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MTO invokes W&D reforms for tractor-trailers

TORONTO, Ont. - The Ontario Ministry of Transportation on June 29 invoked Phase Three of its vehicle weight and dimensions reforms, intended to reduce damage to provincial and municipal roads and brid...

TORONTO, Ont. – The Ontario Ministry of Transportation on June 29 invoked Phase Three of its vehicle weight and dimensions reforms, intended to reduce damage to provincial and municipal roads and bridges by commercial vehicles and reduce the number of heavy vehicle collisions, while ostensibly enhancing industry productivity.

Phase One and Two were previously implemented in 2001 and 2002.

Phase Three consists of a new regulation intended to cause a migration of tractor-trailers to Safe, Productive, Infrastructure-Friendly (SPIF) alternatives – namely products that will cause less damage to roads and bridges. It addresses all non-dump semi-trailers with four or more axles and all double trailers.

All trailers built after 2005 must meet SPIF standards, or operate at significantly reduced weights.

All such trailers built prior to 2006 are grandfathered and may continue to operate for their “reasonable” operating life, which has been estimated at 15 years.

Special permits

As of 2015, non-SPIF vehicles will require a special permit to continue to operate another three years (assuming you bought your trailer in 2004).

Permits will only be available to vehicles that are not yet 15 years old.

SPIF tractor-trailers use self-steering axles, instead of lift axles, to minimize road damage by equalizing weight and contribute stability on turns, as well as enhanced braking systems to minimize the risk of brake failure and warn drivers of potential problems.

The good news is that MTO will no longer apply special restrictive weights to aggregate vehicles as a result of the regulation, as long as the aggregates are being hauled in a SPIF semi-trailer, which is equipped with self-steering axles and therefore, load equalization.

SPIF semi-trailers will also have a standardized maximum length of 53 feet.

As for SPIF combinations that run out of province, they may be equipped with lift axles for use in other jurisdictions.

They may also have trailer-mounted steer axles that lift, for reversing or off-road applications, but which can only be manually raised from outside the cab.

That will alleviate the temptation for drivers to lift their axles when turning a corner, says Barry Montague, senior policy advisor for the Ontario Trucking Association.

Montague says the new rules aren’t necessarily bad news for the industry.

“Steer axles are more expensive than lift axles and they do require more maintenance, but they are supposed to be safer,” says Montague. OTA was among the industry groups consulted by the MTO while it was developing the new rules, he says.

Improved harmonization

Also thanks to Phase Three, tandem and tridem axle weight increases have been extended to double trailers to further improve harmonization of rules with Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.

Tri-drive tractors have been introduced for situations where greater traction is needed.

And the amount of weight which axles with wide single tires will be able to bear has been increased. They will be allowed to bear up to 8,000 kg, which is 2,000 kg higher than previously allowed.To get a copy of the new Regulation 413/05, visit and under the listing for the Highway Traffic Act look for the regulation titled “Vehicle Weights and Dimensions – for Safe, productive, Infrastructure-Friendly Vehicles.”

For further details on the new regulation, including a question and answer sheet and SPIF configuration diagrams, visit and click on the MTO Vehicle Weights and Dimensions Phase 3 button.

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