Canada now has among the most productive truck configurations anywhere on the planet — and one of the best overall safety records. The impact of nationally harmonized weights and dimensions has been huge. Studies identified $3.85 billion in efficiency-related savings between 1988 and 2002. Truck traffic exposure dropped by 135 million vehicle-kilometers. And those gains came with no increase in observed pavement and bridge costs, reports Jim Park of Today’s Trucking.
In the 1960s, U.S. and Canadian rules on weights and dimensions were almost identical. But things didn’t stay that way for long. By the time the 1980s came about, fleets could not legally run a single vehicle combination across the country. With the patchwork of vehicle weights and dimensions seemingly out of control, a study proposed in 1981 would eventually establish key engineering standards — determining if various configurations were safe, and measuring their effects on pavement.
Extensive dynamic performance testing carried out in the early 1980s revealed what actually happens where the rubber meets the road, enabling engineers and transport administrators to make informed decisions about vehicle configurations.
The three-year, $2.8-million study became the largest cooperative research program ever undertaken in Canada. Two years of analysis followed, leading to the first national Memorandum of Understanding in 1988.