Toronto dump truck protest fizzles

by Abdul Latheef

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.

Dump truck
Scores of protesters defied the lockdown to protest outside the Ontario Legislature on Thursday. (Photo: ODTA)

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.

The province says it will not compromise on safety. (Screen grab)

“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 support

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

OSL

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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  • This puts older small owner ops with dump trucks in a difficult position. We need minimum rates for dump trucks as well owner ops with tractors in Ontario.

  • As the rest of us that did spend the money $300,000 plus to update to new and safe equipment watch the rates stay below cost it’s about time that the ones that didn’t finally realize what it cost to run a legitimate operation. I hope the MTO does their job and comes down on EVERY none compliant operator. Not just gravel haulers.

    • So 20 years ago when we went out and bought new trucks we weren’t running a legitimate operation ? Manual lift axles have been around for decades. Now they’re the cause of all the infrastructure problems? What are you going to do in 16 years when they deem your $300,000 vehicle now not roadworthy cuz they’ve changed the infrastructure rules again … I’m sure you’ll suck it up lose money on your truck and go buy another one… Chasing payments for another eight years….

  • Axles should stay as they are, there is no safety concern with them. Having to retrofit new spif axles will cause a lot of delay in construction.

  • its about time trey were given 10 years notice . steer axles are the norm now ,get rid of all the permits for 5 axles without steers too

  • How can Brian Patterson say my truck is wore out when every year it has an annual safety inspection?
    Does he have an annual safety in the vehicle he drives?

  • The way I see it is the rates are going to rise due to a shortage of volume capacity. Also these guys kept cutting one another’s rates now they can’t afford to replace or retrofit their equipment. THE WHOLE TRUCKING INDUSTRY NEEDS TO GET TOGETHER DRIVERS ARE WAY UNDERPAID AS ARE OWNER OPERATORS!!!!!!!

  • Kudos to our current government to not bow to a few who are unwilling to modernize their equipment for the good of infrastructure and environment and now truly have to compete and understand the true cost of operating current equipment.Its time to recognize that industry needs to charge the correct rates in orders to operate safely and profitability.Change is often feared but once made we often wonder why the hell we waited so long to do it. Thank you for opportunity to make a comment on this issue I am 40 year veteran in the aggregate hauling business owning various types of equipment.

  • Good step everyone need safety in highway I am long haul driver and see these people driving ON highway like they own the high way .no respect to other drivers also need to comply ELD .

  • And also educate those dump truck drivers to respect the rules of the road, most of them are abusive, pushing small cars or other vehicles just to grab lanes.. lastly they don’t care about safety as long as they can make a quick turn to haul more…

  • WE OWN 5 SPIFF DUMP TRUCKS AND THEY ARE TOTALLY UNSAFE!
    THEY DNT STEER IN SLIPPERY CONDITIONS AND THEY ARE EVERY DAY DANGER TO SOMEONES LIFE!
    EVERY WINTER WE HAVE TO DISCONNECT SENSORS AND OPERATE AXLE MANUALLY IN ORDER TO KEEP TRUCK SAFE ON THE ROAD!

    • True story. In slippery conditions(snow or slush covered roads) you can barely make a left turn. How is it that spif axles are safer? I understand that it is easier on the road surface but safer?

    • I agree with louie these spiffs are ok in dry weather but put them out in the rain or snow or any slippery condition and be very careful. Totally unsafe and junk

    • Yes I agree I owned a spif dump truck and had to have the system changed on it because it was so dangerous the clown that worked at MTO that brought the spif rules in soon retired after they were enacted old style lift axles may not be the answer but neither are spif axles they are not safe. Anything like this that you have absolutely no control over going down the road is a major safety hazard.

    • It is not just SPIFF axles but also automatic brakes in snow storms. The new fancy technical systems do not have the support we need.

    • Instead of disabling proven safety equipment how about learning to drive a little differently when using SPIF equipment?
      Our private fleet hauls steel with gross weights to 139,000lbs.
      We used to be able to control the lift axles from inside the cab before SPIF. And just like you, there were lots of times our drivers would pop an axle off the ground to (briefly) compensate for traction issues before dropping it back down again.
      We spent a fortune buying new SPIF wagons. Nothing wrong with the old ones, either. Kept one as a spare for a couple years. Drivers struggled with the SPIF at first. A couple of them wanted to go back to the spare wagon…but they loved the extra stability going around ramps and corners with 90K on the deck. Eventually that spare wagon was sold off because literally all the drivers would rather help out in the processing plant rather than drag that non-SPIF wagon around behind them when their usual trailer was being serviced. And not that I told you this or anything but I’m fairly sure you can modify your wiring to control the lift from the cab. And not that I recommend it because it can turn into a domino effect with antilock sensors and stuff. Not that we’ve had these issues or anything…but let’s just say we’ve learned how to adapt.
      Be safe out there.

    • Think you will find that the regulations changed in 2020 to allow vehicles to have access to a switch to lift the axle as long as it is below 60km/h and 4 ways on. Tractors are allowed the first axle on a trailer to lift to allow extra weight over the drives. Retro fits may be allowed.

  • We had a PCV system and a minimum haul rate that went away possibly in 1990
    The other good thing was regions no rate cutter from a different area could destroy the industry in your back yard
    These weight regulations will just make it worse for most

  • If a regular lift axle configuration was used as intended , to lift when corner, and drop after, there would not be a problem.
    Who the hell are you to tell me a worn out piece of equipment is worn out, if you maintain and replace what ever is needed , to pass your safety inspections . I have things replaced even if it’s still legal, simply because it’s not working 100% to my liking. . I have driven a few spif axle trucks, it is extremely annoying when you don’t know when it will act up, which is too many times a day. This is dangerous . You find yourself in situations I would never be in, in my older lift configuration truck . I drop my lift as soon as I begin to unwind my steering input. I use it, as it was design to be use. Fines should have been applied to those that were not using it, as intended. That’s what should have been happening, , for years.
    I will retrofit my truck, for the simple reason, it drivers better than almost any new truck , without the headaches , issues or problems 90% of new trucks have.

  • Overall spiff is safer. 10 years is more than enough time to think about and plan how you will proceed. The thing is a lot of owners do t really read and so this comes as a shock. Or they were ignorant and chose to believe it was all talks. My father is an owner op and sold his truck last year and bought a newer used spif compliant model. Back then guys were saying he was stupid and this law wouldn’t take hold. These guys don’t have to spend $300k on a new unit. You could spend $30k to upgrade or buy a newer used truck for $150k. I will agree that spif axles are not the best in snow or slippery conditions. There is discussion on getting around that in new trucks by allowing the operator to manually life the axle while loaded but under specific conditions – similar to the four way flash method used today when loaded. Gone are the days when you forget to lift the axle, take a corner, and almost crash. Spif isn’t perfect but it’s better.

  • Its about time, Level the Playing Fields,Its true, The dump trucks should be Upgraded ,At 15 yrs, The roads are in Rough shape, Without Overloaded Trucks, Clamp down on the Offenders ,

  • I have had one of the first spiff trucks in my region, 2011 steerable were mandated on any new trucks ordered and 2013 was the year spiff came out along with steer axles that’s the year I got mine. Spiff and ready to go as implementing was supposed to be mandated in 2018 which never happened. But now that it is here we must obey lol. Let me tell you 7 yrs spiff nothing but money and totally dangerous in wet weather. Someone’s making money off this but let’s get rid off all the all the junk and let us men do our job. And maybe all the prices of haulage will get in line with the expense. I had to upgrade and suck up the cost so should everyone else in the industry and their should be no grandfathering with permits period.

  • loui , you’re right, selfstèer axles more likely to put you in ditch in bad weather conditions. problem here is people are giving the remark have no first hand experience. that guy Brain petterson doesn’t know anything. just bullshit cry of safety.

  • It is just the government passing on blame because they cut corners in pavement you can feel it on every major hwy when they stop and start the pavement they save money and line their own pockets in 10-20 years after everyone is complaint the roads WILL be the same how many regulations have passed restricting CMV’S and no change to road conditions.

  • As a farmer, I have been the sole owner of a 2007 T-800 which now has about 350K on the clock. Even now, people often think it’s a brand new truck, so I find Brian Patterson’s comment that I’m ” trying to use a worn out piece of equipment” highly offensive. When built, this truck was completely legal for a 22.5 tonne payload, but now I either spend $35-$40 thousand to comply with SPIF regulations brought in later, or drastically reduce my payload. This legislation is totally unfair to us who maintain our equipment and especially those who also run very low mileage.
    I’d have expect this kind action from a Liberal government, but would have thought the Conservatives to be more reasonable.

  • It should have been implemented a long time ago. Back in 2011 when it was announced, as much as I don’t agree it solves anything, and actually makes the trucks unsafe to drive in winter, many went out and spent $200,000 to buy new trucks to keep up with the upcoming regs.
    And what did they get in return? Having to compete with scabs and their old non-compliant trucks that work for nothing because they never update or fix their rigging.

    Not much of a fair playing field there. Those that stay up to date with the regulations, get punished by having to spend money for nothing.

    And even sadder…..many of the MTO inspection officers still have NO CLUE about SPIF or how the trucks actually work. And they all have their own definition of how to enforce it.

    So glad to be out of trucking now. What a sad, sorry state this industry is in.

  • Always a public nuisance with these operators if your business faces upgrade costs then charge your customers more money for the service !!!
    You don’t see McDonald’s protesting because price of beef went up or new regulations force them to spend money they either raise the price on products or decrease the size of Thier portion.
    End of story !!! It’s a business you agreed to the rules with your operating authority license and you agreed to a business contract with your customers.
    Your trucks are coming to a protest and your lights are not even in compliance with the law !!! Hope you got charged for that at the protest.

  • Just another case of government tax grabs, blaming little brother for big brother’s lack of planning & foresight.
    As usual they make rules & all the little people have to pay 4 the rich to carry on!!!!

  • The bozo who designed the spif axle obviously never drove one especially in snow or freezing rain I refuse to put mine down when conditions are bad why would i want to have a wreck or kill someone in the process that spif axle is taking the weight off the tires that are steering the truck do the math put a extra axle on regular passenger vehicle and lets see what happens i will continue to do what is safe only a competent driver knows his or her truck and knows having a lift axle that turns carrying the weight of the load on slippery roads can cause u too lose control of 36000kg

  • If the truckers had the 40 thousand to upgrade or the 200 to 300 thousand to buy a new one I suspect they would have done so, this is Canada a lot of people are doing seasonal work so only have six months to make income and no income for winter to make large payments. . . I would do anything I could right now to keep people who are willing to work working. Unless they want to pay us all to stay at home.

  • I have a 1995 int 9200 that I had new frame rails installed and a spif. Axle installed. this axle without the switch on the dash is very dangerous n unsafe on back roads that are gravel that are wet it will push you straight ahead unless you lift the axle so imagine what snow would be like and you call this SAFE. Come up to cottage country and come for a ride and we will see what the makers of these rules think especially in a log truck that I have to spif also

  • Owners apporate with one Truck as to maintain it
    Owner as a family and mortgage ,to buy a house an carry his not a easy road ,is one Truck has to take care of all his bills, so this stif axcle is extra burden some people can’t afford a new Truck or replace the axcle some of these twenty (20 )years old trucks are in very good condition
    I know some of you don’t care because what you do is all about you, all you now the moreTruck gets off the road the more business you get

  • They have know about this for over 10 years. If you can’t plan that far in advance, then you shouldn’t be in business. Life sucks some days, put your helmet on!