Costs Of Being Unaware Of Spring Thaw

The experienced exporter was caught by surprise. Some time ago, early in the middle of March, a large exporter of frozen food products in Quebec loaded a container with their product being exported to Australia.

There was nothing unusual about the load. The company loaded its normal 26 metric tonnes (57,300 lbs) in a 40 foot refrigerated container. This is well within the maximum cargo payload for the container at over 29 metric tonnes. However, this was the middle of March and spring thaw rules had just come into effect.

The truck load was stopped at a scale some 50 kilometers from the shipper’s plant. Based on the weight of the container, the department of highways decided it could not be moved until enough cargo was removed from the container for it to comply with the road weight limitations. The shipper arranged to have a second truck and extra labour meet the container at the scale, remove enough product and redistribute the remaining product into a second container.

After losing a day and an additional $1,500 in costs, the container was adjusted and able to continue its journey to the ship. In addition to the adjustment inside the container, the shipper had to change all documents associated with the container, which resulted in a one week delay of the final delivery to Australia. The customer was very unhappy due to their tight deadline.

What Are Spring Thaw Rules?

All of this, of course, could have been avoided had the shipper been aware of the spring thaw rules. But what exactly are spring thaw rules? Why do they exist? How does it affect cargo movements?

In some climates the road network is subject to particularly harsh conditions. In Quebec, for example, the temperature can vary as much as 60 degrees celsius during the year. In winter, frost depths in northern climates can be as much as 3.5 meters, well below the sub-foundation of the pavement. As the frost thaws, the melting ice seeps into the foundation and the roadway to weaken substantially. The weakened road surface retains only 30-70% of its summer resistance, and truck loads must be lighter to ensure safety.

Spring thaw weight limits have been announced in Quebec for 2019. Effective dates run from March 11 - May 24 and are broken into three zones based on geographic location. Cargo weight limits are severely restricted, and weight must be evenly distributed across all trailer axles. Each Canadian province will have varying degrees of spring thaw rules.

In Ontario and Manitoba, the province is divided into three geographic zones. Spring thaw restrictions on commercial vehicles usually begin in March and run as long as June 15th depending on the zone location.

Saskatchewan, has so many rural roads commercial trucks are completely restricted off of some of the smaller rural routes.

Both Alberta and BC have their own dates and weight limits during the spring.

Expert Advice From Trade Professionals

With so many different rules between the provinces, shippers should check with their professional freight forwarder who have experience moving freight in Canada before loading containers overseas, or suffer the consequences of delays and cost overruns. You can contact PCB Freight Management for all of your freight forwarding needs.

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About Author
John Doble

While we strive for accuracy in all our communications, as the Importer of Record it is incumbent upon your company to ensure that you are aware of the requirements under the new regulations so that you maintain compliance as always.