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Wal-Mart combination raises Canadian ire

Global retailer's innovative design and claimed productivity gains attracts flack from local industry over safety, emissions and how it is licenced

By Matt Wood | November 21, 2012

American retail giant Wal-Mart has been ruffled feathers in the Canadian trucking industry with the introduction of a new high-cube truck and trailer combination.

The combination, which uses a long wheel base cab-over prime mover, has a cargo van body mounted behind the truck cab.

The freight body can be rolled backwards to the front of a specially designed high cube trailer to allow access for loading and unloading.

The 23m long, single truck and trailer combination is part of a 12 month pilot program being run by the Ontario Ministry of Transport (MTO) using two truck and trailer combinations.

However, the trial has raised serious concerns from the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) regarding safety and driver working conditions as well as issues regarding permit ownership.

The truck and trailer design is a brainchild of Wal-Mart and has been designed by a local trailer manufacturer, Innovative Trailer Designs (ITD), but the combination is owned and run by a private transport company, Interstate Freight Systems (IFS).

The OTA are concerned that a shipper – Wal-Mart – has been given permission to build the vehicle, hold the permits and run the trial rather than the transport company.

The OTA is also concerned that the vehicle’s sleeper cab has been replaced with a cargo carrying area raising issues about driver safety.

“Our members are very uncomfortable with this proposal as it currently stands,” OTA President David Bradley says.

“The proposed issuance of special permits to a shipper is a major game-changer for the industry; it completely turns the whole approach to monitoring and managing truck safety on its head. This must be changed.”

The new combination is reported to give Wal-Mart a gain in productivity of 30 percent
by using the over-length (18.4m) high cube trailer in conjunction with the custom chassis day cab Freightliner Argosy prime mover.

The new truck allows two store deliveries to be done in one load.

From an environmental perspective, both Freightliner prime movers were purchased by IFS as “glider kits”, with no engine or transmission, and have been installed with older EPA02, pre Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) engines.

This has led some within the Canadian transport industry to accuse Wal-Mart of putting productivity before the environment.

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