Proposed changes to the Highway Traffic Act would allow businesses and farmers to carry heavier loads sooner when weather permits and would allow the province to implement detours for heavy vehicles more efficiently when disaster strikes.
Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton announced the amendments on Friday.
“These proposed amendments will help drive rural economic growth by allowing farm and commercial trucks to carry heavier loads on our highway system sooner,” Ashton said. “They will also offer greater flexibility when natural disasters damage part of that critical system.”
The proposed bill would add flexibility in three ways:
• Higher winter weight allowances could be extended by establishing a weather-based approach that would allow roads to remain at the higher weight thresholds for as long as conditions permit.
• When a road or a bridge is damaged by a flood or other disaster and unable to take traffic, the province would have the ability to act more quickly to give access to temporary alternate routes that could reduce detour distances by hundreds of kilometres, resulting in major time savings.
• As highways are upgraded, commercial and farm trucks would be able to carry the heavier loads immediately.
Currently, the Highway Traffic Act’s allowable vehicle weights are set by cabinet regulation. Amending the regulation can be time consuming, which is why it is not currently used for short-term situations.
Under the proposed amendments, the minister would have the authority to temporarily increase weights or classifications on highways within a short time.
“This proposed amendment will allow government to react more quickly to industry needs; as such, we view this as a positive move,” said Norm Blagden, president of the Manitoba Trucking Association.
“This is certainly good news for farmers to know that the minister will have the ability to ensure road weight limits are based on seasonal conditions and not simply on rigid calendar schedules,” said Doug Chorney, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers.
“We strongly support the flexibility this will give to our industry, particularly in times of emergency such as the 2011 flood when rapid movement of livestock and equipment was essential.”
The Manitoba government will continue to make decisions on the ability of roads to carry heavier weights based on acceptable engineering standards. As well, the Highway Traffic Act will still specify the penalties for any breaches of weight-based limits.