Spring is in the air, the birds are chirping, the ground is thawing and the rural roads are a mess! Throughout most of the year, gravel roads (or dirt roads by slang) make for an enjoyable drive. However, early in the spring, when the frost begins to melt, they end up looking more like a mud bowl and less like a road every day. The condition of the road can become so bad, that the Ministry of Transportation can close the road and annually imposes half-load season restrictions. During this period from roughly March to mid-July, the road access is limited to certain weight classes of vehicles. In particular, construction vehicles like delivery trucks, cement trucks and dump trucks famously carry half-full trailers of their cargo to avoid becoming overweight. The restrictions are put in place to protect the roads and their foundation which can become damaged by uneven loads while the frost thaws from the road bed. Farmers can normally avoid being on the roads with heavy equipment during the worst of the period since their fields are equally wet and impassable.
While the condition of the road can cause excessive wear and tear to vehicles, the road condition recovers fairly quickly. The frost normally melts in early May and the road bed dries up and returns to an enjoyable condition. Tractors can get back on the roads and start readying the fields and seeding their crops in advance of the summer. In the meantime, if you notice any courier trucks a little muddier than normal this time of year, it probably means they have some fresh flour onboard and just braved the dirt roads of Southern Ontario to keep food moving from our farm to your table.