Western Canadian trucking industry frustrated with limits on wide-base tires
October 1, 2012
CALGARY, Alta. – Twelve years after new-generation wide-base single tires hit the North American trucking market, most Canadian provinces still impose limits on their use, even though they’re arguably the most fuel-efficient tire...
CALGARY, Alta. – Twelve years after new-generation wide-base single tires hit the North American trucking market, most Canadian provinces still impose limits on their use, even though they’re arguably the most fuel-efficient tire available.
While Ontario and Quebec have allowed weight parity with duals, all other provinces continue to limit the tires to US load limits. This, even though impending national fuel economy standards for model year 2014-2017 vehicles will push trucking companies to spec’ the most fuel-efficient vehicles possible.
There’s hope in the industry that an anticipated report from Laval University will put to rest any lingering perceptions that the new-generation super-singles are more damaging to roadways that duals.
“The pavement issue is the card (legislators) always come up with” to limit weights on wide-base tires, explained Francois Beauchamp, field engineer with Michelin, which has been among the strongest proponents of wide-base single tires.
This limitation on fuel-efficient wide-base single tires is a major frustration for Canadian fleets running east-west. While they can load up to 9,000 kgs per axle in Ontario and Quebec, the limit is 7,700 kgs in Western Canada. Don Wilson, executive director of the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) said his group and other provincial associations, have been lobbying provincial governments to increase weights to 8,500 kgs to achieve parity with duals. This would allow the usual 17,000 kgs on the tandem axle group.
Wilson recently met with Alberta Transport Minister Ric McIver along with Westcan Bulk Transport CEO Tom Kenny to push for an explanation. Wilson said they heard a familiar response.
“He says right away ‘I don’t want to be known as the Minister who got hoodwinked by the trucking industry and gave these allowances and then all the infrastructure is falling apart and the taxpayers are on the hook for that’,” Wilson recalled.
Like Michelin, Wilson said the industry is eagerly awaiting the results of the Laval University study, which will hopefully prove today’s wide-base tire is easier on pavement than some early generation super-singles. Even if wide-base tires are shown to be moderately harder on road surfaces, both Beauchamp and Wilson argue provinces need to look at the big picture and consider the environmental benefits of the tires. And Wilson pointed out it’s rare for duals to be inflated to the same pressure anyway, which nullifies the argument that they’re superior.
“How can that be any easier on pavement if you have one tire that’s carrying more of the load?” Wilson pointed out.
Kenny said Westcan has been using wide-base tires to pull fully loaded tankers and has seen fuel economy improvements of 8.5% compared to duals. Rosenau Transport, which claims to be among the biggest users of wide-base singles in Western Canada, has seen double-digit fuel economy gains in its long combination vehicle (LCV) fleet running from Brandon, Man. to Edmonton, Alta., Wilson said.
Unfortunately, every new Minister seems to have his or her ear bent by pavement engineers who are basing their assertions on outdated information.
“It’s the same song and dance. They’re listening to the same engineers and bureaucrats,” Wilson said.
There also seems to be a reluctance among western Transport Ministers to be the first to put their neck out and allow increased weights on wide-base singles. Wilson said Alberta’s Transport Minister McIvor indicated that Saskatchewan and B.C. are reticent to increase weights on the tires, but in conversations with officials from those provinces, Wilson said he got the impression they were open to the idea.
Regardless of who moves first, it’s likely the three westernmost provinces will move in harmony, as members of the New West Partnership. If that should happen, Wilson is optimistic Manitoba would follow suit. It’s a matter of waiting for that first domino to fall.
“It’s a hard sell, but we’re not giving up,” Wilson said. “We have another meeting in the Fall and we’ll keep pounding away.” Achieving parity with duals across Canada would be a huge benefit to the trucking industry. Right now, fleets from Ontario and Quebec that run into the US are restricted as to the loads they can bring back into other Canadian provinces.
Beauchamp said the Laval University study is due out by the end of the summer. Its highly anticipated contents could provide the industry with the support it needs to strengthen its case in favour of wide-base tires and finally put to rest worries that the tires cause excessive pavement damage. Stay tuned.