrastructure, however we need to realize that life and industry must continue for businesses that operate and are located on these roadways. Exemptions in place currently in the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) demonstrate governments of the day were aware of this, however these exemptions have not been updated since they were originally put in place 60-plus years ago.

Here are some examples of how the exemptions are outdated:

A limit of 5,000 kgs on all axles, including steer axles, creates a major problem that cannot be rectified by the carrier. A lot of vehicles today, especially vocational trucks, are manufactured with 9,072-kg front ends. The weight on the steer axle of these vehicles is over the 5,000-kg limit when empty. These vehicles can’t legally operate on the road at all under current regs. A simple solution is to exempt the steer axle from this restriction or increase the limit to 7,500 kgs on the front steer.

Partial exemptions that allow certain vehicles to carry 7,500 kgs on the axles is a good compromise. It shows that the legislators understand certain vehicles still must be allowed to operate at reasonable weights to allow business to continue. The problem with this exemption is the limitation on who can utilize it. The list includes two-axle tank trucks used for heating fuel and two-axle trucks used exclusively for feed. While these laws made sense decades ago when they were created, they are extremely limiting and no longer serve the purpose they were created for.

Farm operations and associated businesses have evolved over the years. The majority are no longer small operations with a few hundred acres or animals. A lot are now big businesses, operating thousands of acres of land and animals. The amount of product that needs to be delivered has increased substantially and is delivered with multi-axle vehicles.

When the laws were created, the majority of vehicles delivering these essential products were two-axle trucks, which is no longer the case, and has not been for decades. This exemption needs to be updated to 7,500 kgs per axle, regardless of the number of axles on the vehicle. The current exemption in today’s reality amounts to no exemption at all.

The 7,500-kg per axle exemption is already in the HTA, as any truck transporting live poultry is allowed 7,500 kgs per axle, regardless of the number of axles. It would make sense to extend these exemptions to the trucks that supply heat and feed to these animals. Our membership also questions why this exemption exists for poultry only. It is just as important to remove and supply all forms of livestock. The exemption for poultry only is simply baffling.

Full exemptions exist for municipal trucks, waste trucks, public utility vehicles and milk trucks. We completely understand the need to exempt municipal, waste and public utility vehicles. What we do not understand is why a milk truck is exempt, while a truck supplying livestock, feed and heating fuel is not?

It seems to us one is just as important as the other. Under this exemption, trucks removing milk are exempt, however the trucks that supply the feed or heat for the animal that produces the milk are not. If we have no heat or feed, there is no animal to produce the milk.

One of the Ontario government’s current slogan’s is: Open for Business. The reduced load file in the HTA needs to be updated for the agriculture and heating fuel sector, as these laws currently have these industries “closed for business” for a significant portion of the year.

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  • The current load restriction have been a nightmare for Ready Mixed Concrete Industry. A 9 metres truck can only carry less than 2 cubic metres on a 5 tonne per axle restricted road. This is because the front steer axles load first due to the shape of the mixer drum. If they increased the limit to 7500kgs the truck could at least carry a half load, as the weight moves more to the rear as load increases.
    This would also reduce the number of trucks putting less stress on the roads. And I haven’t mentioned the carbon foot print by using 4 trucks to carry 1 load to the jobsite.