FORMER SOLDIER FIGHTS TO PRESERVE ARMY TRUCKS MLVW
By David Pugliese,
The Ottawa Citizen
March 23, 2009
A Cantley man and former soldier is in a battle with the Defence Department over his efforts to preserve a bit of military history.
Gilles Chartrand is trying to convince Defence Minister Peter Mac-Kay to change the rules he says prevent surplus army trucks from being put on the road.
Chartrand, who collects and restores Canadian military trucks, drives the vehicles in veterans’ parades. His latest project centres on what is known as the Medium Logistics Vehicle Wheeled, a Canadian Forces truck built in 1982 that is being sold by the government as surplus.
Chartrand has two of the trucks, built by Bombardier, but says he is not allowed to put them on the road.
The Defence Department, however, disagrees and in an e-mail stated the trucks can be made roadworthy.
“These Medium Logistics Vehicles Wheeled (MLVW) were issued for sale as ‘non-repairable, for parts only,’ without vehicle ownership papers,” the e-mail stated. “Should a buyer wish to drive the truck on the road, they must comply with their provincial regulations, as they would with any other vehicle, through their province’s normal licensing process, including safety checks and vehicle registration.”
If those provincial standards are met, then a licence to use the trucks on the road can be obtained, according to the Defence Department.
Chartrand says that is not the case. In the sale of these particular trucks, the Defence Department’s designation as “non-repairable” means that they can only be used for scrap.
“The safety inspection people will not even let us in the door as long as the trucks are deemed ‘non-repairable’,” Chartrand said. “All we’re asking from DND is to remove that designation. Let us take it to safety and we’ll pass the safety.”
Chartrand has written MacKay and his member of Parliament, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, in the hopes they can reverse the Defence Department’s “non-repairable” designation on the trucks.
The two politicians have acknowledged receipt of his letter, but nothing more, he says.
A volunteer at the Canadian War Museum, Chartrand uses the restored vehicles to teach the public about the country’s military history. The former master warrant officer, who served as a mechanical engineer in the Canadian Forces, has his whole family involved in what he calls his expensive, but ultimately rewarding, hobby.
His son and his wife, Carolle, also a retired Canadian Forces member, are involved in the restorations, while another son collects military radios. “For us it’s a hobby, but it’s serious,” Chartrand said. “We’re trying to preserve some military history in the vehicles.”
Chartrand’s vehicles were in an Ottawa parade as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations for the end of the Second World War. He is also involved in a veterans breakfast at the end of May, where money raised will go to help injured Canadian soldiers who served in Afghanistan.
Chartrand said the U.S. government sells essentially the same truck on the surplus market — about 100 a day — and allows those to be driven on the road.
He said the Canadian-made version is far superior, with a different engine and extra safety features. They sell for between $5,500 and $7,500. So far, about 15 have been bought by collectors, Chartrand said. “We’re not talking about a whole lot of people here. It’s not like an army of trucks is going to be on the road.”
According to the Defence Department e-mail, before the trucks are sent to auction, the Canadian Forces strips the vehicles for any spare parts that are deemed useful for the remaining trucks in the fleet. “All vehicles are sold in an ‘as-is’ condition,” the e-mail states. “This means that there is no warranty and no guarantees associated with the sale of the vehicle.”
The army is now in the process of trying to replace the trucks. In 2004, the Defence Department warned in an internal report that the Medium Logistic Vehicle Wheeled truck could be hit by a “catastrophic” failure at any time because of poor brakes and steering systems.
But Chartrand said despite what the Defence Department claims, the vehicles are not only repairable, but in excellent condition. “Apart from a little bit of body work, these trucks are perfect,” he said of his vehicles. “You just walk in there and you hit the starter button and that engine fires right up.”