Special Report: Truck Routes

A New Truck Route Needs New Standards

An effective Truck Route Master Plan must take into account different truck sizes, distinguish through traffic from local traffic, and proceed from clear evidence, not assumptions.

By Daniel Rodrigues
Published June 09, 2010

Note: Daniel Rodrigues is a member of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce's transportation committee, but he has written this opinion piece on his own behalf, not on behalf of the Chamber.

The City of Hamilton is embarking on a new plan to fix a problem with truck use on City streets. The trouble is, they're using old standards in which to implement the new routes. That spells trouble, not only for the trucking industry, but also for the safety of residential and mixed use neighbourhoods.

A Truck is a Truck?

Just about every item bought or sold in Hamilton arrives by a truck. That truck could be an 18-wheeled, 78-foot-long vehicle making several stops along its travels, or it could be a cube van making more localized deliveries.

From a safety-first perspective, the obvious choice for receiving deliveries would be from the smaller vehicle. Unfortunately, Hamilton has not altered the definitions of 'trucks', thereby making both vehicles the same. This oversight prevents carriers from being encouraged to alter their delivery practices.

Hamilton's definition of a truck is a commercial vehicle over 4,500 kg gross vehicle weight (GVW). That puts every delivery vehicle from the size of a cube van into the same class as an 18-wheeler.

Some cities resolve this by increasing the GVW in their definition of a truck. When the City approached the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce to provide feedback on the Truck Route Study, we inquired on the opportunity to re-address the definitions of size of trucks, time of deliveries, and road use.

We were told that these options were not part of the study, and therefore would not be considered as alternatives to outright closures of specific routes.

In other words, we could only comment on the Study based on the dated definitions of what is a 'truck'. The end result doesn't bode well for mixed-use or heavy residential areas.

No Origin-Destination Survey

Also disconcerting in the process was that at the beginning of the Study everyone was told that there would be an Origin-Destination Survey outlining the truck use on Hamilton roadways, including 'destination' vs. 'local' trips.

That OD Survey, which appeared on the 2008 presentations, disappeared on 2010 presentations.

Community groups and advocates for safer neighbourhoods performed their own 'snapshot' data collection of traveling trucks, with no clear idea of where they were headed or came from.

While arguments for their removal carry some validity, making changes without understanding the scope of the impact is something no one should endorse.

More Collaboration Needed

On March 29, there was a meeting between various members of the trucking industry, manufacturers, and City staff. This meeting was called at the request of the trucking industry, and was to primarily discuss the planned roundabouts on truck routes.

The concern was that not all roundabouts were being built the same, and to identify the risks to trucks (specifically over-sized trucks) that can only travel on the former King's Highways (Hwy #'s 5, 52, 53, 56 & 20).

Staff wanted to know why the industry didn't attend the Public Information Centres (PICs). We asked, "Why didn't PW staff walk across the hall to Economic Development and ask for the list of carriers and manufacturers, and call them for their input?"

Not to sound like a 'tail-wagging-the-dog' scenario, but the PICs are 'public information centres', and we are speaking about roughly 30 companies who carry the majority of truck use on our streets. Surely a collaborated effort would be warranted.

Political Influence

To further clarify, the City staff did work in part with the Trucking Association and despite the missteps noted above, there appeared to be an agreement in place on what the final proposed Truck Route Network would look like.

Unfortunately, at the last meeting prior to approval, several changes were recommended by Councillors which caused the Industry to question the process, if the end result could be altered with political influence.

In recognition of this, the Chamber simply wants everyone to step back for a very short while (certainly not the two and a half years spent on this already) and engage McMaster Institute for Transportation & Logistics (MITL).

With the help of MITL, we can extrapolate the necessary data that can be used to create a new Truck Route Policy that respects residential, mixed-use neighbourhoods, as well as better utilizes the arterial roads which encompass our City.

Evidence, Not Assumptions

At the Public Works meeting on May 31, I listened to a young man who had a very young child in his arms tell the public and staff present that he was concerned about the effects of the changes in truck movement as a result of removing one of the roads out of the Network.

Assumptions are being made for all the wrong reasons. Why are we supporting a change based on assumptions?

Technology has grown by leaps and bounds. Freight carriers now have the most sophisticated communication networks to allow someone to track their package's progress. Other Cities have progressed, so why do we allow simplistic bylaws to rule the day?

It certainly isn't for a lack of trying. It's more like a lack of willingness by Council and Staff. Businesses are changing with the times, but they can't if the City doesn't change with them.

Dan Rodrigues was born and raised in London, Ontario, where he was an active community member in East London. He moved to Hamilton in late 1996, residing on the East Mountain. He has been married for 27 years, with a son who works with adults with physical and mental disabilities, and a daughter completing her degree in Chemistry at Western University this coming year. He is an active community volunteer, sitting on a number of committees and Boards, as well as coaching soccer. His professional life includes food and beverage industry sales and consulting, building industry sales, human resources consulting, and transportation consulting. Dan's diverse skills inventory allows for fuller discussion and better understanding of individual and community concerns. Currently, Dan is campaigning to be the Ward Six Councillor.

16 Comments

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By frank (registered) | Posted June 09, 2010 at 14:38:18

Thanks for getting this out there! Now how about forcing Councillors to revisit the stuff brought up earlier: delivery times, truck definitions etc...

It'd be a good idea to ask The Spec to put this in the paper alongside the previous article to give it depth.

Comment edited by frank on 2010-06-09 13:39:06

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By jasonaallen (registered) - website | Posted June 09, 2010 at 14:43:29

I couldn't agree more with the need to redifine truck...however whichever way you slice it, a 78 foot transport truck will still be considered a truck, and it is still unequivically dangerous for them to be on Dundurn St N. It is that decision, specifically I would like to address.

Having been on several occasions a small business owner, I am as 'business oriented' as perhaps anyone who posts to this forum regularly. I also live in a neighborhood which is neatly chopped into 4 'islands' by the anti-people truck policies in this city. I realize that businesses need to make money, and that short, convenient shipping routes are part of that. There is a need, however, in this city to reclaim our neighborhoods on a human scale.

We all recognize that it is going to be inconvenient, more expensive, and discouraging to trucking companies to not be able to go down Dundurn. We appreciate how difficult that will be. We also feel that it is FAR more important to maintain the safety, walkability and 'human scale' of our neighborhoods, especially when perfectly viable, if somewhat less convenient options for trucks already exist.

I understand that you feel the need for appropriate study, and for clearer heads to prevail, but no amount of study in the world is going to make Dundurn St. N safe for trucks. It is a fatality waiting to happen.

In other words, what exists here, is not a lack of good information, but rather a fundamental difference as to what the priorities of our city should be. Again, no amount of study will do anything other than highlight those differences.

I, for one, applaud council's decision to take Dundurn St. N off the truck route. Accurate origin/destination data is simply irrelevant. Trucks have no business being on that street.

Comment edited by jasonaallen on 2010-06-09 13:44:39

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By John Dolbec (anonymous) | Posted June 09, 2010 at 15:48:35

Great piece Dan!

Even though you are clear that you are writting personally - the Chmaber would endorse this piece, as well!

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 09, 2010 at 16:07:23

Will the Chamber endorse a move that redirects ANY truck cutting through the city's core to local highways instead as well as redirecting ALL transport trucks to local highways? Local deliveries in small vans/trucks should be the goal. I don't need trucks from Eastport Drive using my front porch as a shortcut when the QEW whizzes right past their origin/destination.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 09, 2010 at 16:22:52

Unfortunately, at the last meeting prior to approval, several changes were recommended by Councillors which caused the Industry to question the process, if the end result could be altered with political influence.

What was the basis of the recommended changes? Were the City Councillors requesting changes to things that were of concern to their constituents?

If so, to hell with "the Industry", the proper political influence (i.e., people) is seizing the day.

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By Miss Downtown (anonymous) | Posted June 09, 2010 at 19:33:30

Please join this group on facebook

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Downtown-Hamilton/132647153416413

Thanks

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By DanielRodrigues (registered) - website | Posted June 09, 2010 at 21:19:14

Tonight, Council passed the recommended Truck Route Network, including the removal of the Kennilworth Access (and adjoining parts thereof), Dundurn St. North from King to York for a period of 18-months so that further study can be completed on the impact of such a closure. What that study is, is anybody's guess.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 09, 2010 at 22:32:51

well, that's a tiny victory for urban neighbourhoods, but still nowhere near far enough. I guess it's good news considering Hamilton likes to be half a century behind everyone else. Enjoy the new Farmers Market this fall on those new wide sidewalks with transport trucks blazing by. Heck, they even have transport trucks in the renderings for the revamped York Blvd. How pathetic is that? Usually renderings are intentionally better than the reality of a neighbourhood. Hamilton is actually adding images of transport trucks into our new York renderings. Brutal.

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By Biz (anonymous) | Posted June 10, 2010 at 05:52:50

Surely, cube vans and 18 wheelers are different...with some of Council's 'bans' neighbours would be hard pressed to rent a U-Haul cube van and move into a neighbourhood without breaking the by-law. How anti-commerce is this group? I have just recently moved into the city and am amazed by the class warfare that I see...rich vs. poor; code Reds vs everyone else. OMG! Is there no leadership and reconciliation in this town?

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By J Morse (anonymous) | Posted June 10, 2010 at 08:08:01

^"Surely, cube vans and 18 wheelers are different...with some of Council's 'bans' neighbours would be hard pressed to rent a U-Haul cube van and move into a neighbourhood without breaking the by-law."

Truck route designation does not ban ALL trucks travelling other than on these routes, only unnecessary truck traffic. Interesting how headlines lead to negative assumptions.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 10, 2010 at 09:03:09

While it would be great to see a redefinition of truck size, etc, banning everything bigger than a cube van from residential areas and from cutting through downtown would still be a reasonable solution. If companies decided to switch from 18 wheelers (making multiple stops) to fleets of smaller trucks, they'd be allowed within these areas provided they have a reason to be there - i.e. deliveries.

Biz, I'm not sure what point you are trying to make but truck routes are designed to control THROUGH traffic. Any truck that has to make a delivery is allowed off of the truck route, assuming they take the shortest path to do so and get back to the truck route using the shortest path (minimizing distance travelled off-route).

I don't think these are unreasonable requests for the general public to be making.

I propose regular organized protests on a major truck through street. Say Cannon at Wellington or James. Trucks will be stopped and all other vehicles allowed to proceed. We need to send a message that through truck traffic is not welcome in the core. I am willing to participate and will donate safety vests!

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted June 10, 2010 at 11:45:07

Seancb: watch out for IF PIGS COULD FLY,he will be accusing you as being anti business as well. This person does not like protests or rallies.

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By If pigs could fly! (anonymous) | Posted June 10, 2010 at 20:25:25

@grassroots,

Notice how Seancb isn't blaming the tax-paying working class or business on the trucks? His protest sounds logical and effective. I'm sure you'd invite the ACLU, Amnesty Internation, Food Not War, NAACP and turn it into a circus, literally.

Shouldn't you be plotting your attack on the G20/G8 meetings? I can't wait to see you getting gassed and sprayed!!

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 11, 2010 at 11:45:40

@If pigs could fly!

Are you even Canadian? Half those groups you listed are US-specific organizations. Look I know that us nerds get a lot of American news due to the melting-pot nature of the Internet, but seriously you need to get out of mom's basement.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted June 11, 2010 at 12:14:08

Right wing hatred knows no borders.

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By cube van driver (anonymous) | Posted July 21, 2011 at 19:59:14

does any body know if no signs posted and i was charged for driving in a no truck route can i fight the ticket ????

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