TORONTO, Ont. — Scores of dump truck drivers descended on Queen’s Park in the middle of a pandemic lockdown Thursday morning to protest changes to weights and dimensions, but the province stood firm on its plan to enforce compliance New Year’s Day.
At the center of the dispute is Ontario Regulation 413/05: Vehicle Weights and Dimensions for Safe, Productive, Infrastructure-Friendly (SPIF) Vehicles.
Trucks with SPIF configurations are allowed higher weights, while non-SPIF vehicles will be restricted to operating at lower weights.
The Ontario Dump Truck Association (ODTA), the organizer of the protest, argues that the regulation has unfairly placed the onus on dump truck operators to retrofit their rigs with steer axles and weight distribution systems.
The group has been demanding exemptions, asking the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) to allow all triaxle dump trucks to operate at maximum weights for the life of the vehicle without SPIF-related restrictions.
Ministry pushes back
Soon after the protesters left Queens Park, the ministry rejected the demand, saying it has a responsibility to keep Ontario’s transportation network safe and reliable.
“We expect carriers to comply with any regulation put forward that would ensure critical infrastructure is protected,” MTO said in an email to Today’s Trucking.
“Carriers have had nearly 10 years to ensure compliance,” it added referring to the grandfathering period established when the regulation came into effect in July 2011.
That period ends Dec. 31.
MTO noted that carriers with vehicles 15 years or older, and unable to comply with the regulation by Jan. 1, will still be able to operate at a reduced load weight.
“If an operator’s vehicle was built before 2011 and is not yet 15 years old, it is eligible to continue to operate at grandfathered weights, under permit, until it reaches 15 years of age,” the ministry said.
Such permits can be acquired from the MTO’s permit site, it said.
MTO further said that it had held extensive consultations with the industry prior to the implementation of the regulation in July 2011.
“We are pleased that the majority of the trucking industry has been supportive of the SPIF regime, including the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA), the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC), and the Canadian Transportation Equipment Association (CTEA).
OTA president and CEO Stephen Laskowski said the association fully supports the government on SPIF.
He said grandfather protection was provided for different groups of commercial vehicles over the years.
“Grandfathering for the last phase of vehicles, which was announced in 2011 and includes dump trucks, is equitable in its treatment based on the treatment of all other commercial vehicles,” he said.
Laskowski said all other truck configurations in the province have made or are in the final process of making the transition to SPIF.
“Trucks that do not meet SPIF standards at the end of grandfathering are required to operate at reduced weights to ensure they remain safe and Ontario’s infrastructure investments are protected,” he said.
“This is the right thing to do for public safety and the protection of our infrastructure investments.”
PMTC weighs in
PMTC president Mike Millian urged the province to stick to the SPIF timeline.
“Those who choose to ignore the impending regulation and ignore their responsibility should not be rewarded with a last-minute stay as a result of their lack of attention and foresight,” Millian said.
“To do so would be to punish those who had the foresight to plan and implement the necessary steps to comply with the regulations.”
No purpose, no basis
Brian Patterson, president and CEO of the Ontario Safety League, who was at the protest site also supported the ministry’s stand on the issue.
“It is engineering, technology and safety all brought together to solve the safety problem,” he said of the regulation.
“You’re trying to use a worn-out piece of equipment that is now no longer compliant.”– Brian Patterson, president and CEO, Ontario Safety League
Patterson said the dump truck operators had 10 years of advance notice to be ready.
“You’re trying to use a worn-out piece of equipment that is now no longer compliant,” he said of ODTA’s call for exemption.
Patterson said the protest had no purpose, and no basis.
“And, it deserves to be shut down by the premier, and he did.”
The protesters, however, claimed that retrofitting will result in a shortage of triaxle dump trucks in and around Ontario.
“These restrictions will further cause delays in construction, impacting key infrastructure projects across the province,” ODTA said.
The group also said that retrofitting would cost up to $40,000, and a new dump truck would cost between $250,000 and $320,000.
When fully implemented, SPIF will ensure trucks operating on Ontario roads are designed to the highest safety standards in North America while saving the government over $450 million in additional infrastructure spending, OTA said.
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