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The $25 million load

I knew spring was in the air when I came upon two long combination vehicles (LCVs) on my way to a lunch meeting March 2. Yes, the Ontario LCV pilot project has resumed after a mandatory winter time-ou...




I knew spring was in the air when I came upon two long combination vehicles (LCVs) on my way to a lunch meeting March 2. Yes, the Ontario LCV pilot project has resumed after a mandatory winter time-out, and I welcomed the sight of them.

For one, it meant spring was truly in the air. Seeing those LCVs on the 401, however, and speaking to some fleets that are participating in the pilot got me to wondering about the future of Ontario’s LCV pilot project, which seems very much up in the air. Any way you slice it, the pilot appears to have been a bona-fide success to date. Last summer and fall, there were 4,114 LCV trips in Ontario covering 1.28 million kilo-metres and not a single violation or accident to speak of, according to data from the Ministry of Transportation.

Still, the MTO seems non-committal about the pilot’s future. When pressed for a hint of what’s to come, MTO spokesman Bob Nichols would only say “The MTO will undertake a review of LCV operations to evaluate their effectiveness and safety leading to (a) recommendation on how the program will move forward.”

Further complicating matters is that the Transport Minister who approved the program, Jim Bradley, was been replaced in a Cabinet shuffle by MPP Kathleen Wynne. As highly-touted as she may be, she likely didn’t (until recently, anyway) know the difference between a king pin and a converter dolly. It remains to be seen whether she has the appetite to expand a program that has its share of critics, despite the obvious economic benefits.

Given the uncertainty of the program’s future, I’m astounded at the investment the trucking industry has collectively made in LCV equipment, training and the related engineering. No exact figure exists, but it’s in the millions.

One major fleet told me it has $500,00 invested in the program and at a minimum a participating fleet would have to have invested $90,000 for two units, assuming a lead trailer cost of $28,000 and converter dolly cost of $17,000 -approximate figures supplied by Glasvan Great Dane. That’s assuming most fleets are using existing equipment as the trailing trailer, which clearly is not the case.

Whether it’s out of necessity or in an effort to put their best foot forward, most fleets seem to be running new equipment all-around on their LCVs. And my highly-unscientific figure does not include engineering costs, which remain the responsibility of the carrier or the untold sums being spent on administering the program and ensuring compliance with the litany of rules.

Assuming each participating carrier has between $100,000 and $500,000 invested in the program, the industry at large has invested between $5 and $25 million -again excluding training and administrative costs. All that in a down market and with no assurance the program will continue. That speaks volumes to how important this program is to our province’s carriers.

And how about the men and women (one of the very first Ontario drivers certified to pull LCVs was, in fact, a female professional driver) who pilot these behemoths? It goes without saying this program would be dead in the water should even one of these LCVs end up on its side anywhere between Windsor and Cornwall.

So it can be said that in addition to hooking up to a heckuva lot of freight, LCV drivers are also carrying with them the industry’s collective $5-$25 million investment. That’s a heavy load to carry but our drivers are proving they’re up to the task.

-James Menzies can be reached by phone at (416) 510-6896 or by e-mail at jmenzies@trucknews.com.You can also follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/JamesMenzies.


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1 Comment » for The $25 million load
  1. Kassie Gibner says:

    Hi there,

    I am that “one of the first driver’s to be licenced in Ontario was a woman”. Although it’s quite the experience to pull the LCV’s, and the money that’s saved and made for the company’s is sizeable, typically it only pays 3 cents a mile more than running a ‘single’. Not even remotely worth it as a driver to take on the added responsibilities and extra word, only to under such incredible scrutiny by everyone from the company’s themselves to the OTA to the public. It’ll be interesting to see how successful LCV’s will be……

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