OTA Applauds MTO Proposal to Extend Maximum Tractor Wheelbase for Certain Vehicles

Good for environment and harmonization, but OTA says more configurations should be included

Ontario is proposing to allow longer tractor wheelbases for a specified group of heavy truck configurations to accommodate environmental devices and add-ons that are essential in reducing greenhouse gases. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation recently made the announcement in the provincial regulatory registry (click here to read the full proposal and details of how it affects commercial vehicles).

The proposed change would increase the maximum allowable tractor wheelbase from 6.2 m (244 in.) to 7.2 m (282 in.) for vehicles classed as SPIF1 (Safe, Productive and Infrastructure Friendly) Designated Tractor-Trailer Combinations – i.e., single, tandem and tridem tractor/fixed axle semi-trailer configurations. Currently, all other Canadian provinces allow a longer wheelbase tractor, although all but one (Nova Scotia) only do so by special permit. (There is no maximum tractor wheelbase requirement in the United States).

OTA had been seeking changes to the maximum wheelbase restrictions for some time in order to allow the industry the flexibility to accommodate recently introduced truck engine technologies like particulate traps, urea tanks, selective catalytic reduction canisters and diesel exhaust fluid tanks to meet emission reduction standards and other devices, such as auxiliary power units (APUs) aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. Together these components can occupy up to two metres (80″) of frame rail space, or half of the area between steer and drive axles currently available to carriers on a 6.2-metre wheelbase tractor. This impinges on space typically reserved for fuel tanks, air supply tanks, batteries and other equipment (pumps, blowers, chains, hydraulic fluid reservoirs, tool and tarp boxes, etc.) and makes spec’ing a vehicle very difficult. Spec’ing APUs on tractors with a sleeper berth (essential for combatting fatigue by long-haul truck drivers) is a particular challenge. Emerging technologies like hybrids and LNG vehicles may also create pressures on frame rail space on trucks.

OTA President David Bradley said the MTO proposal is a good first start and applauded MTO’s decision to go the regulatory route, avoiding costly and more administratively burdensome permits. However, he said the association will be seeking an expansion to the list of configurations contained in the proposed regulation, to allow longer wheelbases on other SPIF configurations that can meet or exceed the same turning performance criteria as those already listed, including the SPIF tri-axle, quad –axle, five and six-axle configurations.

“MTO is moving in the right direction,” says Bradley. “The additional vehicles we think should also be included are consistent with the intent of the proposed regulation and share the same characteristics consistent with the criteria used to determine those vehicles that should be approved for longer wheelbases. We are hopeful MTO will take a look at this so that more vehicles can accommodate the environmental innovations.”

The proposed amendments are subject to the statutory 45 day comment period, but could come into effect as early as this summer.