Using a lift axle? You can thank SPIF for that.

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OTTAWA, Ont. – The Canadian Transportation Equipment Association (CTEA) is publicly supporting Ontario updates to Safe, Productive, Infrastructure-Friendly (SPIF) dump truck configurations – and notes that such changes actually helped to save lift axles in the province.

“At the end of the 1990s, there was a real threat from the (Ontario Ministry of Transportation) that lift axles would be outlawed due to the cost of damage that they were seeing to highways and bridges,” says Don Moore, director – government and industry relations for the association of trailer and vocational vehicle manufacturers.

“New steer axle technology was seen as a mechanism to not only avoid this, but to realize heavier loads while causing less roadway damage.”

The solutions that emerged combine SPIF’s steerable lift axles and load equalization systems.

ODTA - Mulroney
A recent protest ended at the constituency office of Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney. (Photo: ODTA/Jag Gundu)

In 2005, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation released a study that determined non-steering lift axles caused about $300 million in annual damage to the province’s roads and bridges.

Much of the problem was linked to operators who kept the lift axles raised when they should have been deployed.

A provincial grandfathering period dump trucks that don’t comply with SPIF rules ended Jan. 1, leading to a series of protests by the Ontario Dump Truck Association (ODTA), which argues that members were not given sufficient notice about the changes, and that the cost of equipment upgrades place a heavy burden on small operators.

The regulations were rolled out in four phases between 2000 and 2011, and nearly a decade of grandfathering periods followed.

Upgrading non-compliant dump trucks can cost $25,000 or more, the dump truck haulers add.

Moore, however, says the cost of such upgrades can be recovered by the revenue that comes with heavier weights.

Trucks configured to meet the SPIF requirements are allowed a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 36 metric tonnes, while the trucks that don’t comply with the rules have seen GVWRs limited to 27 tonnes.

“You’ll be able to haul more weight and bring you in line with the guys who have already done this,” Moore says.

Writing Mulroney

The CTEA reinforced its support for SPIF regulations late yesterday, in a letter to Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney.

“Put concisely, the CTEA has been and continues to be supportive of the SPIF regulations, including the implementation and grandfathering schedules, since the regulations were first promulgated in Phase 1 back in 2000,” Moore wrote in the letter.

“The CTEA staff has been engaged in the process since the late 1990s and have been involved in most of the meetings leading up to the release of each phase since then. Our technical staff have been involved in numerous discussions around the various analyses performed on configurations to determine vehicle stability and maximum load capacity, etc.”

Early technical challenges involving control systems and load equalization were addressed years ago, Moore added in a related interview with Today’s Trucking.

If anything, the shift to self-steering axles makes for safer vehicles, he adds, noting that lifted axles increase the stresses on frames and other components.

Remaining technical challenge

There is still one known technical issue to address with SPIF configurations, however.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has deferred enforcement around emergency override controls, giving manufacturers time to address related programming challenges.

“The dash systems are all electronic now,” Moore explains. “It’s not like the old days when I started and there was a bunch of spaghetti behind the dash.”

In the early days of installing traditional lift axles, the big issue was chasing down the right wire.

The override controls would give drivers extra traction when needed, but only under strictly defined conditions.

When such optional controls are used, the axle will need to lift as soon as the switch is activated, but only stay up at speeds below 60 km/h. The axles will need to fully deploy as soon as a truck stops, when tractor power is turned off, or within three minutes of the switch being activated.

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John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking,, TruckTech, Transport Routier, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.