ONLINE SPECIAL: Loblaws running ‘Triple-53’ in Saskatchewan

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REGINA, Sask. — A pilot project in Saskatchewan could redefine the term “long haul” as it applies in the province.

The experiment, currently under way on a single run between Regina and Saskatoon, allows for a third 53-ft. trailer to be added to an LCV, creating a kind of “turnpike triple” that’s hoped to help up the efficiency ante when it comes to moving goods in Saskatchewan.

It’s a part of what’s referred to as a Transportation Partnership between government and industry, an arrangement the province says is designed to enhance truck safety, support economic development through the use of larger, more efficient vehicles with higher payloads, as well as to promote the use of efficient, “road friendly” vehicles while minimizing impact on the road infrastructure.

“We’ve always been looking to get longer and heavier,” says Mike Burnett, director of logistics, central region, Saskatchewan Department of Highways and Infrastructure. “That’s just the nature of what the program is about.” The LCV program has been in operation in Saskatchewan for many years now, Burnett notes, so “this was next up, to look at something longer – as long as we could accomplish it safely.”

This particular pilot project had been in the works for a couple of years before things actually got moving along the highways, and relates directly to the province’s attempts to become more competitive in the global marketplace.

“Saskatchewan’s a landlocked province,” Burnett says, “and our problem is that we’ve always got a lot of bulk commodities but we’re a long way away from port. This puts us at a competitive disadvantage.” 

The project dovetails nicely with the province’s 2,000-acre Global Transportation Hub, located at the west end of Regina on the Canadian Pacific main line between Highways 1 and 11.

“As the Global Transportation Hub was starting to be developed,” Burnett says, “the (triple trailer) idea was being thrown around and since there was interest from occupants there, we thought this would be a good opportunity to try it out.”

Currently, the project sees a single company – Loblaws – running a triple “Road Train” (as its driver calls it) from the Hub to the outskirts of Saskatoon, where the third trailer is uncoupled and taken into the city by itself – undoubtedly saving some interesting urban right turns in the process. Burnett says Loblaws was chosen because it “expressed an interest in pursuing it. They’re the anchor company in the GTH, so it made sense for them to take the lead.”

Andrew Cipywnyk, director, trucking policy and regulation, says that as part of the pilot project, “We’re looking at things like the operation of the vehicle and the whole issue of whether it fits in Saskatchewan.” Cipywnyk says the project is designed as a one-year test, after which “it will be evaluated to determine whether it’s a viable alternative for Loblaws operationally, but also to see whether there are any operational issues for the vehicle itself.”

The first runs up Highway 11 began just before Christmas of 2011, but Cipywnyk says there was a lot of planning done before the first road train rolled. “Anytime we enter into something like this there’s a lot of work done,” he says. “You have to look at the safety of the vehicle and the Ministry wouldn’t have even entered into the pilot if there wasn’t some level of comfort with the vehicle being safe for the road. But because it’s such a new configuration, we wanted to make sure there’s nothing that was missed in the analysis.”

Burnett says the project consists of a maximum of one trip a night, the triple heading to Saskatoon loaded but returning to Regina empty. “They have two sets of triples,” he says. “They drop off the loaded ones and pick up the empty ones for the return trip.”

Or perhaps not quite empty. The driver tasked with taking the triple to the ’Toon, Larry Boyle, says he hauls empty pallets or milk trays back to the Hub after dropping off his load. Still, compared with the 177-ft long triple’s gross weight of 90,000 kgs, it probably feels empty.

Boyle, a 36-year veteran of the trucking business, may have been the perfect choice as a guinea pig for the road trains. He’s been involved with Saskatchewan’s LCV program for many years and his experience includes time as an owner/operator with various companies; he also drove for Bison before moving to Loblaws in January of 2011. Boyle says he’s tickled pink to have been chosen for the pilot project and really enjoys the challenge – as well as the triple train experience itself.

“I actually prefer to drive them rather than the turnpikes,” he says, “because they’re on a slide out system, like a fifth wheel – kind of like a long B-train – so it’s more stable because there’s no swing to it like with a converter.”

This leads to the road train being more “wind-friendly” than one might think, though Boyle admits that if the winds get really strong they uncouple the third trailer anyway.

“The winds were 90 km-h the other night,” he says, “and we didn’t run because of that. There are a lot of safety considerations in terms of being on the highway.”

The run is made five days a week, weather permitting, with the train allowed to operate only between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. and at a maximum speed of 90 km/h.

It appears that so far, things have been going well. “We haven’t really had any negative feedback,” Burnett says. “Loblaws has certainly been very conscientious making sure they err on the side of caution, and they’ve been a very good partner through this.”

– You can check out the May issue of Truck West for the complete story.

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  • I am a licenced LCV driver based out of Calgary.All this program does is benefit that company Loblaws.I wonder how much extra pay this driver gets for moving 3 times the amount of equipment,and 3 times the freight up and down the highway.I will bet money it pays the driver nowhere near triple the pay of going up and down the road with a single trailer.I know hauling LCV’s with 2 trailers sure as hell doesn’t pay 2 times the normal pay to the driver.Going rate for an experienced guy pulling 1 trailer is about 40-42 cents/mile.LCV’s pay about 50 cents.All this talk about these LCV sets benefiting the environment,and the highway infrastructure is pure b.s.The main reason is for these trucking companies,and shippers is to save money,getting away with moving way more freight at once only utilizing 1 tractor,and 1 driver.Anyone who has pulled LCV’s knows that convertors hooked between 2 53′ trailers on the prairies in the wind,and snow/icy road conditions is,at best dangerous,and should be outlawed.The slider trailers with the integral 5th wheel are a different story.The pay rates for pulling these sets is way below what it should be for all the added responsibilty to the driver.I,probably as many others, who are licenced to pull these sets will refuse to,from now on,till the pay rates reflect what the driver qualifications are,and should be for safely operating them.It is principal,START PAYING THE DRIVERS THEIR FAIR SHARE!They desserve it.

    • Here are a few corrections: LCV is the government jargon that confuses people, so that they can get their shit done in disguise. The proper term that people understand is a ROAD TRAIN. They like using fancy words for everything,.

  • Wow , lets see 177 ft truck at 95 km and if its like Ontario where trucks are limited to 105 km and cars assume the real speed limit is about 120 km
    all i can say is good luck . love to see how the lawsuits shake out , as I am sure the driver as always ,will wear the goat horns when something goes wrong , I’ll assume its only a matter of time.

  • I am very concerned that these pilot programs and the programs recently completed in Ontario with 2 trailers are leading us all down the wrong path.

    As the story states there was one night where the wind was 90km/hr and the 3rd trailer was disconnected for safety reasons. This is written to show how its supposed to work but when the pilot is successful because there were no accidents, and the pilot companies made sure everything went well, and the rules are written to allow LCV’s to continue, what will happen then? I am afraid that Loblaws in the exact same situation as above with wind at 90km/hr will tell the driver to continue to drive because they don’t have a truck to go pickup the 3rd trailer and the freight needs to be there. We will see accidents and incidents where the driver drove faster than he should to make the delivery on time.

    I am just waiting for the time when an incident will happen with an LCV in Ontario. The other night I was passed by one which I don’t believe is safe and I thought they were supposed to stay in the right hand lane. I also see in all the rest areas an area for LCV but they are always full with one trailer combinations. How are these drivers supposed to find a spot if the parking spots reserved for the LCV drivers are taken and not enforced?

    The idea of moving more freight with less people has always been thrown around but I’m afraid that we are setting up a dangerous combination with 2-53′ and now we’re seeing 3-53′ combinations in pilot programs. When is it going to stop? Will we have 10-53′ trailer combinations in some parts basically creating a train on the road? Maybe we should spend our energy looking at creating a better ‘trailer on rail car’ system. Imagine a driver dropping his trailer on a flatbed rail car and coupling these rail cars together to do 100 trailers at a time with a locomotive on a rail that doesn’t effect the travelling public. It started but CN/CP doesn’t want to continue with these options – they want to move containers so they price it out of the market.

    We have 2-53′ combinations in the works, lets leave it at that for a while until we have good data to come up with a good conclusion to see if it works. We should not look at 3-53′ LCVs for a while yet.

  • It would be a very small stretch where this could be reasonable.Would the American LCV drivers believe it if they saw how you go from Regina to Edmonton through Saskatoon? I think not that is how far out we are from doing it properly.Just thinking of the ring road around Winnipeg.The geniuses we are.LOL Not yet.

  • Here we go again, inevitable scaremongering and assumptions before even the test is near complete. I admire SK for trying to be pioneers and forward thinking for the growth of their province, I guess knowing this would happen.

    The things I would also consider are;

    – businesses have to get more efficient/ environmentally friendly. No one is going to convince me 3 trucks are as efficient as 1 truck and trains don’t go where trucks can.
    – experienced drivers have to undergo ongoing comprehensive class room tuition and a 3 hour practical test, plus they are very strict violation requirements. It improves current standards/ weeds out law breakers early.
    – Issues on weather etc could be controlled e.g dispatchers/ drivers should/ could provide/ carry evidence of safe condition reports before setting out for example etc it just needs a little thinking over before going larger scale hence a sensible pilot study.
    – If drivers are against/ over fearful of driving triples, then they rightly should not feel forced to do so.
    – Yes drivers should be paid extra but equally in return some should show some aspiration to be trusted/ capable/ allowed to operate such impressive equipment.
    – companies would have too much to lose if they tried running bent as their permits would/ could be strictly withdrawn.
    – they run triple and more trailers in Australia with the converters too (not sliders) and at faster speeds, for years with no dramas/ requirement to ban them.

    Therefore, the way I see it, just give it a try, initially get used to seeing them THEN way up the pros and cons in a constructive way from hearing facts at the end of the study. End of the day, if running these SAFELY means costs in the supermarket do not need to increase so rapidly for the ordinary hard working Canadian, then I’m all for it.

    I always have at the back of my mind, If we never accepted/ evaluated change we would still be primates.

  • I’m glad the big companies like loblaws and federated coop can do these “road trains” and “blizzar trains” (super b fuel tankers and a reefer behind that on a converter) with government support and drive the price of freight down some more while a small fleet owner like myself (under 20 trucks) struggle to make a living and are constantly harassed by the dot for super dangerous things like a sun visor that covers 2.25 inches of our wiper blade path. 177 feet of tractor trailer going down the road is safe but my disc break equipped show truck and disc break equipped show 48 foot trailer is an illegal outlaw because of it’s 296 inch wheel base.

    The pilot programs are great because everyone crosses their t’s and dots their i’s and then later down the road the people driving these trains are pushed right through training and out on the road as fast as the big companies can push them out there. Then on a snowy wednesday morning like march 21st not one but two pukie brown colored trucks pulling only 2-53 footers can spin out side by side climing a hill near maple creak and shut down traffic for hours. But we all know the companies will split these trailers up like they’re supposed to in bad weather.

    HA ha ha wat a JOKE!!!!!

  • Saskatchewan is to be polite miserable for long haul drivers. I drive thru there to Ab and I refuse to spend one dime in that province for anything. Food fuel or repairs. I drove with a flat(lightly loaded) to Lloydminster so that I could have it repaired there rather than in Battlefords. The reason they have to have triples is because no one in SK learns how to drive.

  • When I drove the Trans Canada back in the ’80’s the “pot-holes” around Winnipeg were so big, I thought they were quarries!

  • I think this is the waive of the future in trucking. I’m an LCV Driver/Classroom Instructor. I’ve been pulling Pikes for 7 years now. We are not stealing work from other drivers Trish. If your pulling anything bigger then a 45ft tandem axle trailer you are just as guilty with that comment you made. I feel we are helping to keep the bad drivers out of the trucks. Besides it makes no sense having one truck pull one trailer on flat land when you can easily pull multiple ones.

  • Does the driver get paid 3 times by the company ? We’re the Outside Workers, outside of the Union. Guess this helps the driver shortage.

  • if someone told you forty years ago you would have a phone in your hand today and buy it at 7/11 with ten free minutes you would have probably laughed, triple trailers , road trains ,pikes, all concept design to meet the growth of the country as a collective,future, roads will improve with technology, major four lane highway across country, ring roads, a major issue with rate of development is finding that breed of people to fulfil the demands of upper corprate idealist, far and few

  • Hey rob, so I guess where your from they teach you to drive down the highway with flats. Sounds to me that your the one who doesnt know how to drive. Your either still wet behind the ears or old school super trucker who thinks they know it all.

  • Well, I’m an older driver and sorry to say this type of practice takes jobs away. I would haul those for 35 cents a mile PER TRAILER !!!!!!
    So 3 trailers x .35/mile = 1.05 per mile. Good Luck, its a rip off for drivers. Period !

  • Please don’t be so stupid, of course they don’t pay triple wage for three trailers just like they don’t pay double wage for pulling two trailers. You ever winger why the public thinks truck drivers are stupid, with comments like that no wonder they do. Stupid

  • I enjoyed my job long ago pulling 2 trailers..LCV..MY BOSS payed me coworkers where the best friends I made.. doing my job daily all by my self setting it up alone became easy.for me..shure some times it was cold or and blowing dress for the would take me 15 min all set to roll..but my boss said no more showing of so please take your .30 min all set .to go..and keep her at 90 km not 95km satlite was always on..there where times my boss had to ask me if I was ok cause I did my job without no help..i say work as a team .

  • Bring it on. I’d pull triples to Winterpeg from E town if I was given the trip. Of course they won’t pay me according to the value I’m giving the company, but when do any of us get paid accordingly. I make almost 60 cent a mile pulling doubles, right now, which seems more than most company drivers make, unfortunately. Which is nothing compared to what the company makes on these LtL loads. But I’m not bothered because it never ruined my day to hook up any of my sets and get going on the vast open road, under most road conditions. So pulling another trailer instead of just one or two, is just a cherry on the top of what I’m already out there doing. Im already on the road, pulling through the miles, taking up my time, so why not give me a little more money for something I’m already doing.
    I’m sure getting on the Circle Drive of Saskatoon, will be impossible with triples, but we can always drop it and have it brought to the south end for the rest of the trip. Just take more room, and there won’t be any problems. It’s probably why this trial is only on the roadway between Saskatoon(south) and Regina(North). If for any reason as a driver I think it will be dangerous, then I will just not do it. So on good clean dry roads, and with pre-tripped working equipment, there’s nothing more dangerous about pulling three over two. And if you look all around you, a set of two are on the road every minute. If one of us are junk drivers, well, the fruit will show who they are, and be removed promptly from their driver seat. So we can hope. Lol.
    Just drive what you are comfortable with and stop complaining.

  • Truck drivers have and always will be underpaid because they can never agree on anything. in this day and age an experienced professional truck driver should be getting an average of 25.00 an hour and more for super Bs and turnpikes even more. turnpikes should pay at least 30.00 per hour because of the danger of handling in strong winds, icy roads, and a convertor making three pivot points. The company makes double the money pulling two loads so why does the driver handeling these combinations not get a little more pay.