Changes to Alberta’s Heavy Haul Standards

Executive Summary

Recent changes have been made to the standards for hauling heavy loads on Alberta’s designated highways. This change will allow, as a matter of standard practice, the maximum allowable load to be increased from 375,000 lbs to 500,000 lbs by the use of a three file trailer system. This change comes after considerable effort on behalf of the Construction Owners Association of Alberta (COAA) in conjunction with ACR and the Consulting Engineers of Alberta (CEA).

This change will allow for heavier and more complete construction modules to be shipped from major manufacturing centers to areas in the field where the facilities are to be located. Allowing more modularized construction will reduce the capital costs of new projects, increase safety for workers and reduce environmental emissions.

Background

The use of modular construction has been pioneered and perfected in Alberta as a means of constructing the capital intensive projects required to develop our resources. One of the limitation of this approach was the standard weight limits allowed on the provinces heavy/high load corridor of 375,000 lbs. By increasing the weight limits, more complete modules could be constructed in mod yards in the Edmonton and central Alberta region reducing the amount of field time required. This move has been demonstrated to significantly reduce capital costs by as much as 10%. Statistics have also shown that employees in mod yards work in a significantly safer environment than field assembly.

A study was undertaken as a joint effort between the COAA, ACR and CEA to determine if new trailer configuration could be used to overcome this weight limit. The concept for using a three train axel system was raised as a means of increasing weights while maintaining the same ground pressure/strain on the highway asphalt systems. Three train configurations have been used before in Alberta for extra heavy pieces of equipment, however approval was only granted after special, case by case consideration. To allow companies and engineers to utilize heavier modules in their designs, a more permanent and reliable system was needed to ensure that authorization would be given.

Part of this process included extensive cooperative work with Alberta Transportation and cumulated in a pilot test in the spring of 2016. After this test proved that the system would work, further discussions were held to lay out the process for using these heavier modules as part of the regularly approved system of permits in Alberta.

In the late fall of 2017, an agreement was reached with Alberta Transportation on the permitting process for the use of loads of up to 500,000 lbs.

Process for Permitting

Companies who wish to consider utilizing the heavier modules configuration can, at the design and engineering phase, gain pre-approval from Alberta Transportation. It should be noted that conditions must be right for the movement of these heavier modules.

The process and key contacts within Alberta Transportation are summarized in the bulletin available here.