CALGARY, Alta. –New rules that came into effect in Alberta on July 1 should help simplify drivers’ lives as well as making the province’s regulations more compliant going forward.
That’s according to Alberta Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette. “We took nine existing regulations and moved them into one,” Ouellette says, “as well as making them meet the new Transport Canada federal regulations.”
The changes to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Regulations and Vehicle Equipment Regulations will affect cargo and people carriers and are designed “to update Alberta regulations and ensure they are consistent with current Canadian and North American standards,” according to the Ministry.
Major changes range from the need for a new compliance label or mechanical fitness certificate (from a qualified professional engineer, naturally) for modified vehicles built from January 1, 2012 onward to the requirement that, in what may seem like a no-brainer, all vehicles must be maintained “in safe operating condition.”
Other tweaks include that commercial vehicles have brakes on all wheels including trailers (unless exempted by the Motor Vehicle Safety Act or the Traffic Safety Act), the need to display a warning sign on the rear of commercial vehicles transporting flammable liquid or gas (if the tank has a capacity of 5,000 litres or greater) and the prohibition of single-axle trailers other than semis from carrying petroleum products on a highway if the tank’s capacity is 3,000 litres or more (for flammable liquids) or 450 litres or more (for flammable gas).
The requirements in the Driveway and Towaway regulation have also been simplified, and updated to reflect “current automotive technology.”
And, in a move that will bring Alberta in line with national safety standards -and other jurisdictions -written daily trip inspection reports will be required for trucks, tractors, trailers and buses.
Other highlights include:
• Commercial vehicles will no longer be allowed to operate on a highway at a speed or with a load greater than the rating of any of the vehicle’s tires;
• “Working lights” are permitted on commercial vehicles as long as they aren’t in motion on a highway;
• Updated first aid kit and fire extinguisher standards.
Alberta Transportation says the changes come about after a multi-year review of commercial vehicle safety and equipment regulations which involved “extensive consultation with commercial vehicle stakeholders including industry, municipal, and safety organizations.”
According to Minister Ouellette, the changes are meant to make things more straightforward -and safer -for Alberta operators and drivers. “We wanted to consolidate some rules and address some procedural and safety issues,” he says.
Mayne Root, executive director of the Alberta Motor Transport Association, says they’re in the process of identifying major issues but that their initial reaction is to support simplifying the rules as long as it doesn’t lead to more confusion.
“Their intent is valid,” he says. “But when things are amalgamated, it tends to provide the opportunity for some confusion.”
Root points to the section mandating written trip inspections, which weren’t a requirement in Alberta previously, and says the way the new rule is written currently it could lead carriers to think the same inspection is required for every commercial vehicle, whether truck or various class of bus.
“But it’s different between the different types of vehicle, so you have to read the regulation fully, including all the subsections. It should be more clear, what’s required for whom and for what classes of commercial vehicle.”
Root also raises a concern with new provisions regarding cargo securement, which he says appears to be leading to the enforcement people insisting that every bit of cargo is secured in closed trailers at all times, regardless of its size or weight.
“It’s going to create a huge issue because some carriers are doing multiple pick-ups and deliveries and having to immobilize everything just isn’t realistic.”
He also says it’s uncalled for, since no safety issues have been raised. “We’re going to be challenging that.”
Then there’s the new interpretation of the requirement for mud flaps and fenders, which appears to say that each vehicle in Alberta, not just commercial vehicles, must have a fender over each wheel.
“We have a concern with having to have coverage over top of tire combinations even though there’s the body of a trailer sitting over top of that same combination,” Root says.
“The regulation appears to say you need a fender over and above that, and that may create a huge impact on the industry.”
He says there are literally tens of thousands of tractors that have no fenders because they weren’t required -and aren’t really needed because the trailers already act like fenders.
“We’re trying to get an interpretation from the people who developed the regulation,” Root says.
Root says that overall, however, “This isn’t a bad thing. But you have to be very careful how each separate section, subsection and the like is looked at because they have to cover a wide variety of issues and in doing so it can create confusion.”
Root says it’s good that everything is being put in one place now, though, because it should make the regulations more convenient to work with.
“It’s all about the interpretation,” Root says. “And going forward we’re going to continue to look for some degree of satisfaction with making the rules actually fit the requirements of the industry, to make them realistic.” •