The fight for fairness is over. Equal licensing fees for road maintenance are on the books for this Canadian province.

In Ontario, Canada, both sewage truck operators and the trucking industry are declaring victory after years of petitioning the province to apply road licensing fees equally to all vehicles, including road-building machines (RBMs). This category of vehicles may include gravel trucks, mobile cranes — and unlicensed hydroexcavators.

While most vehicles pay road licensing fees, others are historically exempted from license fees and inspections as RBMs under the province’s Highway Traffic Act (HTA) and also use untaxed colored diesel fuel. A recently passed provincial budget promises to close the loophole by 2016.

The issue had become red hot for the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) when members faced sticker shock over a 70 percent increase in Ministry of Transportation (MTO) licensing fees over two years, with the final phase kicking in at the end of 2014. Ontario pumper trucks are also experiencing the same increases.

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Fight for fairness
For pumper truck owners, however, it’s not just a matter of sharing the cost of road maintenance, it’s also a matter of fair competition. George Smith, owner of Triple S Sanitation Limited in Thamesville, Ontario, has been fighting for fairness on the issue for the better part of a decade.

“I’m pleased with the direction the province is taking on this,” Smith says. “In the past, I’ve lost car wash and catch basin pumping contracts to unlicensed hydroexcavators that are operating at a competitive advantage because I’m operating my trucks as commercial motor vehicles.

“The unlicensed vehicles also haul industrial waste and sewage. I can do everything they can, except drill postholes, yet they’ve been exempt from license fees and inspections and can use fuel exempt from fuel taxes.”

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Smith says the current annual savings for a hydroexcavator operating as an RBM total $1,500 to $2,000 on license plate fees and $2,500 to $3,000 on the use of untaxed fuel.

In addition, an operator of an RBM — like an operator of a farm purpose vehicle — must be at least 16 years of age, but does not have to have a driver’s license.

65 years of exclusion
The Ontario exemption for RBMs dates back to 1949.

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“The original intent for excluding RBMs from the definition of a ‘motor vehicle’ was because they were not manufactured to, nor could they meet, federal manufacturing safety standards for vehicles operating on a highway — for example tires and lights,” says Ajay Woozageer, media liaison at MTO. “Their exclusion from certain HTA requirements was considered reasonable at the time because they operated at low speeds on the roadway and shoulder during highway construction or maintenance.”

Roger Winter, vice president of K. Winter Sanitation Inc., of Innisfil, Ontario, and past president of the Ontario Association of Sewage Industry Services says he’s pleased with the announcement.

“I think it’s a great accomplishment, and will make competition more fair in our industry,” he says. “Knowing that they have two years to conform to new industry standards will give all operators a chance to work up to the new regulations.”

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