Don’t let anyone try to convince you the rural way is a simpler way of living, September’s Hamilton truck route sub-committee meeting proved that its complex, just in a different way.
After many meetings of discussions, councillors agreed to amend City’s truck route bylaw to change to allow MTO farm license plated trucks to operate anywhere within the rural boundaries.
(Video Above, debate starts at 5:25 and runs until 21:58)
Codify a Practice That Wasn’t Written Into Law
Councillors Brenda Johnson (Ward 11) and Judi Partridge (Ward 15) lead the discussion at committee, starting with a simple premise – allow farm trucks to move between farms except from the truck route restrictions of the local roads bylaw.
Currently, all trucks in the rural area are required to use the shortest route from each destination to and from designated truck routes when travelling between locations. The councillors sought to make a simple amendment to formally allow for trucks carrying agriculture goods and equipment to use the shortest rural route when travelling between farms.
This sounds simple enough – a truck which needs to access a farm clearly has the need to go off designated truck routes and use the rural concession roads where the farms are located. It makes little logical sense to require trucks to drive extra kilometres to connect to the nearest designated truck route, then back to the next farm to be serviced.
Here’s where it gets complicated – managing the exemption and keeping farm servicing trucks from using urban roads in Binbrook, Waterdown, and the assorted urbanized settlement areas of Flamborough.
The Hamilton Police Service enforces truck route prohibitions, and police officers already have many duties and hundreds of laws to both enforce and understand. Creating a patchwork of rural routes with a patchwork of trucking exemptions will make it impossible for police to reasonably and cost-effectively enforce the truck route bylaw in suburban and rural areas.
The committee had to find a way to make the exemption simple and minimize the length of the amendment.
Ticket Issues Under Existing By-Law Can Be Hard to Cancel
At present, there is what Councillor Johnson described as a “understanding” that farm trucks are not ticketed for being off truck routes and when they are, the tickets are cancelled by the Hamilton Police.
“In the past when farmers got pulled over and ticketed, we just contact the [Hamilton Police] crime manager and it all get sorted out before it gets to court,” Johnson said at committee.
“The last time this happened to [named farmer], it was an absolute perfect storm. Called the crime manager and the crime manager tried to get a hold of the officer. The officer was on vacation and the ticket couldn’t be rescinded.”
“Thought investigation, we found it [the exception] wasn’t never written.”
Johnson says there is a need to write the practice of allowing farm trucks into the truck bylaw, while at the same time ensuring that farm trucks remain in the rurals.
How do “we reflect that in the bylaw”, Johnson asked staff.
What followed was a substantive discussion of the challenges of codifying the practice to ensure police are able to reasonably enforce a practical bylaw. Granting an exemption to farm trucks must be done city-wide under the current bylaw.
The Solution Pending Council Approval
The committee decided to amend the bylaw by adding the rural area to the truck route map as a special exception zone. Any truck with MTO farm license plates will be allowed to operate on any rural road that does not have weight restrictions.
The current shortest route requirements will be enforced on all other trucks in the rural area. Councillor Robert Pasuta (Ward 14), a farmer himself, noted that many trucks carrying between farms do not have MTO farm plates and some don’t qualify for them. Noting the complexity of trying to add these trucks to the exception, he said the amendment was the best the City could do in the circumstances.
The truck-route sub-committee recommendation will go to standing committee in two weeks and be subject to a ratification vote at the September 28, 2016 City Council meeting.