A new pilot project using longer vehicles to help lower the costs of bringing supplies to northern communities was announced today by Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Ron Lemieux.
"The vast distance between our northern communities and southern distribution centres has always been a significant challenge in the pursuit of economic growth," said Lemieux. "This project will allow us to evaluate a number of potential benefits for northern communities, ranging from lower transportation costs for consumer goods to reduced greenhouse gas emissions, while keeping stringent safety controls in place."
The longer vehicles were developed to transport freight over long distances more efficiently. The one-year pilot project on PTH 6 will collect data in order to study the potential benefits of using the larger-capacity trucks such as achieving lower fuel costs to haul more freight, lowering food prices for northern communities, reduction of greenhouse gases and traffic reduction on provincial roads.
"The Thompson Chamber of Commerce welcomes this demonstration project," said past president Penny Byer. "In today's global economy, northern businesses must compete with those in the south for both quality and price. The cost of transporting goods to the north has always made this a challenging competition. This demonstration projects opens the door to a more level playing field for many goods."
The vehicles to be used combine a semi-trailer and smaller pup trailer that exceeds current length limits on this highway. The longer trailer configurations may be up to 31.5 metres in length, which is 6.5 metres longer than normal vehicles. The permits enhance normal safety provisions by requiring that operators use a specific route, ensure a minimum level of driver training and qualifications, restrict operations during adverse weather conditions and observe time-of-day restrictions to avoid high-traffic volumes.
"We see this pilot project as an important step towards a prosperous northern economy by bringing down transportation costs in a safe and more environmentally-responsible manner," said Culture, Heritage and Tourism Minister Eric Robinson.
The demonstration project will also include an agreement between the province, participating carriers and the University of Manitoba Transportation Institute to assess the project and its benefits to northern Manitoba residents.