Single Matchmaking

by Passenger Service: State troopers ride-along with truckers in crash study

It’s often said that slow and steady wins the race. Try telling that to Michelin’s Canadian marketing manager Ralph Beaveridge — undoubtedly this country’s most tireless promoter of axle weight uniformity for wide-base tires.

Slowly and steadily, his campaign is paying off as provinces inch toward load weight parity between dual setups and single, wide-base tires — which are proven in providing substantial weight savings (and thereby more payload), better fuel economy, and superior stability over duals.

In fact, Beaveridge admits, there’s been more progress made on the issue over the last 18 months than perhaps the previous five years.

But it’s been a long time since Michelin began promoting its X-One single tire product — and with the balance of jurisdictions still enforcing weight rules that economically choke single tires usage — Beaveridge can be excused for wanting the process to roll a little faster.

“I can say I’m very energized by the movement over the last year. But I want to see more,” he says. “I want it to go the next step and I want it to be there tomorrow. So there’s excitement, yes, but still a lot of desire.”

In the last year and a half, Ontario has hiked its vehicle weight threshold for single tires to 8,000 kg per axle on a standard 53-ft tandem SPIF trailer. That closed the gap within a 1,000 kg between singles and duals, which, based on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Interprovincial Vehicle Weights and Dimensions, enjoy a 9,100 kg per axle maximum. Under the same national MOU, single tires are capped at 3,000 kg (6,000 for two tires on an axle), a restriction that (still in place in all provinces except Quebec, Ontario, and B.C.) makes it economically impossible to spec single tires.

Taking baby steps, B.C. recently announced a weight increase to 7,700 kg, which still makes it tough to interchange equipment for Canadian operations, but makes sense for runs dedicated to the U.S. where the maximum load is 17,000 lb (7,700 kg per axle).

Our French-language province recently became the first jurisdiction to approve an increase to 9,000 kg per axle for tandems, thereby allowing full parity between duals and singles, provided users buy a special permit for about $400 a year (increasing to $600 for additional axle setups). The amendment hasn’t yet taken effect, however.

And now Ontario looks to follow up with another breakthrough that’s giving carriers itching to spec wide-base rubber reason to think national uniformity may not be too far off.

This past summer, that province’s Ministry of Transportation and the University of Waterloo’s Center for Pavement and Transportation Technology conducted a weeklong series of tests to determine a comparative pavement impact analysis between singles and duals.

The tests involved running both types of tires on a track with sensors embedded in the pavement at a variety of weights and speeds, explains Ron Madill at MTO’s Freight Policy VW&D Reforms office.

Engineers will compare the “stress and strain” load impact on the sub structure of the pavement to help policy makers decide whether to take the next step and increase the single tire limit to 9,000 kg in Ontario. Says Madill: “If an axle with single tires loaded to 9,000 kg does not cause any more damage than the same axle with duals … then we wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

The results of the Waterloo U tests could have ripple
effects beyond Ontario’s borders for wide-base tire usage.

The MTO didn’t have any preliminary data to share at press time, and Madill said the final results wouldn’t be available until November.

But the fact that Canadian engineers are holding singles and duals up to a mirror is good news for Beaveridge, who has long argued that mismatched duals — said to be rolling on about 30 percent of trucks on the road — cause far more damage to roadways than singles without any of the environmental and operational benefits.

“There is a significant difference in tire damage immediately, even at 5-psi difference in mismatched duals,” he says. “If you blew across the market place and took into account a 30-percent incident rate of very high damage caused by duals, then any data they would get [on the impacts of singles] are a joke in comparison.

“Typically, when we’re talking mismatched pressure in duals versus the possible damage caused by single tires, the data is going to be significantly on the side of the singles.”

Madill says it’s too early to suggest whether Ontario, like Quebec, would implement a permit-based system if 9,000 kg were eventually approved. He did add, however, “as far as general policy goes, our preference is to do things in regulation and avoid permits.”

The results of the Waterloo U tests could have ripple effects beyond Ontario’s borders. Madill admits that other provincial transport ministries await Ontario’s data.

In the West, B.C.’s decision to allow 7,700 kg for singles could have an affect on its neighbors, although Beaveridge says he’s had “some good discussions with Alberta, separate of what happened in B.C.” Those talks, he tells Today’s Trucking, have centered mostly on moving from 6,000 kg straight to 9,000 kg.

“Obviously, we would be okay with a compromise of U.S. loads (7,700 kg). But in Alberta, it wouldn’t do much good for the big fleets which are pushing for this because they’re all bulk haulers and they want to be able to go full tilt.”

On the other side of the country, proponents in the Atlantic Provinces seem to have gotten their single-tire campaigns stuck in the mud. Based on the amount of research undertaken by industry and regulators these last two years, it looked as if New Brunswick would be the first to wave the green flag for wide-base tires.

But a series of impediments — including delays at the acclaimed University of Illinois (whose pavement experts had agreed to measure the impact of single tires against N.B.’s own pavement data) — now look like they’ve been cleared away, says Vern Seeley of chemical and petroleum hauler RST Industries in Saint John.

Seeley, who has been a vocal champion of single-tire technology, says the tires also have a lot of support in the N.B. government, which, like Nova Scotia, wants to see the study from Illinois before making an official decision.

He says that an allowance of 7,700 kg would only be “half a victory.” It would accommodate RST’s U.S. dedicated fleet, he says, but also invite American truckers to run freely and more efficiently north of the border.

While he’s being carefully optimistic, Seeley’s seen some preliminary results from Illinois, and thinks the study — in concert with Ontario’s own project — packs enough of a punch to start a domino effect in the Maritimes and perhaps other Canadian provinces still stuck at 6,000 kg.

“It looks positive. I have a pretty good feeling from the results of all the work being done.”

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.