Ever get the feeling there are more commercial vehicles on the road than ever before, with tractor trailers beating the pavement throughout all hours of the day and night, instead of the restricted hours as per the legislation that regulates it?

Did you know that container trucks are not weighed when they leave the Hamilton Docks?

Apart from the size of these vehicles – do we even know how much of an impact their weight puts on the island’s infrastructure, especially our bridges?

Details are contained in the 2019 Transport Green Paper released earlier this year “to stimulate debate on a range of options for strengthening the transportation sector to better plan for the future”.

Between November 2017 and December 2018, “thousands of complaints were received during the consultation period” from 21,567 respondents, “on various transport related matters and the dangerous driving behaviours”.

The “three arching themes” were: (i) safety, (ii) reliability and (iii) the desire for frictionless transport experiences.

Included in the top five of ten points in high demand was the call for more traffic enforcement to deter bad driving behaviours and more enforcement of heavy trucks on the roads.

“Bermuda has 32,400 residential units (4,907 more) compared to 27,493 in 1999,” the report said.

“There is roughly the same number of private cars on the road. However, the vehicles are larger, and there are more vehicles licensed in the larger categories.”

In 2018, there were 4,400 licensed commercial vehicles on our roads, some 338 less than the total recorded in 1999, when there were 4,062.

The Trucks Advisory Committee is responsible for reviewing applications and making recommendations to the Minister.

“As guided by the Department of Public Works, the maximum weight (gross vehicle weight with cargo) allowed on Bermuda’s roads and bridges is 58,000 lbs.”

“Container ships discharging in Bermuda set the maximum weight for 20 ft. and 40 ft. containers, as well as flat racks, at less than 50,00036 pounds.

“This does not include the weight for the tractor trailer, fuel and driver weight.

“Container ships discharging in Bermuda set the maximum load weight for 45 ft and 48 ft road trailers at 55,00037 pounds.

“This does not include the tractor trailer, fuel and driver weight. Or, any exceptions made by the shipping lines in connection to heavy commercial equipment, or bulk loads eg generators.”

Commercial trucks include light, intermediate and heavy trucks, including tank wagons (used for to carry bulk liquids) vehicles, tractors, trailers, tractor trailers and self-propelled construction and agriculture machines,

The number one concern cited by respondents: “There are too many large commercial trucks on the road”.

Other concerns raised, included:

  • tank wagons loaded with fuel are a serious fire hazard when drivers speed or get into an accident
  • vehicles carry chemicals and fuels that do not have specific or correct markings to indicate the makeup of the load
  • commercial vehicles (except LP) are being used as private vehicles
  • over-sized loads spill content on the road
  • heavy, non-essential trucks, tractor trailers, construction and agricultural machines travel during peak commuting times
  • loads are being carried that are higher than 13 feet without being properly covered

But the report also disclosed that to date, there are no scales “at our principal port of entry to verify the weight of vehicles (cargo, trailer, cab, fuel, driver) before they leave the dock, especially 48’ flat beds with imported steel, and 40’ containers, overweight vehicles may traverse our roads”.

On that note, there were concerns expressed that “overweight trucks damage Bermuda’s roads and bridges”, not to mention the “black smoke belching from diesel trucks which may cause health issues”.

“Specifically – diesel exhaust particles are a Group 1 carcinogen,” the report said.

Not surprisingly, stakeholders in the trucking business said the impact of commercial vehicles on our roads is more of “an issue of perception that trucks are a problem in Bermuda”.

The report also noted that “vehicle manufacturers are not making tractor trailers smaller” but “going green” would be “very expensive and unsustainable as EVs have a shorter life span of ten – 13 years versus fossil fuel vehicles which have a life span of 20+ years”.

“This claim regarding EVs is disputed by technical officers in the energy field”, however, and “excessive restrictions on trucks will result in higher operating costs which, in turn, will result in higher prices for goods and services”.

The survey revealed that 65 percent of the responders said: “Bermuda roads are not properly maintained” and 57 percent said that “they feel unsafe on Bermuda roads because of the road conditions” – 35 percent said “they felt unsafe because of the road congestion”.

The impact of “over-sized and overweight vehicles on the roads” was attributed however to mere speculation.

But it was also noted that tractor trailer drivers carrying “containers do not always adhere to the restricted hours policy, which seeks to ensure large vehicles are not on the road during rush hours”.

Under the Motor Car Act 1951, the Minister is required to “take into consideration the number of heavy trucks already at the time of the application authorised to be used by holders of permits, the reasonable needs of the public for transport facilities, the character and condition of the highways, the amenities of Bermuda and the safety, comfort and convenience of the community”.

The “maximum allowable weight on roads and bridges can range from 20,000 – 26,000 pounds in empty vehicle weight vs 33,001 – 81,038 pounds in gross vehicle weight”. (Note: Diesel fuel weighs approximately 7 pounds per gallon).

But the stakeholder consultation period “revealed that some commercial tractor trailers and flatbeds are leaving the Hamilton Docks overweight at 58,000+ pounds.

“In the absence of weigh stations, a ship’s manifest can be used to estimate weights,” the report added.

Under the Bermuda Police Service Aide Memoire Road Traffic and Parking Offences dated October 2010, a number of commercial vehicles, including construction machines, tractor trailers and a combination of tractors or trailers “are not allowed on Bermuda’s roads Monday to Friday between 0745 and 0915 and 1630 and 1800”.

“There are exceptions for vehicles leaving Dockyard at 0845 headed for Hamilton and farm tractors provided it is occasional and not abused, otherwise these exceptions may be withdrawn.

“However, this is a condition of the vehicle permit rather than legislation,” the report said.

Moving forward, stakeholders said the Government should consider implementing the following:

  • Fuel truck (tank wagon) drivers caught speeding over 35 Km/h should automatically have their commercial truck licence revoked and become disqualified from driving any truck for an extended period
  • Cap the number of trucks in each class
  • Require trucks with oversized loads to be escorted by Bermuda Police Service only, and introduce a fee for this service
  • Amend the Motor Car Act 1951 and the Road Traffic Act 1947 to prohibit the passage of large commercial vehicles on on Bermuda’s roads Monday to Friday between 0745 and 0915 and 1630 and 1800. This will formalize in law the current policy which is set out as a condition of the vehicle permit
  • Consider a ten-year plan to transition all commercial trucks to be hybrid or electric powered to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. (BELCO is leading by example with their twelve hybrid bucket trucks which are eco-friendly, durable and safe).\
  • Execute a plan to reduce the number of trucks on the road over the next ten years
  • Install weigh stations at the docks in Hamilton, Tiger Bay and Marginal Wharf and implement a mandatory weigh-in for all vehicles, including cargo, leaving docks
  • Restrict over-sized vehicles so that they travel on the road only between 8pm and 6am
  • Prohibit tractor trailers from driving along Front Street, Reid Street, Queen Street, Church Street, and Victoria Street in Hamilton
  • Prohibit all commercial trucks, Community Service and Public Service Vehicles (except Light Private vans) from parking overnight at private residences
  • Phase out GOB’s fleet of vehicles and replace with electric or hybrid vehicles

We’ll have more in subsequent reports.