A University of New Brunswick study suggests some North American highways were never properly designed for commercial trucks.
It indicates that many older roads were made for smaller automobile traffic and as a result transport trucks might be constantly pushed to their performance limits.
The study was headed by civil engineering professor Frank Wilson, who has specialized in transportation topics for over 20 years.
“It’s not a drastic oversight, that’s the way roads have been designed from square one,” explains Wilson.
Since the beginning of the highway era in the 1920s, roads were engineered with the thinking that truckers would know not to travel at posted speed limits under certain conditions.
“When those standards were implemented, there was very little truck traffic on the highways,” Wilson says. “It’s grown drastically in the last decade, and I believe the time has come when highway designers have to be more conscious of the operating characteristics of heavy trucks.
“They have to start taking that into more consideration relative to design standards and . . .the signing and posting of highways relative to speeds.”
Wilson initiated this study after working on a multi-disciplinary research study of heavy-vehicle rollovers six years ago. That research, funded in part by Transport Canada, involved examining more than 50 heavy-truck accidents first hand.
For the new study, the results of which won’t be released until the fall, the group studied rollover thresholds through a co-operative agreement with Moncton, N.B.-based Armour Transport. An Armour truck was equipped with instruments which recorded load-weights, speeds, highway designs and weather conditions.
The special truck was then run from Moncton, N.B. to North Syndey, N.S., hauling different loads but always driven by the same person, for the sake of consistency.
The researchers found that safe speed calculations for critical sites such as banked curves are based on the behaviour of lighter automobiles and could be higher than warranted for truck traffic.
Groups such as the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association (APTA) are interested in Wilson’s findings.
APTA president Ralph Boyd says he’s startled by the research’s apparent conclusion that governments may have been designing roads without considering commercial traffic.
“I would be hopeful that, looking at the volume of traffic on our roads today, engineers designing roadways – especially government engineers – are giving consideration to trucks,” Boyd says.
“We really must pay more attention to . . .how highways are designed and providing more advisory signing for use by trucking,” says Wilson.
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