For Edmonton hydrovac operators, April and May mean less layers, muddy job sites, and thinner gloves.
It also means the annual spring road ban.
Axel weight limits are imposed beginning in spring and last until the end of May or beginning of June, as different counties and municipalities enact their own dates.
Most asphalt roads are limited to 75% of axel capacity during this time, and some are restricted to 50%. Gravel roads are not usually restricted but can be if engineers decide conditions warrant it.
Why is there a spring road ban?
As temperatures rise and frost melts out of the roadbed, the road becomes like a sponge. Water becomes trapped between the surface and the still-frozen layer below. During this time, roads become especially fragile and are easily damaged by heavily-loaded hydrovac trucks. This results in the cracks and potholes which Edmonton is notorious for. The spring road ban helps to minimize damage to secondary highways and municipal roads during this time when roads are at their most vulnerable. Even when the highways appear dry, the road base material is still weak and damage can end up costing millions to repair.
Why do start and end dates vary from year to year?
The start and end dates are dependent on the weather, frost levels, current condition of the roads, and the potential for damage. A long, cold winter will result in a later start. A warm, wet winter can trigger an earlier start.
Engineers are able to determine the current frost levels using probes which are buried into the road base at different depths. These measurements help to determine the start and end dates of the spring ban.
Does the spring ban apply to all vehicles?
No. Vehicles under 5000 kgs, school busses, farm tractors, and government vehicles such as for maintenance and emergency are exempted.
How can hydrovac operators plan their routes and stay up to date on restrictions affecting them?
To see where these bans are in effect at any time, interactive maps of each county are available on county websites. The city of Edmonton map can be found here. Users can zoom in on the map for a more detailed look at an area.
Toll free road ban information for provincial highways can be obtained by dialing 1-855-ROADBAN (1-855-762-3226).
Finally, the Alberta Transportation website concerning provincial road bans is located here.
How much are fines?
Fines start at $39 per 100 kgs over the limit and work up to $54 per 100 kgs over. That can add up quickly with some fines being over $10,000.