Ontario continues to ‘spif up’ remaining truck and trailer fleet

by James Menzies

TORONTO, Ont. –Phase 4 of Ontario’s transition to Safe, Productive, Infrastructure-Friendly (SPIF) trailers is set to begin in 2010, affecting straight trucks and trailers with non-king pin connections.

As with previous phases of SPIF integration, units purchased prior to 2010 will be grandfathered for the “reasonable operating life” of the vehicle, Ron Madill of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation explained at the Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar (CFMS). He hinted the grandfather period would last about 15 years, meaning all trailers remaining in Ontario by 2025 will be of the SPIF variety, or their operators will face significant weight penalties.

Previous phases of the transition to SPIF trailers included: Phase 1, light semi-trailers, 2001; Phase 2, dump tractor-trailers, 2003; and Phase 3, all remaining tractor-trailers including heavy combinations and doubles, 2006. By the time the final phase is implemented, Madill said Ontario will have lessened the damage that infrastructure-unfriendly units impose on roads and bridges by $300 million per year while also resulting in fewer and less severe crashes.

He pointed out that some of the configurations outlawed by the SPIF initiative have crash rates three times higher than the accepted SPIF alternatives. Even when the switch to SPIF trailers is complete, Madill insisted “Ontario will have some of the most productive trucks in North America.”

During previous phases of the transition to SPIF equipment, payload has generally not been compromised, he pointed out. As for the final phase, there are currently 150 truck and trailer combinations that are under consideration.

“By the end of the year, we’ll have a pretty good idea of the SPIF combinations that will satisfy our concerns,” Madill said.

Ed Tschirhart of the Canadian Transportation Equipment Association (CTEA) said Ontario’s Transportation Department should be commended for how smoothly the transition has gone.

“SPIF has not been handled by a bunch of politicians at Queen’s Park,” he said. “It’s been heavily researched.”

As the grandfather period for previous phases of the SPIF transition draws to a close, some fleets may be interested in retrofitting their existing equipment to meet SPIF standards, Tschirhart acknowledged. However, he said it may not be practical to retrofit existing equipment, due to the complexity of the work and the costly testing that’s required.

“Does it make business sense to spend all that money on existing equipment?” he urged CFMS delegates to ask themselves. “Trailers are not allowed to be turned into SPIF by Joe’s Welding Shop.”

He pointed out that a Transport Canada-approved NSM-qualified trailer builder must make the upgrades. And there is also some very rigorous testing that must be completed before a trailer can be SPIFapproved. There are seven CMVSS regulations that must be met when SPIFing a trailer.

For instance, the trailers must meet a CMVSS 121 air brake system standard which costs $15,000- $20,000 to have tested by a third-party. The CMVSS 223 rear impact guard test could cost as much as $70,000 to complete. And then there are liability concerns which may haunt do-it-yourselfers.

“Why put yourself in jeopardy to SPIF a trailer without going to the people that have all that stuff in place already?”Tschirhart asked.

Ray Camball of Trailmobile agreed, especially when it comes to van trailers that often lack the rigid structure underneath the body to support the addition of liftable self-steer axles, for instance.

“Yes, it can be done. But you want to have a good strong structure underneath,” he said, suggesting tankers may be a more viable candidate for a retrofit. He also suggested outsourcing the retrofit to an approved installer.

“You know it’s certified and properly done,” he pointed out.

For more information on Ontario’s conversion to SPIF trailers, visit www. and search for Highway Traffic Act Reg. 413/05.

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