Alberta Transport Minister reiterates opposition to speed limiters, federal HoS rules

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BANFF, Alta. — Alberta has no intentions to introduce speed limiter legislation or force the federal hours-of-service on intra-provincial carriers, Transport Minister Luke Ouellette reiterated at this year’s Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) annual convention.


He also clarified the province’s position on long combination vehicle (LCV) length limits as well as weight restrictions for wide-base single tires.


Ouellette pointed out Alberta, like Saskatchewan, will remain defiant when it comes to fully adopting the federal hours-of-service rules for intra-provincial carriers.


“So Alberta is certainly not the lone wolf on this,” he said. “I want to state, very clearly, that I have no immediate plans to mandate the federal Hours-of-Service regulations for provincial carriers here in Alberta. Given the state of the economy, now is not the time to put more restrictions on small companies that are trying to make ends meet. It just doesn’t make sense to me. It also doesn’t make any sense to have one-tonne trucks fall within the federal hours-of-service regulations.”


Ouellette said the Ministry has taken steps provincially, federally and internationally to address fatigue management in other ways. The Transport Department and the Alberta Workers Compensation Board have partnered with Quebec’s provincial government insurance agency WCB, Transport Canada, and the US Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration, in developing and testing a comprehensive fatigue management program, he pointed out. Three phases of research are now complete, and the same partners are funding the full program development.


These results have recently been presented to the Transportation Research Board in Washington and at the Boston Fatigue Conference, according to Ouellette.


Alberta remains opposed to speed limiters, unlike the stance taken by Ontario and Quebec – and in contrast to the CTA’s campaign to require all commercial vehicles over 11,000 kgs to be equipped with speed limiters.  


“Forcing trucks to stay below 105 km/h on provincial highways could potentially cause more collisions on roads, while other vehicles travel at higher speeds,” said Ouellette. “I believe it is safer to have trucks moving at the same speed as other traffic, to reduce the collisions resulting from an increase in lane changing. If there’s a real problem with certain carriers, we can deal with that through roadside enforcement or other measures. So, unless it becomes a North American standard, I really don’t see any reason why our government would force you to put them in your vehicles.”


Ouellette also spoke about Alberta’s new Commercial Vehicle Safety Regulation, a consolidation of 10 previous regulations, as well as changes to the Vehicle Equipment Regulation and the Use of Highway and Rules of the Road Regulation, effective this summer. He noted that Alberta is the last jurisdiction to require drivers to complete a written pre-trip inspection report.


“These changes are necessary to update Alberta regulations and ensure they are consistent with current Canadian and North American standards. The changes will make it easier for Alberta carriers to conduct business in other jurisdictions.”


Ouellette advised the AMTA that his Ministry is planning to add more safety rest areas along provincial highways.


“Besides driver fatigue, the resource industry requires rest areas for other reasons as well. These include checking loads and providing layover, or load inspections for heavy haul and wide loads. We’ve identified the locations for additional rest areas throughout the province, with a particular focus on areas with logging or other resource traffic. Now, we’re working on getting the additional budget dollars for construction,” he said.


Ouellette spoke about the new generation of wide-base tires, which are still not allowed full parity with duals in the province. He pointed out a combination of studies indicate that while the new tires produced lower stresses than previous generation single tires, the stresses were still higher than those produced by dual tires.


“The recommendation of the studies was to set a limit of 7,700 kgs for a single axle and 15,400 kgs for a tandem axle. Based on the cost of pavement damage and repair, the current weight limits for super single tires are close to optimum limits. While the review and study of super single tires is continuing, it is unlikely that super single tires can be allowed the same weight as dual tires,” Ouellette told AMTA members.


The Minister praised the Partners in Compliance (PIC) program, which began about 11 years ago. It is a joint project between government and AMTA, and considered the first in North America to recognize a strategy intended to make highways safer, move cargo smoothly, and ultimately to avoid weigh scales. Despite previous problems, a new system was introduced in mid-2007, to include full by-pass privileges for PIC carriers through a transponder/reader system at each vehicle i
nspection station.


Ouellette also took a stance against the mandated use of electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs). He said he’s aware that some industry representatives would like to have the use of on-board recording technology made mandatory, but Alberta is not buying into that position.


“At this point my department does not support the mandatory use of vehicle electronic on-board records or electronic logs by all carriers,” he said. “But, we will be prepared to utilize this technology with persistent hours-of-service violators, as a condition attached to a safety fitness certificate, and support voluntary deployment by carriers.”


Alberta is working with the other western provinces on harmonizing the standards for LCVs. The province currently allows a length of 38 metres for Turnpike Doubles, according to the Minister. Saskatchewan and Manitoba have recently changed their permit conditions to allow TPDs to be up to 41 metres in length, to accommodate long wheelbase tractors equipped with sleeper cabs.


Ouellette noted that his Ministry is reviewing a submission from the AMTA to increase the maximum length up to 40 metres.


“From my understanding, your association does not support 41 metres, as it would become too difficult to negotiate turns in the urban environment and the cities could restrict Turnpike Doubles on many of the existing routes,” said Ouellette.


The 41 metre length in Saskatchewan and Manitoba includes provisions for heavy-duty bumpers and aerodynamic devices. As heavy-duty bumpers and aerodynamic devices are excluded from the measurement of length in Alberta, the 40 metre limit in Alberta would be consistent with the 41 metre limit in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, stated the Minister. 


“As these vehicles travel in major cities, the department is consulting with them on this change.  The City of Calgary has completed its review and has determined that the majority of their roads could meet this new length. We are currently working with the City of Edmonton on their routes.”


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