Gravel haulers continue Ontario protest

John G Smith

MILTON, ON –  Protesting gravel haulers continued their fight today against Ontario’s hard line on axle weights, occupying three Toronto-area scales and focusing much of their attention at the Trafalgar facility on Highway 401, just west of the city.

“We are aware of the protest going on, and we certainly know they’re entitled to a peaceful protest,” says Ontario Provincial Police Sergeant Kerry Schmidt. “They’re peaceful and they’re off the highway.” While space in the scale is filled, traffic-related challenges have been limited to visual distractions.

“[Ontario Ministry of Transportation] officers have been redeployed and continue to conduct their duties through area patrol and alternate locations,” a ministry spokesman added. Ministry officials are also meeting with protest organizers.

The Ontario Stone, Sand and Gravel Association — representing 280 sand, gravel and crushed stone producers — has joined protesters in the call for lower gross weights and a moratorium on enforcing axle-specific weights. 

“We have held dozens of meetings, conducted tests and have demonstrated the problems associated with the axle weight regulations as they currently stand,” says Norm Cheesman, executive director. “Right now, we’re all playing the blame game. And until we figure it out, truckers are getting pulled over, causing them to lose time and productivity, and being ticketed for not being in compliance with axle weight limits. Now they are protesting and disrupting industry, which will have major economic ramifications as supply chains and mainy construction projects are interrupted. That’s not the solution. We need to work together to resolve the issue.”

Today’s Trucking has received unconfirmed reports that selected businesses which rely on the trucks have suspended operations during the protest as well.

The protest can be traced to a harder line on axle weight tolerances that began on September 1, after several years of soft enforcement and education programs relating to the province’s Safe, Productive and Infrastructure-Friendly (SPIF) rules for weights and dimensions.

Many of the troubles involve those who are repurposing used highway tractors to haul gravel. Steer axles can’t take enough weight. Mismatched fifth wheel heights won’t allow the loads to equalize, and self-steering axles are often undersized.

Meeting the axle-specific requirements would limit such vehicles to significantly lower gross weights.

Today’s Trucking continues to monitor the protest.

– This version of the story includes comments from the Ontario Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, as well as the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

John G Smith

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

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