Overweight vehicles thundering down Saskatchewan’s roads are causing millions in damage each year, and there’s concern the government isn’t doing enough to stop it.
“The processes the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure uses to enforce vehicle weight and dimension laws on provincial highways were ineffective,” provincial auditor Judy Ferguson said when she released her latest report.
“We found that the plan wasn’t being carried out and management wasn’t actively monitoring whether or not it was carried out.”
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In her audit, Ferguson found weigh scales aren’t open enough hours.
“For example, in 2015-16, its ten weigh scales were open almost ten per cent less than the expected amount of time,” she said. “Three of six highway officers we tested only did up to one half of the expected number of vehicle inspections.”
Overweight vehicles can cause increased damage to pavement and bridges and take longer to stop, while vehicles that exceed dimension requirements can obstruct traffic or hit overhead infrastructure, Ferguson said.
Susan Ewart, Saskatchewan Trucking Association’s executive director, also wants to see more enforcement.
“There’s trucking companies here that operate from the U.S., there’s out of province, we have different sectors of people who drive trucks that maybe aren’t governed by the same regulations as our members are,” she said.
In a random test, Ferguson found that truck traffic on an alternate route increased by half after the weigh scale opened.
“We do know that once the lights come on, some of the carriers will start to shift away from the scales and find alternative routes around,” Blair Wagar, Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure’s assistant deputy minister, said.
He said that’s why officers will close the weigh scale and head out on patrol.
“Those vehicles basically are mobile inspection stations. Everything they can do at the scale, they can do in their vehicle,” he said.
Forty-five officers cover more than 26,000 kilometres of provincial highways, which is the largest per capita in the country.
Approximately 1,250 fines totalling $1.3 million were given to overweight or over-dimension vehicles in the year between September 2015 to August 2016.
The ministry estimates the damage is at least $10 million annually to repair damage caused by overweight and over-dimension vehicles.