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Shipping goods during spring thaw

Carriers shipping goods across Canada and the northern U.S. during spring can face difficult driving conditions and significant truck weight limitations. Rapid temperature changes during the spring thaw cause some roads to weaken, making them unsuitable for heavy freight. 

The thaw increases the risk of road deterioration as the ground and ice beneath soften and melt. To protect infrastructure against serious damage, government organizations announce spring thaw road restrictions that limit the weight that trucks are allowed to haul.

Violating weight restrictions can lead to serious penalties, such as fines and impounding overweight vehicles. Businesses that move goods to regions with weight limitations should adjust shipping plans to prevent unexpected delays and increased costs. 

Spring thaw shipping regulations in Canada and the U.S.

Cargo shipping during spring thaw typically impacts colder areas with lower population densities instead of larger cities and warmer climates. Cold regions experience seasonal thaws that melt and freeze moisture quickly, causing road structures and substructures to expand and weaken. This forces regions to reduce the amount of weight allowed on roads during thaws. BLog (2)

Regulations change from one area to the next, depending on variables such as local weather conditions and road testing, frost depth readings, and highway classification. In provinces like Quebec, where large temperature changes and deep frost coincide in spring, local regions may significantly restrict the weight of truck shipments.

Canadian provinces manage spring road weight calculations and restrictions for their own highways, with some municipalities managing road regulations for local thaws. In the United States, the spring weight restrictions mostly impact states that share a border with Canada. Local U.S. jurisdictions typically determine specific rules for load restrictions during thaws instead of federal or state bodies. Some areas may experience road weight restrictions for five or six weeks, while other areas may have spring thaw regulations that last for a few months.

Spring thaw shipping regulations in Canada - 2024

With the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador, provinces publish spring thaw updates for seasonal loads and trucking weights allowed on their roads. You can find the 2024 update for spring thaw regulations for these provinces on their websites:

Some provinces list different zones that determine frost road restrictions, while other provinces publish detailed maps that let you check whether or not your specific route is restricted. The penalties and fines for exceeding the maximum cargo payload also change from province to province. In some cases, the truck can be impounded and prevented from moving until another truck arrives to split the load and comply with weight limits, adding significant costs to the delivery.

Avoiding delays and unexpected shipping costs during spring thaw

Planning ahead is typically the best way to avoid shipping problems during spring thaw. If possible, arranging transportation for goods before and after road restrictions take place is the best way to ensure timely, cost-effective deliveries.

Businesses that must ship goods during spring thaw restrictions should remain aware of weight limits and stay on top of the latest announcements for dates and locations. Doing so can help you plan shipments that stay within weight limits while ensuring timely delivery.

Developing strong relationships with experienced shippers and freight forwarders can help importers seamlessly navigate the challenges of moving goods across Canada and the United States. Let an experienced professional handle the details and keep your shipments on time and on track. Contact one of our customs brokers to learn more.

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