Canadian Fleet Workshop: The Road to Change

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From winter tire usage to the legalization of marijuana, Canada fleet professionals explored a broad range of topics at this year’s I&E. 

Fleet professionals who attended the Canadian Fleet Workshop at this year’s I&E in Tampa, Florida walked away with keen insight into two very different areas of interest.

The Workshop began with a presentation by Vip Kaushal, Corporate Account Manager for Kal Tire. Kaushal talked about winter tires and tire safety, with a focus on a new tire category of tires all-weather.

He explained that weather related collisions in Canada cost approximately $1.1 Billion a year-a number that could be reduced if all vehicles were equipped with the right kind of tires.

Although winter is a given in our country, Kaushal said that 30 percent of Canadian drivers don’t own winter tires. Most say that all-seasons are good enough. “But those people are wrong,” Kaushal added.

“People think they have traction control or that they’re driving a 4×4,” he said. “But the tires are the only thing that connects you to the road. So if your tires are not good enough, none of those other technologies matter.”

Winter tires, M+S

The benefits of winter tires are clear. “Winter tires are made of a much softer compound than all-season tires,” Kaushal explained. “All-season tires start getting hard at about seven degrees Celsius, while a winter tire stays pliable and soft and able to create that traction, up to -40 degrees. So think about that when someone says they can drive with all-season tires all year round and get the same level of safety. That all-season tire is as hard as a rock when it gets to -20 degrees or lower.”

Kaushal warns fleet managers not to be fooled by the Mud + Snow designation on the sidewall of the tire. “M+S was put on tires back in the 1950s,” he explained. “Everyone feels pretty confident since it’s ‘Mud + Snow,’ but that’s only a tread design designation. There’s no testing involved. They’re not tested for traction or for stopping power. Virtually all tires meet M+S requirements. That designation can be added to any tire, by any manufacturer, without having to do any type of testing. So essentially M+S tires are all-season tires.”

All-weather tires

If you’re looking for a true “all-season” tire, Kaushal recommends taking a closer look at a category of tires that falls under the “all-weather” designation. “It’s going to get you the traction you need in the winter, and you can run it through the summer as well without worrying about it wearing out quicker. The compound is made to withstand some of that heat.”

With an all-weather tire you don’t have the extra costs the downtime, storage concerns, missing tires, etc. However, there is a compromise. “The compound is flexible below seven degrees Celsius,” Kaushal explained,  “but while a winter tire is good up to -40, these tires are good up ‘til -25 or -30.”

All-weather tires have aggressive tread designs and very good siping. Most importantly, they come with the same Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol you’ll find on dedicated winter tires.

Marijuana legislation

Following the tire presentation, Peter Nogalo, Marketing Manager for ARI, took the stage to talk about Canada’s impending marijuana legislation and what it will mean for fleet managers.

“Currently there are 26 U.S. states or jurisdictions, as well as the entire country of Canada, where medicinal marijuana is legal,” Nogalo explained. “There are now eight U.S. States (and Canada is coming) where pure recreational usage is now legal. We need to get in front of this before it gets in front of us.”

Nogalo explained that the recreational use of marijuana is set to be legalized in Canada by July 1st, 2018. “That’s the date they’re shooting for. The legal age would be 18. Personal possession will be limited to 30 grams, or up to four plants per household. And each province will regulate the retail distribution.”

Implications for road safety

Initial research from B.C. and some western states where marijuana is legal shows that there is a 36 percent reduction in reaction time when marijuana is paired with alcohol, Nogalo said. “Marijuana on its own is less problematic, alcohol on its own is problematic, alcohol and marijuana together are significantly problematic. It’s equivalent to a 1.4 blood alcohol level, which is almost double the federal limit.”

There’s also a two times greater risk of crashing with acute cannabis use. “All of this to say that there is an issue, particularly for those who are operating fleets,” he added.

According to the Canadian Medical Association, Nogalo explained, impairment lasts for four hours after inhalation, six hours after oral consumption, eight hours if the user experiences euphoria, and up to 24 hours in some extreme cases. That’s a range that may be difficult for fleets to manage.

“Another issue to keep in mind,” Nogalo added, “is that the government intends to change the standards for roadside testing. So essentially, before a police officer can ask you to take a breathalyzer test, he or she has to have some measure of cause. But the significant change the government is looking at is removing the requirement for probable cause to request a roadside sobriety test whether that be for alcohol or for marijuana.”

Fleet implications

As we get closer to the implementation of all these changes, fleet managers will want to prepare accordingly. “Clearly there are policy implications,” Nogalo said. “Not just fleet policy, but HR policy. Previously you may have had strict language around illicit drug use. Well these drugs are not illicit anymore. There’s also the medicinal angle. If you have a script from your doctor saying you’re allowed to use this, what does that mean when it comes to an employer-provided vehicle? “

As fleet operators we need to get our mind around this. We need to look at our policies, look at the legislation. We need to educate our drivers regarding changes to roadside sobriety testing. We need to train managers, involve HR, involve legal and really connect with NAFA and others as we get closer to the implementation of this legislation.”

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