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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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