New regs leave some district truckers grumbling

The provincial government has served notice that truckers will be facing more stringent safety regulations shortly, with significant implications for log haulers in Rainy River District.
The National Safety Code Standard 10 became law Jan. 1 for all commercial vehicles with a registered gross weight of more than 4,500 kg—and truckers have until July 1 to be in compliance.
That’s why the Ministry of Transport is holding a series of information seminars throughout the region, the latest of which took place Saturday at La Place Rendez-Vous here.
Roughly 60 truckers, mostly pulp haulers, as well as representatives of the Rainy River District Logging and Safety Committee, gathered in the upstairs banquet room to hear the latest news from MTO transportation enforcement officer René Boileau.
It was a case of good news and bad news.
The good news was most local operators probably are already in compliance with the new standards. The bad news is all of them will be required to spend more time checking the security of their cargo.
Even cargo has been redefined.
“Cargo means everything on the truck, including tiedowns and the spare tire,” Boileau noted.
Under the new regulations, all loads must be checked before entering a public road from a private road. Then, the driver must stop and re-inspect the load within 80 km of departure.
Thereafter, the load must be checked at every stop, every three hours, or every 240 km.
He suggested drivers keep track of the times and locations where they conduct these checks, and keep a record of them in their log books to show an MTO officer if they are stopped.
The bottom line, Boileau said, is that the load must remain secure under any conceivable situation short of an actual crash.
He also served notice that the driver/operator—not the rig’s owner—will be held responsible for violations.
The new standard, said Boileau, is part of a continent-wide effort to standardize regulations in every jurisdiction. Previously, a driver might be legal at his point of departure, but be out of compliance at his destination—or in some jurisdiction en route.
With the new act, that no longer will be an issue, except that Ontario tends to allow higher weights on its roads than do some other provinces and states.
“Now you’ll know you are legal wherever you are,” Boileau stressed.
These regulations do not apply to bulk containers or those loads that have no structure or shape, such as fluids.
The new law primarily addresses securement systems. As of now, all tiedowns and bindings must have a working load limit (WLL) of at least 50 percent of the weight of the load.
Furthermore, as of Jan. 1, 2010, all tiedowns must have their WLL marked by the manufacturer. Boileau noted most already are.
He also reminded those on hand that the MTO will use the weakest link in the system to calculate the WLL.
“So there’s no point in buying a chain that’s rated at 4,000 kg if the hook it’s attached to is only rated at 2,000 because that’s what the WLL will calculated to be,” he warned.
< *c>Log trucks
Boileau noted parts of the new regulations apply specifically to log trucks. Under the new code, four or more logs constitutes a log load.
Three logs or less—as well as stumps, firewood, and debris—are exempt.
One of the biggest changes to the act is the requirement that all stakes on log haulers be permanently attached—even when the trailer is empty.
When loaded, the bottom logs must rest solidly against those stakes or bunk bolsters, and outside logs must touch at least two stakes or bolsters.
Furthermore, the load must have a “crown” (i.e., the centre log must be higher than the outside logs), but the centre of the highest log must not be higher than the top of the stakes.
A minimum of two tiedowns also are compulsory—and each must have a WLL of at least one-sixth of the weight of the load.
Boileau admitted there is a lot of information to absorb, but that was why he was there.
“The legislation has already been passed,” he reminded the truckers. “We’re giving you six months to comply.
“Until then, you will be given a notice if you are out of compliance, but you will not be fined or pulled off the road unless the load is dangerously insecure,” he added.
Boileau also reminded them all previous and current legislation, including the Highway Traffic Act, still applies and will be enforced accordingly.
The new regulations also will apply to shortwood loads, whether carried lengthwise or sideways. In the case of sideways loads, more tiedowns likely will be required.
And after Jan. 1, 2010, the trailers must be equipped with automatic tensioning devices that will maintain 900 kg of tension on the tiedowns after the load has settled.
After his address, Boileau fielded questions from the truckers—some of whom were not pleased with what they heard.
Shane McQuaker was a log hauler for 11 years, but now says he’s getting out of the business. He feels the new regulations pose too onerous a burden on drivers to make it worthwhile staying in the business.
“I’m not impressed,” McQuaker stressed. “Who’s going to pay for all this? The profit margins are slim enough as it is.
“Are they going to up the [shipping] rates? I doubt it.
“There’s going to be a lot of guys up and quit,” McQuaker predicted. “I did. I had two rigs and I’ve sold them both. It just ain’t worth it.”
McQuaker noted that in his experience, there have been very few injuries or deaths in the district as a result of an insecure load.
Another driver, who did not wish to give his name, said he felt the new rules will cut into the useful working time of truckers. As it is, he said, truckers only are allowed to work 60 hours per week and the time needed to perform all the checks presumably will be taken from that quota.
The result, he said, will be not enough hours in the week to make a living.
Not everyone agrees, however. Emily Watson is the secretary of the Rainy River District Logging and Safety Committee and owner of a small forestry business—Cedar and Sage.
She acknowledged there will be additional costs incurred, particularly since trucks now are having to travel greater distances to get their loads to the mills, but the cost will be worth it in terms of improved safety.
“I know it’s going to mean additional costs and time, but public’s safety is more important,” she said. “I’m sure we’re all agreed on that.”
She recalled a case a few years ago when a road sign flew off a truck driving over the railway crossing in Crozier and flew through the windshield of a school bus, killing a student.
“They’re [truckers] being given the grace time to adjust and they will,” she predicted.
Doug Johnson, the MTO’s area enforcement co-ordinator, agreed. He said the series of seminars around the province are helping operators make the required adjustments and he has seen little resistance to the new regulations.
“Actually, it’s being well-received by the industry in general,” Johnson said Tuesday in a phone conversation from his office in Kenora.
“Most of them are close to compliance already and as a good operator, you’re going to check anyway,” he stressed.