Vehicle dimensions, weights a hot topic around the globe

by Pat Rediger

SASKATOON, Sask. – If you’re frustrated by the continuing battle over vehicle weights and dimensions, take heart. Canada isn’t the only country in the world to be debating which long combinations should be allowed to travel highways, according to speakers at the Sixth Annual International Forum for Road Transport Technology.

“The political situation is extremely sensitive,” said Les Bruzsa of Queensland Department of Technology, referring to public pressure against large combination vehicles. And Australia is home to some of the largest legal truck combinations in the world.

“Any accident involving large units creates a huge uproar in the public. We have not been able to introduce some vehicle configurations because of the political and public opinion.”

Bruzsa says the solution is “perception management” – a combination of education and marketing programs for the general public.

In 1996, Queensland Transport developed a strategy to introduce high productivity (read bigger) vehicles, balancing everything from road safety to the impact on roads and bridges and overall productivity in the trucking industry.

“Queensland has the greatest economic dependence on road freight transport in Australia,” explained Bruzsa. “It accounts for 23 per cent of truck transport, 33 per cent of road trains, 30 per cent of B-doubles, and 20 per cent of all prime mover/semi-trailer combinations. Road freight is expected to double over the next 15 years in this area.”

There, the government allowed longer combinations to increase both efficiency and highway safety. While configurations are longer, their use means fewer trucks on the highway.

In terms of safety, the department considered road characteristics, traffic factors and environmental impacts of the equipment before allowing it on the road. Infrastructure research covered road wear and bridge loading. Productivity research addressed increased payloads and increased fleet flexibility.

Doug Latto of Transport Engineering New Zealand (TERNZ) says productivity was top priority when his government allowed an increase in the maximum allowable heavy vehicle weights and lengths.

In New Zealand, the government is even widening various sections of the state highway network to accommodate the longer vehicles.

TERNZ has also performed a variety of computer simulations to determine the cost of widening roads, factoring in variables such as terrain, location, concrete costs, topsoil, moving traffic lights and signs, design fees, and so on. It also used costs associated with three widening projects that have already taken place to accurately predict future project costs. n

Cities look to re-work their truck routes

By Pat Rediger

SASKATOON, Sask. – Studies conducted in Calgary, Alta. and Surrey, B.C. are expected to lead to better turning lanes and, ultimately, fewer headaches for the drivers of long combination vehicles (LCVs).

Bill Bruce, Calgary’s executive officer for utilities and environmental protection, said his city began its study because of growing evidence that LCVs were having trouble maneuvering through the area.

“There was plenty of evidence which showed there was a problem,” said Bruce. “There were tire marks at intersections and landscape damage. Some people even resorted to putting boulders on their lawns to prevent trucks from turning on them.”

The problem, said Bruce, was that Calgary’s roads were developed for a smaller generation of trucks. But as new businesses came to the city, the community needed to find ways to handle longer combinations.

To develop its guidelines, the city studied the maneuvering abilities of a Rocky Mountain Double, turnpike double, triple-trailer, Super B-Train, tridem semi-trailers, and a heavy haul configuration consisting of a tractor and lowboy trailer.

During the first set of tests on a gravel course, city engineers measured actual turning path of each vehicle as it turned 180 degrees, and determined acceleration times over a 61-metre distance, to determine how much time the equipment needed to cross intersections. These tests were also replicated at actual intersections.

“We found that it took 23.2 seconds for a turnpike double to complete a turn. However, most of our light signals only take 20 seconds to turn. A driver would have to be the first in line to correctly make that,” explained Bruce.

That could have meant the difference in some accidents. Most drivers didn’t take evasive actions at intersections where they crashed into LCVs, city research showed.

“People seem to have trouble determining if they were going to clear the truck or not,” Bruce said.

Surrey project engineer Bruce Nelligan said his community implemented a truck route network in 1998 as a proactive step to address the growing number of longer trucks.

But to get to that point, it had to examine everything from traffic signals to signs and markings on the pavement.

“We looked at issues such as should the amber light be made to stay on longer,”

explained Nelligan. “We decided that it was not worthwhile to change because large vehicles were only 10 to 15 per cent of the overall traffic flow.”

About four problem intersections were then targeted based on collision reports from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, while consultants looked at such things as traffic volumes.

In the end, 10 intersections and five stretches of road were targeted, with a report deciding where city money could best be spent.

It’s an important step, said Nelligan. “Lots of cities do studies on pedestrians and cyclists, but not too many are conducted on the flow of goods.” n

LCV schedules key

SASKATOON, Sask. – How do you balance the increasing demand for long combination vehicles (LCVs) with the public’s opposition to large vehicle traffic? Make the LCVs operate at night when there’s little traffic on the road.

That was the suggestion put forward by Saskatoon’s Kindersley Transport to Saskatchewan Highways and Transport. And the carrier successfully convinced the provincial government to assess LCVs operating over a 200-km stretch of highway from Saskatoon to the Alberta border during off-peak hours.

Speaking at the International Forum for Road Transport Technology in Saskatoon, Gordon Sparks, a University of Saskatoon professor, said he worked with the department to test the impact that LCVs would have when operating on Hwy. 7 between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.

A computer simulation investigated the idea before the first wheel turned.

“We took a close look at the number of (times a truck would be passed) against the time of day. Most passes take place during a peak period. We wanted to move the turnpikes to the off-peak period,” explained Sparks.

Armed with information from the computer simulations, the department began tests in the real world. It equipped LCVs with long vehicle signs to ensure that the public was conscious of the extra length. Sparks then took note of about 50 motorists who passed the LCVs and contacted them to see if they were concerned about their safety.

“People told me that the signs really helped. They were clearly more cautious because of the vehicle’s signage,” he said. “You can operate from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. without compromising safety, and the result is an overall improvement in efficiency.” n

Weights are a worldly debate

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