Provinces look to hike vitamin LCV in highway diet

TORONTO — According to many at the Center of the Universe (COU), Ontario is the shaggy dog that wags the Canadian tail. Economically, that’s been partly true (although the capitol of COU may soon have to be moved somewhere between Calgary and Ft. McMurray). But as ¬≠trucking regs go, Ontario could learn a lot from the rest of the Dominion.

Long Combination Vehicles (LCVs), for example, are common fixtures, with conditions, on highways in Alberta, B.C., Quebec, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, as well as 17 U.S. states, ¬≠including the border states of Montana, New York and North Dakota. In Ontario however, they’re a political hot potato, as regulators worry over the backlash from soccer moms afraid to drive next to trucks nearly doubled in length.

Ironically, Ontario and the Maritimes are two of the jurisdictions that would benefit most from a turnpike double network in Canada, according to a new study commissioned by the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) in co-operation with Natural Resources Canada, Transport Canada, and the Canada Safety Council, among others.

The two-year study, conducted by third party consultants, involved the collection of live data from fleets all over the country that operate “turnpike doubles” — a combo of two 53-ft or 48-ft trailer units.

Because turnpikes are well suited to move products that are lighter in density, the study explains, truckers in manufacturing strongholds like Ontario would get the most benefit, especially in LTL applications where there’s lighter density commodities moving between terminals after city pick-up.

Furthermore, LCVs aren’t likely to be much heavier than single units as weight laws dictate they’ll “weigh out” before “cubing out”.

Alberta is looking for more track to operate LCVs on, as
well as more liberal rules on time of day and season.

The study, borrowing from several pilot projects, dispels several other myths about LCVs being less safe than single tractor-trailers.

In fact, because LCVs are allowed in certain provinces under special permit — with strict operational, equipment, and driver training standards, as well as speed limitations and stopping-distance requirements — the study found they tend to be among the safest vehicles on the road.

In Saskatchewan, it was noted that the collision rate of LCVs was one fifth of the overall heavy truck rate. The tractor-trailer incident rate on Ontario’s 400 Series multi-lane highways is about 0.46 incidents per million kilometers. The average rate for LCVs in Canada is between 0.15 and 0.19 percent, indicating that LCVs can be up to three times less likely to be in an accident.

“Finally! They’re talking about operating LCVs in [Ontario],” says Darshan Kailly, president of Calgary-based Canadian Freightways, which is running LCVs between Vancouver and Kamloops as part of a pilot examining an extension of the LCV network in B.C. “Our data shows that our LCVs are the safest vehicles on the road. You know why? Because we have the best-trained drivers on them.”

While safety just might get the attention of a politician or two, these days it’s the environment that’ll win you real points with legislators. Because turnpikes require half of the hauling kilometers to move the same volume of freight, they’re said to offer fuel savings of about 30 percent. Overall, the study estimated that 900 million kilometers of truck travel would be saved annually by an expansion of the turnpike double network, resulting in a reduction of 260 million liters of fuel and 730 kilotonnes of greenhouse gases.

So, with a potential speed limiter plan acting as a safety and green-friendly primer, the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) might eventually get the political capital it needs to convince regulators on LCVs in that province as well.

Atlantic truckers, meanwhile, are hoping the new study helps nudge their own bureaucrats. Sunbury Transport has been operating LCVs between Dieppe and Saint John for over a year. The New Brunswick pilot was deemed a success and will likely be extended to Nova Scotia soon.

But while Ontario and the Lobster Belt take baby steps toward LCV adoption, truckers running turnpikes in other provinces want the road network for them expanded further.

Alberta and B.C. are looking for more track to operate on, as well as more liberal rules on time of day and season.

In La Belle Province, where LCV permits are withdrawn between December and February, the Quebec Trucking Association is negotiating with the transport ministry for year-round operations. There’s been no official announcement, but Transport Minister Julie Boulet told the QTA at its recent annual conference she’s making the issue a priority.

“We are not quite there yet,” says MTQ manager Gervais Corbin. “But we’re starting to think out loud.”

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