Walmart's 60-foot supercube draws a double take

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 11/9/2012

A pilot program in Canada has led to the innovation of a 60-foot trailer that is taller and holds 30 percent more capacity than a standard 53-footer. Walmart Canada is on the verge of rolling out the first so-called supercubes on some dedicated runs, but the vehicle and pilot program are catching heat from trucking and carrier associations.

Although the supercube is taller and employs a longer trailer, the overall configuration still falls within the maximum length for commercial vehicles, according to a statement by Walmart Canada. That is accomplished because the company is employing a small cabover with no sleeper. In place of the sleeper is an extra container for payload known as a drom box.

Photo courtesy of Walmart Canada

Walmart Canada has unveiled the 60-foot supercube trailer as part of a pilot program

The designer is Ontario-based Innovative Trailer Design, who built the supercube prototype specifically for Walmart Canada in response to the pilot program.

The trailer has two decks, one at 126 inches and the other at 110 inches in height. Total inside area is 5,100 cubic feet, which is 30 percent larger than a standard trailer at 3,900 cubic feet.

The supercube also employs lane departure warnings, back-up cameras, side skirts, a roll-stability system and something called “automatically generated risk management,” which churns out reports, Walmart Canada says.

Walmart’s opinion of the supercube isn’t exactly shared by others in the industry.

OOIDA advocates for current freezes on truck sizes and weights. The Association and small-business truckers are also concerned that the advocates of longer-heavier trucks could use pilot programs like the supercube to push their agenda with lawmakers and regulators.

Even the Ontario Trucking Association, which has among its goals a so-called responsible use of longer-combination vehicles on Canadian highways, is against the Walmart supercube.

According to a report by Truck News, the OTA’s board held a meeting and passed a motion saying the supercube “does not enjoy the support of the trucking industry” like the move to 53-foot trailers did in the past. The OTA said it is against the preferential treatment given to Walmart Canada to haul 30 percent more freight than competitors’ trucks.

Fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions seem to be on everyone’s minds these days. Walmart Canada claims the supercube reduces impact on the environment by using fewer trucks.

That worries OOIDA because it allows environmental regulators to insert themselves into the truck-design business.

Canada, like the U.S., is working on regulations for fuel-economy savings for heavy commercial vehicles.

In 2010, President Obama ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take the lead on fuel-economy standards for commercial vehicles. The first round of U.S. standards, affecting model years 2014-2018, calls for a 20 percent improvement in fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission. Canada aligns closely with the EPA goals.

EPA is working on the second round, targeting model years 2018 and beyond.

“The concern is the track record that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has with taking what companies like Walmart and major fleets do as the ultimate answer for the entire trucking industry and imposing it through regulation,” said OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Ryan Bowley.

“The EPA has done a poor job understanding that trucks haul more than TVs, groceries, and kids’ swimsuits, and have to haul it over more diverse conditions than between Walmart stores and distribution centers,” Bowley said.

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