Potholes: Your Not-So-Subtle Spring Thaw Reminder

Potholes: Your Not-So-Subtle Spring Thaw Reminder

It's a typical spring day, sunny with a chance of a torrential downpour. You are driving your mini cooper across a familiar road, listening to your favorite tunes. Just as the chorus comes in, your speed seems to somehow pick up, then BAM! Your tiny car nearly gets swallowed whole by an enormous pothole. After you assess the damage to your tires, you may wonder, why do these potholes suddenly appear every time you are near? In this blog, we will explain how potholes come to be and how each year, a measure referred to as Spring Thaw is implemented to prevent them from damaging our roads and your tires in some climates. And since we're here and in the trade business, let's assess its significant impact on commercial transport.

Thawing Roads Are Weak

Depending on the climate, road networks can be subjected to additional wear and tear as seasons change. With the warmer temperatures of Spring, frost, which permeates the foundation of roads, will thaw. The resulting water finds its way into the crevasse in the pavement, weakening it by 30 - 70%. As hefty vehicles travel over these weakened roads, they break down, causing cracks and potholes. Commercial truck and trailer axle weight is significantly reduced during these periods to preserve roadways.

How To Save Money on Shipping During Spring Thaw

Spring Thaw Preserves Weak Roads But Hinders Commercial Transport

Each March, specific jurisdictions will implement weight limits on commercial transport trucks traveling over their roadways. For example, in Quebec, the 2023 Spring Thaw restrictions begin on March 21st. As a result, commercial trailers will need to temporarily reduce their weighted load capacity by 8 - 20%.

The Penalties For Not Reducing Axle Weights During Spring Thaw

A 20% reduction in load capacity can have a negative impact on commercial carriers. Take, for example, a truck that typically hauls multiple shipments of goods on one trailer for multiple shippers (less-than-trailer-load or LTL for short). They rely on utilizing the entire length, width, and height of their trailer and the weight capacity of each axle to maximize profits, which Spring Thaw impacts.

Not all states and provinces address Spring Thaw the same, as not all have the same climates. In some cases, Departments of Transport may not implement Spring Thaw zones at all.

Spring Thaw Affected Regions and Durations

Below is a list of regional Departments of Transport. Refer to each to understand if they implement thaw measures. In most cases, weight restrictions will ease as soon as the temperature rises in late Spring. Be sure to reference Canadian and US Frost Laws for applicable Spring Thaw Canada dates.

Canada Frost Laws 

US Thaw Laws

Penalty Of Spring Thaw Non-Compliance

Since all commercial transport units must report to regulatory inspection locations, otherwise known as scales, many rule-breakers will incur extra costs to remove overloaded trailers.

Just when you think potholes were the worst part of this story, the talk of extra charges and undelivered loads comes in.

When stopped at a scale and found in violation of Spring Thaw weight limits, overloaded trailers must remove part of their load to continue traveling through that region. A third-party crane or forklift (depending on the amount of weight to be removed) would then be hired to come to the scale location and remove part of the load. The portion of the shipment will remain at the scale location until it can be recovered and ultimately delivered. The costs of this snowball quite easily with variables such as dispatching another carrier to pick up the partial load, wait time, and extra loading times. And let's not forget that the scale will also issue a hefty fine for not complying with the weight restrictions.

These extra charges can be avoided, however, with proper planning.

The Freight Management Tips For Spring Thaw 

The best way to prepare for transporting goods will always be adequate planning and assessing the thaw restrictions. A freight manager can assist you with this.

  1. Before loading, they will take the necessary steps to assist you with understanding the weight restrictions of each jurisdiction the truck will be traveling in. 
  2. When planning the traveling route, they will note each region's weight restriction and provide instructions to the carrier on the maximum allowable weight that can be loaded on the trailer. This weight is determined using the least amount allowed in any of the states or provinces within the route. 
  3. The freight manager will troubleshoot any potential issues that the carrier faces and report the solution to you.

The important takeaway is knowing that not all provinces or states have the same weight restrictions. For example, Quebec has three different thaw zones, each with its own thaw weight limits and durations, which will likely differ from the weight restrictions in Saskatchewan. To ensure you will not be overweight, you must identify the region with the lowest weight allowance and load the trailer accordingly. 

In instances of LTL loads, you must factor in delivery destinations (where the weight will be removed from the shipment) against Spring Thaw allowable weights. For example, if you are delivering to two destinations, one in Ontario and another in Quebec, you may find that after loading both shipments, your trailer is too heavy for Quebec. However, it wouldn’t matter since you are delivering part of the load in Ontario and, therefore, will be within allowable weight limits for the last delivery in Quebec. 

This can be tricky, so it’s best to take your time reviewing the details or to engage with a freight manager to work with you.

So now you know where these pesky potholes come from and why they are avoided with Spring Thaw measures. Should you require ground freight management, please reach out to obtain a quote.

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PCB Group

PCB Customs Brokers, PCB Freight Management

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.