Switching from 8-axle B-trains to 9-axle B-trains has been gaining traction in Western Canada (pun intended). A new calculation recently developed by FPInnovations has led to the discovery of the real and remarkable benefits of having more 9-axle B-trains on the roads.
The 9-axle B-train, a new more efficient log hauling truck, was accepted for implementation in British Columbia in 2017. Prior to its introduction, FPInnovations conducted formal assessments of truck stability, braking, cornering, pavement impacts, and environmental impact. In Canada, regulators use the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) Load Equivalency Factor (LEF) formulae to assess one truck configuration against another, and to design pavement service life. FPInnovations’ recent research has developed additional LEF formulae that allows regulators, academics, and consultants to assess pavement impacts from steering axles equipped with various tire sizes.
Benefits of tire size-specific pavement impact estimates
The new LEF formulae accurately estimates damage to pavements by steering axles equipped with wide-base single tires (WBST). This allows regulators to:
- Assess impacts of policies relating to weights and dimensions, specifically for tridem-drive trucks which require WBST.
- Identify and promote trucking configurations that are more road-friendly.
- Design pavement service life more accurately and plan for maintenance activities.
In B.C., the research justified a 400 kg increase in steering axle weights on the new tridem drive 9-axle B-train configuration — which is expected to grow to as much as 25% of the provincial log truck population.
The increase in steering axle weight has some important benefits:
- Improvement of 9-axle B-train productivity by 0.8%. The increase in productivity means higher profitability of these trucks, which can lead to a further increase in the number of trucks, and ultimately, sustainability of business. Higher productivity also reduces the cost of log transport and increases the volume of economically accessible wood (e.g., smaller diameter and more distant wood)
- Reduction in the number of 9-axle trips per year by over 3,600, further reducing traffic congestion and improving highway safety. The increase in 9-axle truck productivity will also help to address current driver shortages by eliminating the need for as many as 64 of the smaller 8-axle B-trains.
- Improvement in truck steerability under low traction conditions due to the increase in steering axle weight. This constitutes an important safety consideration on winding forest roads during the winter.
- Reduction of CO2e emissions by 1660 tonnes (0.8%) — that’s an additional tonne per year per truck.
- Better regulatory practices and fewer incidents of noncompliance due to the alignment of the 9-axle B-train’s permitted steering axle weight with the 7300 kg loading currently enjoyed by regulated tridem drive truck configurations. An improved compliance record improves the likelihood of long-term acceptance of the new configuration by regulators, truck owners, and the public. It also reduces the likelihood of punitive measures against log haulers and lessens the need (therefore costs) for program enforcement and oversite by regulators.
9-axle B-trains across Canada? One day
The 9-axle B-trains are being introduced to B.C.’s highways and forest service roads on a route-by-route basis, depending on the industry’s needs. The B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure as well as the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development authorize the use of 9-axle B-trains based on a formal review of bridge capacity and road fit.
Although new to B.C., 9-axle B-trains have been operating in Alberta and Saskatchewan since 2009. FPInnovations aspires to have 9-axle B-trains implemented in other Canadian provinces as well.