OTTAWA, Ont. – Canadian trucking insiders fear new trailer under-ride guard standards, announced this fall by Transport Canada, could give U.S. carriers and trailer manufacturers an unfair advantage.
That’s because research, development and repairs of trailers equipped with the new under-ride guards could cost more for Canadian carriers and trailer manufacturers than they do for their U.S. counterparts, who will not be required to comply.
The standards, published in an amendment to the federal government’s Motor Vehicle Safety regulations in Canada Gazette Part II Oct. 6, are slated to go into effect on new trailers manufactured as of Oct. 2005.
They replace standards already enforced in some Canadian provinces and throughout the U.S. In fact, the U.S. standards have until now been the baseline for most carriers engaged in transborder transport.
“There were standards for some Canadian provinces, and in Ontario we even improved on the recommendations set by the Technical Maintenance Council in the U.S., but until now carriers have mostly been conforming to the U.S. standard,” explained Al Tucker, executive director of the Canadian Transportation Equipment Association. The association has a total membership of 404, of which 203 are trailer manufacturers.
The association, along with lobby groups such as the Canadian Trucking Alliance, had recommended that Transport Canada seek parity with its U.S. counterpart prior to creating the new standard.
Transport Canada, however, opted to adopt the new standard without consulting the U.S. Department of Transport first, which will create problems for the Canadian trucking industry, said Tucker.
The rule, as published Oct. 6 in Canada Gazette Part II, sets standards for rear impact guards on trailers with a gross weight of 4,536 kgs. or more, to make them more resistant when trucks are rear-ended by motorists, especially those in compact and subcompact cars. (Trailers with a low chassis or those whose wheels or structure prevent or limit under-ride incidents will not be affected.)
According to Transport Canada, vehicles sliding under the rear of the trailer in rear-end collisions are estimated to be responsible for over 20 fatalities and more than 100 injuries in Canada each year.
The majority of fatal rear-end collisions occur when a vehicle strikes the rear of a trailer at a speed which differs from that of the trailer by over 48 km/h. The amended regulations will enforce additional strength tests to help ensure that the rear impact guard stays in place in higher speed collisions.
“The amended regulations are expected to decrease the number of rear impact fatalities by 25 to 40 per cent, and make our roads even safer,” said federal Transport Minister Jean-C. Lapierre when he announced the new standards Sept. 30.
Transport Canada’s stats were based on specific resistance tests, which will be required to prove the under-ride guards meet the new standards.
Which means Canadian trailer manufacturers (not to mention their competitors south of the border who want to sell to Canadian carriers) will have to make significant investments in research and development to test new rear impact guard prototypes, said Tucker.
“What’s bothersome here is that the new standards are set according to testing that Transport Canada conducted in a research and development environment, not in real life conditions,” said Tucker. “Research on how the existing trailer guards worked in a real-life context was already available from the U.S. And while we don’t deny that a stronger rear guard is safer, the trailer guards required in the States have been working just fine in real life.”
Manufacturers are also frustrated because they already partnered with Transport Canada in the late ’90s to come up with research into trailer guards when trailer guards were established south of the border, said Tucker.
“At that time, our members voluntarily participated in a study on rear impact guards that was co-funded by Transport Canada,” he said. (Thirty-four trailer manufacturers – 31 Canadian – invested in the testing at that time.)
This new standard means the process will have to be repeated, to the detriment of Canadian trailer manufacturers and possibly even to the detriment of Canadian carriers as well, Tucker said.
“What we’re afraid of is that the new rear impact guards will be so strong they necessitate a redesign of the trailer frame to keep it from bending when the impact guards get dinged in the course of daily events, never mind accidents,” said Tucker.
Trailer manufacturers, for their part, declined to comment on the record.
For more information on the CTEA’s plans for further research and development, call (519) 631-0414, or visit www.ctea.on.ca