Thunder Bay City Council voted not to proceed with the City’s Proposed Designated Truck Route bylaw as it’s currently written after hearing from the Ontario Trucking Association’s Geoff Wood and other critics of the plan.
The meeting on June 17 was the first opportunity since March for OTA and other interested parties to discuss the language of the bylaw with City Council.
At that time, council voted by the narrowest of margins to approve the designated truck route, which would force transport trucks to use the Thunder Bay Expressway and Highway 11/17 to travel through the city. Monday’s vote would have been the final checkpoint before proceeding with the bylaw, but council instead voted 7-5 against moving forward with the bylaw in its current form.
“We are pleased with Council’s latest decision not to proceed with the bylaw as crafted,” said Geoff Wood, OTA Senior VP, Policy. “It simply left too many unanswered questions. Many aspects would have been extremely restrictive in preventing drivers from using long-established trade routes, and accessing important goods and services including retail, grocery, parking, restaurants and hotel accommodations.”
The ‘no’ vote on the bylaw language does not reverse the intent to establish a Designated Truck Route, however; though there is some uncertainty about the next steps. The issue will now be referred back to Council to determine if the vote on the language cancels the previous vote to establish a truck route, or whether city staff now needs to revise the bylaw and bring it forward once again for consideration. As of yet, there is no schedule in place. Many councillors have requested OTA remain engaged as this process develops.
OTA has been opposed to the truck route from the outset and has been a vocal critic of the somewhat ambiguous process in Thunder Bay. The Association remains concerned that insufficient research has been conducted to determine the full safety impact of forcing an additional 1500 heavy trucks per day onto Hwy11/17, which forms the Trans-Canada Highway through Thunder Bay.
OTA, which is grateful that some councillors appreciate the Association’s input at the table, has offered many solutions as alternatives to the designated truck route.
Wood raised several new issues and concerns this week, including the decision to use registered gross vehicle weight (RGVW) as the threshold to ban trucks and the arbitrary nature of the city’s proposed classification, which could cast a wider net to include more vehicles than originally intended. This would arguably overwhelm enforcement resources, which would have to identify restricted vehicles through plate checks and then physically stop them to issue tickets. Wood also pointed out bylaw officers who may be tasked with assisting with enforcement might not have the authority to do so under the Highway Traffic Act. Wood also questioned whether the Ontario Municipal Act can provide sweeping powers for truck weight restrictions if those same powers are already provided to the Municipality in the Highway Traffic Act.
“Enforcement needs to be done consistently and applied evenly to all vehicles impacted,” said Wood. “It’s extremely important that we have regulations, bylaws or truck routes that work for both the community and the supply chain. It’s a two-way street.”
Furthermore, using RGVW would restrict truck drivers’ access to retail locations for necessary food/groceries, truck parking and hotel services required for mandated off-duty/sleeper berth time, Wood explained.
He added that if the bylaw does eventually take effect, the city should engage in a sufficient education campaign to assist the trucking industry and supply chain in informing contracted customers how the bylaw will impact delivery and operations.
OTA will continue to monitor the situation in Thunder Bay and keep members informed on further developments.