ALLISTON, Ont. –After a three-month winter break, Ontario’s long combination vehicle (LCV) pilot project resumed March 1 with participating fleets wasting little time in getting their doubles back on the highway.
Early results seem to indicate the pilot has been a success. Since the project launched last summer, there have been 4,114 LCV trips covering 1.28 million kilometres in Ontario -with no reported violations and more importantly, no accidents according to data obtained from the Ministry of Transportation.
David Bradley, president of the Ontario Trucking Association, says the project has already reached its limit of 50 fleets and 100 permits and there’s now a waiting list of additional carriers wanting to get on-board.
In short, an LCV is a tractor and two semi-trailers with an overall length of 25 to 40 metres and gross vehicle weight limit of 63,500 kgs. They allow carriers to maximize payload and improve efficiency under strict operating guidelines. The project remains a pilot for now, but Bradley pointed out there is no firm end date in place.
“The pilot doesn’t necessarily end this summer; there really was no firm end date established,” Bradley said.
George Cobham Jr., vice-president of sales and marketing with Glasvan Great Dane, said the company’s fleet customers continue to show an interest in the LCV program.
“Pretty much every mid-sized to large fleet in southern Ontario has expressed an interest in the program,” Cobham told us during a recent visit to Glasvan’s Alliston, Ont. shop. “They’re very interested in learning more about the equipment and finding out what it costs to get on-board pulling this type of equipment down the road.”
With that in mind, Cobham gave us a walk-around of a typical LCV set-up and described for us the typical equipment and maintenance requirements for an LCV configuration. There are two types of LCVs approved for use in Ontario:A-Trains and B-Trains. An A-Train consists of a lead trailer with pintle hook connec- tion and a tandem-axle converter dolly with fifth wheel that connects to the trailing trailer.
A B-Train, meanwhile, eliminates the need for a converter dolly and consists of a two-or three-axle B-bogey with fifth wheel that slides out from under the lead trailer and connects directly to the trailing trailer. There are pros and cons to each option, Cobham explained.
“There is an idea out there that the B-bogey is more stable and the trailing trailer follows more closely, but B-bogeys are expensive and it’s a slightly more complex system for the lead trailer,” said Cobham. “With a converter dolly, you’re licensing another vehicle. It has its own licence plate and unit number, so there are complexities there.”
Cobham also noted it’s more difficult for an individual operator to hook the converter dolly up to a set of trailers than it is to connect a B-train configuration. Manhandling the converter dolly isn’t easy, as it weighs nearly 8,000 lbs. Still, Cobham said nearly all fleets involved in the Ontario pilot have opted for the A-train and converter dolly.
There’s nothing overly special about the trailing trailer, but the lead trailer in an A-Train configuration does require a pintle hitch. Some fleets have expressed interest in retrofitting existing 53-ft. van trailers, but Cobham said it’s usually more cost-effective to purchase a new trailer specifically for LCV use.
“You can retrofit equipment with a pintle hitch, but it’s a little more complicated than just putting a pintle hook setup on the rear of the lead trailer,” he explained. “There are certain rules and requirements the government has set out with respect to the pintle hook design…and the air system on the lead trailer has to have a speed-up valve to accommodate the fact there is lag in the air system.”
All that needs to be tested, he pointed out, “and there aren’t test facilities on every street corner.”
A new lead trailer can be purchased for about $28,000 and the converter dolly will run you about $17,000. A lead trailer with B-bogey costs about $55,000.
The lead trailer of an A-Train LCV must be spec’d with an air snubber, which keeps constant pressure on the pintle hook to ensure a strong connection.
As for the dolly itself, special attention should be given to the drawbar length.
“Make sure you have enough swing clearance between the lead and trailing trailer so you’re not getting into a situation where things are getting pinched,” Cobham advised.
Pinching air and electrical lines is a common problem with LCVs, especially when maneuvering tight spaces such as terminal yards. A pogo stick can be mounted on the dolly to keep the lines out of the way, and Glasvan customer Warren Gibson Ltd., owner of the equipment we were examining, went a step further and tightly bound all three lines together.
“The last thing you want to do is run over your air lines or have them get cut, pinched or stretched,” said Cobham.
Another inexpensive add-on is a set of lights, which could even be retrofit to the dolly.
“Customers should consider installing lights on the dolly to illuminate this area,” Cobham suggested. “In a lot of situations the operator may be required to connect this configuration in the evening or nighttime hours and it becomes pretty difficult to work back here if you don’t have direct illumination.”
Cobham suggests all customers spec’ brake stroke indicators on the trailers and dolly, to help the driver monitor brake adjustments.
“You want to make it easier for the operator to do that test, so that’s one thing we definitely suggest spec’ing on all trailer and dolly equipment,” he stressed.
Warren Gibson also cleverly spec’d a hustler valve, to make it easier to maneuver the dolly around the yard when it’s not under load.
“This particular dolly has a hustler valve on it and that allows the fleet to move that dolly in an off-road situation at low speed without hooking up the air lines,” he explained. “You just release the brakes on the dolly and tow it around the yard.”
-To watch Cobham explain LCV equipment requirements in video, check out the March 17 and 31 episodes of our WebTV show Transportation Matters available at Trucknews.com.
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