New Brunswick recently announced that it would be the next and final Maritime province to allow 60-foot semi-trailers to travel within its borders. Ontario is also allowing them, as part of a pilot project involving Walmart.
The problem is that between the two, in Quebec, the maximum length of a semi-trailer is still 53 feet. This means that 60-foot trailers (60.5 feet, to be exact) can’t travel between eastern and central Canada.
That may be about to change, suggests Quebec’s Ministry of Transportation and Sustainable Mobility, which says it is studying the possibility of allowing these extended trailers.
“Safety is the guiding principle when analyzing the issue, taking into account the particularities of the province’s road network. The possible conclusions of the pilot project conducted in Ontario with respect to this format of semi-trailers will also be taken into consideration,” says ministry spokesman Louis-André Bertrand.
He adds that it is still too early to determine when Quebec will decide on the issue. One of the questions that will be considered is whether these 60-foot trailers would be allowed on the entire network or only on certain designated roads.
In Ontario, those that are allowed to haul the longer trailers under the current pilot project can travel on all Ontario highways, says Brian Sookhai, senior director of transportation innovation and planning at Walmart Canada.
On the route between Mississauga and Windsor, Walmart is using a 60-foot refrigerated trailer. It can carry 30 pallets, four more than a standard 53-foot trailer.
Because more product can be transported on one truck, fewer drivers are required to make the delivery rounds and fewer greenhouse gases are emitted per tonne of freight transported.
In the case of Walmart in Ontario, Utility manufactured its extended trailer.
Manac enters 60-foot race
In Quebec, Manac is ready to enter the 60-foot race as well. Last November, it posted photos on its Facebook page of the first such trailer, built for a Quebec company that wanted to transport more merchandise between two of factories, on private property, without requiring a permit.
“In a context of shortage of truckers, increasing diesel prices and in an effort to reduce the ecological footprint of transportation, companies are looking for solutions to optimize loads,” Manac said on the social network.
In an interview with Transport Routier, Rodrick Levesque, vice-president of engineering at Manac, said he was also waiting for the Quebec regulator’s opinion about these “jumbo” trailers, in light of the results of the pilot project conducted in Ontario.
“What we expect is that they will probably use these results to make the same law in Quebec,” he said.
Who uses 60-foot trailers
According to Levesque, the typical clientele for 60-foot trailers would be companies that transport high-volume products but cube out before reaching maximum allowed weights. “We’re thinking of the classics. Tissue, chips, really products where weight is not limiting,” the engineer said.
He added that flatbed trailers moving insulated panels for the construction industry would be another ideal application for 60-foot trailers.
Of course, because of its structure, a 60-foot van is heavier than a 53-foot van, so you lose payload. However, this is not the primary concern of the target clientele, who essentially want more volume. According to Manac’s calculations, a 60-foot van offers 560 cubic feet more than a 53-foot van.
However, there are engineering challenges to adding the extra seven feet, particularly because current production equipment is designed to produce 53-foot trailers.
“Extruders, mostly in North America, make 53-, 57- and not 60-foot products, so there are some engineering challenges that had to be addressed to ensure full integrity on the 60-foot,” Levesque says of the first prototype 60-foot trailer.
“It confirmed our assumptions and, in the end, the product meets the quality criteria of the market,” he says of the prototype.
Why not a long combination vehicle?
Why go through all these calculations and pitfalls to increase the volume transported when you could simply use a long combination vehicle?
In fact, the Quebec government is in the process of transforming Route 185, which connects Quebec to New Brunswick, into a four-lane highway with a central embankment – a change that would support long combination vehicles.
It’s not that simple, said the Manac expert, who believes that 60-footers also have advantages over such configurations.
“LCV drivers need additional training,” Levesque said, adding there are also limits on the routes LCVs can travel.
“The hope is that, with 60-footers, it could bypass or alleviate some of the regulations that are applied to LCVs,” the Manac spokesman said.