Canadian Tire’s push for 60

SAINT-JEAN-SUR-RICHELIEU, Que. – Canadian Tire’s vision to widely deploy 60-ft. containers took a huge step forward this week, with the Canadian invention of an extendable chassis that can carry both 53- and 60-ft. containers.

Neil McKenna, head of transportation for Canadian Tire, got his first look at the new extendable chassis at Max-Atlas’s manufacturing plant here Dec. 20 and invited Truck News to accompany him. Also along for the demonstration were: Gary Fast, associate vice-president, international transportation operations and support with Canadian Tire; Gary Kunzli, account manager, CP Rail; and Jimmy Zborowsky, an Ontario-based Max-Atlas sales rep.

Jimmy Zborowsky of Max-Atlas demonstrates the extendable chassis to CP and Canadian Tire officials.
Jimmy Zborowsky of Max-Atlas demonstrates the extendable chassis to CP and Canadian Tire officials.

McKenna tasked Max-Atlas with developing a container chassis that could handle both sizes of containers and though the manufacturer set an internal deadline of seven months, just two months in it had two partial prototypes to demonstrate. Both models featured an extendable gooseneck. One featured a fabricated trombone and cam rollers while the other was a “tube-within-tube” design, also with cam rollers to facilitate the extension.

Both were easy to operate with one hand, a key design requirement. The operator just flips a lever and then easily extends or retracts the gooseneck to switch between 53- and 60-ft. configurations. The only additional maintenance required is greasing of the cam rollers. Tibor Varga, president of Max-Atlas, said both designs will work, but seemed to favor the tube-within-tube design, due to its lower manufacturing costs and relative simplicity – fewer rollers, and less welding is required. The tube-within-tube design adds about 200 kgs compared to a conventional 53-ft. container chassis.

Canadian Tire reps were clearly delighted with both designs.

“I was very impressed with the Max-Atlas team,” McKenna told Truck News afterwards. “I saw a prototype of a unit that was very impressive. It’s not often you get a chance to lead the world in innovation in any field, and to have a Quebec and Canadian manufacturer able to bring something like this to market is exceptional and something to be commended.”

The patent-pending extendable gooseneck chassis won’t be brought to market immediately. First, the prototypes will be finished and then delivered to CP’s Montreal yard for testing. Canadian Tire is hoping to place an order in January and begin deploying 60-ft. containers where it’s legal to do so. Not all provinces allow the 60-ft. boxes on the roads – ironically, Quebec, where they’re built, does not allow them on-road – but in provinces that regulate total combination length, such as Alberta and Ontario, the containers can be deployed right away.

In fact, Canadian Tire already has one 60-ft. prototype container in use and is about to take delivery of another four 60-ft. fixed chassis.

Neil McKenna (left) discusses the concept with Canadian Tire colleagues.
Neil McKenna (left) evaluates the concept with Canadian Tire colleagues.

“Our partners at CP Rail have taken this (prototype) unit to Vancouver and back with no problems on the rail network,” McKenna said.

A modified Volvo tractor is used to pull the container on the road. Fast said the wheelbase was extended to accommodate the deep set kingpin.

“We took our existing (tractor) spec’, brought it to Volvo and literally severed the wheelbase and added extra length to it to be able to accommodate the kingpin,” Fast explained.

The extendable chassis will need to be pulled by a modified tractor while in 60-ft. configuration, but any tractor will work when it’s set up for 53-ft. cans.

Canadian Tire is enjoying a 13.7% increase in payload using its first 60-ft. container, compared to traditional 53-footers.

“That’s significant,” McKenna said. “For a fleet our size, if we were to convert to a complete 60-ft. fleet – and by no means will this happen anytime soon – but if we could convert, we could take close to 1,000 containers and chassis out of our fleet and move 14% more payload with reduced greenhouse emissions as an additional benefit.”

He thinks it’s the future of intermodal transport in Canada.

“I don’t think that there’s anything stopping this,” he said. “I believe once we’ve proven and demonstrated the 14% improvement it will be too much of a competitive advantage to not want for anyone moving payload – especially light payload – to seek that added capacity.”

McKenna notes Canadian Tire pioneered the use of 53-ft. containers a quarter century ago and he fully expects other retailers to follow suit once Canadian Tire has proven the viability of 60-footers.

“I fully expect they will,” he said. “Retail is competitive and you can’t fall behind. Once we demonstrate we are moving our payload with this equipment and our carriers are on-board, I think competitors will be asking their rail and over-the-road carriers for a similar product.”

Kunzli said CP Rail has had no difficulties accommodating the prototype 60-ft. container across its network. It rides atop conventional containers on CP’s intermodal flatcars.

Canadian Tire's Gary Fast extends the gooseneck.
Canadian Tire’s Gary Fast extends the gooseneck.

McKenna has been pursuing the use of 60-ft. containers for several years now. It began as an idea to transition to 57-ft. containers, capable of accommodating two additional pallets, but he upped the ante when he saw another retailer was pulling a 60-ft. trailer on Ontario roads.

“When we understood Ontario would accept 60-ft. (trailers) on the road several years ago, we decided if that was the case, why stop at 57? We began the design process of designing a 60-ft. container and chassis,” McKenna said. “We’re excited. We are seeking to grow the fleet starting in 2017 and if all goes well, will begin a conversion to a uniform 60-ft. fleet over the next decade and a half.”

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • Why stop at 60′ why not 75′? The dangers of driving the extra lenght don’t change much,they increae, and it gives larger shipping volume for shippers.Of course weigt limits would have to be increaced. What about the drivers, more responcability and stress,but who cares-not the shippers or receivers just make it on time. The nation servived with 45′ trailers but bean-counters got involved.

    • Unfortunately John, we are living on a nation of price roll backs and other cost saving measures. There are large savings to having bigger containers, that means we have less trucks on the road, less drivers, less perceived risk of accidents (thus: less liability) less breakdowns of mechanical parts, less downtime, and so on and so on. It is sad that the truck drivers may have to find other duties or companies to work for I would not wish that upon any family, but those are the times we live in.

  • Don’t worry John, you won’t have to pull the 60′ container…any sized container for that matter, when in a few years all the tractors are automated and self-driving.

  • A large percentage of the truck drivers operating out the GTA are not qualified nor competent to operate large vehicles on our highways so I must urge the shippers to ask the carriers to prove the operators experience prior to having these vehicles on the road as the status quo.I deplore driving the 401 at night as its a dangerous place as the manners of these so called truckers are unacceptable.Good luck

  • I think this is something akin to Walmart’s “Super-truck”–the cab-over with the 8ft cargo box on the truck chassis, and the trailer towed behind all that.

    There is also the search for a way to move more cargo per truck–its the “ton-per-mile” factor (and, with carbon tax becoming a financial factor, the fuel savings and carbon reduction). The problem is, is that there is a point where there length of the trailer will become too much of a challenge to manoeuvre and safety will be compromised. I cannot imagine anything over 60ft being on our roads—given that much of our city infrastructure cannot properly accommodate 53″ trailers (or transit buses!).

    While there are places where it can certainly be utilized, I would estimate that less than 35% of Canadian Tire stores can be easily accessed by trucks with longer trailers, based on their urban location. The real application would be in main warehouse to secondary ones (where everything is organized to go to specific stores), or up and down the 401.

    And like Walmart’s Supercab from 5 years ago, it may not become something that sees widespread use. (Manitoulin Trucking is the only company that I am aware of of successfully using a fleet of Supercabs, mainly in northern Ontario. See them often in my hometown of Timmins).

    I drove a transport. But the road was too long.
    Now I drive a transit bus, and the road is full of idiots.

    • The driver would need to be special licensed for operating a trailer that length. If this length trailer is used for rail, and then between distribution centers where they have the capability to receive and offload a 60′ trailer, great idea, however DO NOT try to deliver into some of these older locations that have difficulty enough receiving a 53′ trailer, much less a 60′ trailer.

  • Oh this ought to be good watching the new Canadians trying to safely pull a 60 ft. trailer. Most have trouble with just a dump truck. Way to go Ontario and Quebec on the Safety on our highways. What a bunch of crap!!!!

  • Have a look at product labels in many Canadian Tire stores. The bulk of goods say Made in China or Made in PRC. They have been using the 53 footer shipping containers for quite awhile now dirrectly into each store. The earlier comment about cross-docking the goods at a distribution centre may not be valid. I think they get sealed in China and come directly to the stores. No body ever considers overall weight issues. Successful braking a 60 foot container on icy or slushy roads should be interesting. And when the operators lift axles to successfully turn one the remaining axles will majorly rut down the asphalt. But it’s all necessary to save CT shipping costs! Consumers will not see any savings through lower prices.