Hefty fine for city

by Phil Ambroziak

Receiving a fine of any kind is irritating. City of Meadow Lake officials came to realize just that when a weight restriction fine was issued recently by the provincial Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure to the driver of Meadow Lake’s vacuum truck during a routine stop conducted along Highway 4.

“The ticket was in the amount of $2,471,” confirmed city engineer Edgar Parreno during the Sept. 9 meeting of Meadow Lake city council.

According to councillor Conrad Read, who also serves as district operations manager for the Ministry of Highways, trucks are classified to haul primary weight, secondary weight or spring road weight.

“On our vac truck, the primary weight is on the front axle,” Read explained. “I’m not sure what size of tires are on this particular truck, but usually the maximum weight a truck like this can have on its front axle is 5,580 kg. On the back axle, the maximum weight would be 9,100 kg for a total of 14,680 that cannot be exceeded. That’s including the weight of the truck, everything in it and the load.”

Read went on to say, when the driver was stopped, it was discovered the weight on the vehicle’s back axle was around 15,000 kg – close to 6,000 kg beyond regulation.

During the meeting, councillor Annette Klassen questioned whether or not this means the truck would always be considered too heavy when filled to capacity. Parreno, however, understood the truck was only half-full when the fine was issued. He also said he was willing to investigate potential solutions to future weight issues by speaking to local insurance companies.

“The issue is the load was too heavy for the axle on that truck,” stated city manager Diana Burton. “It’s not an insurance issue. It’s a weight or capacity issue.”

When councillors raised concerns about how the truck could get to where it needs to unload – near Marsollier Petroleum on the west side of Highway 4 – without receiving another fine, Read said one option would be not to fill the truck to its 1,000-gallon capacity.

“Then why did we buy a truck of this size?” Klassen asked.

Read did note a special permit could be acquired to allow for heavier loads.

“You can get special, year-round permits on back axles to allow for heavier loads but, at the same time certain regulations have to be adhered to such as a certain tire size on the vehicle and more,” he said in an interview conducted after last week’s council meeting.

Read also said it’s important to remember, within city limits, the weight restriction does not apply.

“Not unless the city wants to hire a bylaw officer and ticket their own people,” he said. “Around here, it only applies if the truck is travelling or crossing Highways 4 and 55. I guess it is the driver who is ultimately responsible for the weight of the truck.”

In March, council approved a maximum of $100,000 in the 2013 capital budget to purchase a new vacuum truck. This decision was in response to a similar truck purchased by the city in 2012. The original vac truck was purchased in 2012, but was damaged beyond repair when a fire broke out in the equipment shed at the public works compound a year ago.

In closing, mayor Gary Vidal said it’s important city staff are aware of all regulations, provincial and otherwise, when conducting day-to-day operations.

“The bottom line is you need to be cognizant of the issue so it doesn’t happen a second time,” Vidal said.

Klassen, however, still was not completely satisfied.

“And, when we buy equipment in the future, we should have someone there who is knowledgeable about the equipment and about the different rules,” she said. “Something tells me this wasn’t the truck to buy.”

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