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Twin 53s to graduate from N. B. pilot program;’We need to move our freight more economically.’

Carroll McCormick FREDERICTON, N. B. - It may only be a few months away before twin 53s, or A-trains, as the New Brunswick Department of Transportation (DoT) calls them, will become a regular sight on...


DOUBLE-DOUBLE: Sunbury is pleased with the progress made through a N. B. LCV pilot project, but the company would like to see more restrictions lifted.
DOUBLE-DOUBLE: Sunbury is pleased with the progress made through a N. B. LCV pilot project, but the company would like to see more restrictions lifted.

Carroll McCormick FREDERICTON, N. B. –It may only be a few months away before twin 53s, or A-trains, as the New Brunswick Department of Transportation (DoT) calls them, will become a regular sight on the province’s four-lane highways. The date has yet to be announced when twin 53s will officially graduate from the pilot program into the roster of regularly permitted configurations, but the DoT reports it is finalizing the conditions of operation.

“From our safety analysis we have determined that they are very safe vehicles to operate because they are operated with very strict permit conditions,” says the DoT. “We are moving on to opening it up to industry and allowing A-trains on the four-lane roads in New Brunswick.”

Industry response to the prospect of running twin 53s has been intense, says Peter Nelson, executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association.

“The industry is very excited. I am close to being overwhelmed with the response. As we move toward developing the policies and protocols, the number of interested carriers has grown from about three to 15 in just three months.”

Sunbury Transport in Fredericton has been involved in the project since 2004 and has been running twin 53s regularly from Saint John to Moncton since 2006. Sunbury has 20-24 vans and three tractors, spec’d with 500 horsepower Detroit engines with 1,650 ft.-lb. of torque for pulling the trailers (their permit specifies a minimum of 460 hp).

The configuration is burning 30- 35% less fuel compared to regular semis, according to Vern Seeley, technology and specifications manager with Sunbury. “The pilot project is running very well.”

At the beginning of the pilot project the rigs could not exceed 22,500-kg GVW, but the DoT gradually increased that to 62,500. Unlike B-trains, which run with few restrictions in New Brunswick, the twin 53s operate under quite a list of rules and restrictions.

First, they may only travel on the recently-completed four-lane Trans-Canada Highway that stretches between the Nova Scotia and Quebec borders, with additional approvals from the DoT to take smaller roads from it to warehouses and truck yards.

They must keep to the right lane and respect a top speed of 90 km/h. Below 70 km/h they have to switch on their four-way flashers. Trailers must be equipped with high taillights installed in the doors, mud flaps and high-density LED side and signal lights.

As well, carriers must hang a “Road train routier” sign off the back of the rear trailer and display the big “D”.

The rigs are not allowed to travel with the front unit empty, nor with both units empty. The front unit has to carry a rough minimum of about 3,000 lbs, according to Seeley.

“We have a weather condition permit too. We can’t run in certain fog conditions, snow accumulation or high winds. We have designated areas where we can pull off,” Seeley says.

Twin 53 drivers must have five years with a clean driving record, two years driving B-trains and no more than three moving violations in the previous 36 months. They must also take classes and road training at the Atlantic Transport Training Academy, near Sussex.

The final set of permit conditions may see some changes to the current restrictions and conditions.

For example, says Seeley, “We are trying to modify the rule to see if we can get rid of the mandatory flashing lights on the mirrors. We would also like to make it a law to have stop signs on both sides of the ends of the highway exits, because trucks pulling over there can block the stop sign.”

A somewhat higher speed limit for the rigs would be appreciated, giving them more of a cushion on hills. Seeley notes that inspectors can look at print-outs of a rig’s speed history on the spot and adds, “We have run into no real problems, but we are stopped at the scales quite a bit.”

There have also been no complaints about passing the rigs, according to Seeley.

Seeley would also like the DoT to consider relaxing the driver pre-requisites so that highlyskilled drivers who have not driven B-trains could go straight to qualifying to train for the twin 53s. Down the road, twin 53s may start hauling into Halifax.

“We are having meetings with Halifax for staging areas,” Seeley says. A proposal to that effect is being analyzed and assessed, according to Don Stonehouse, program manager, weights and dimensions policy, Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

“Our goal is to run from Halifax to the Quebec border until the 185 is completed. Then we could run to the Ontario border and beyond, and stage outside Toronto. Ontario wants to attend the LCV meetings now. They are starting to listen,” says Seeley.

It is hoped that the twin 53s will provide competition to the railways for container cargo, giving carriers badly-needed backhauls out of Atlantic Canada.


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