BC’s trucking industry is subject to an antiquated, time consuming and overly complex permitting system. The current system causes significant delays, costs and uncertainty for the trucking industry, is harmful to BC’s competitiveness as a Gateway economy, results in greater GHG emissions, provokes non-compliance and related safety concerns, and diverts revenue from local businesses at a time when economic activity is urgently needed.
BC’s Heavy Haul/Oversize-Overweight (OS-OW) vehicle sector is critical to the supply chain for major projects in BC and western Canada. These projects are a significant source of economic development and jobs. However, the trucking industry is dealing with significant delays and uncertainty in servicing these projects as a result of permit processing times exceeding 25 days for extraordinary loads. Permits for the same types of loads are being issued in neighbouring jurisdictions, such as Alberta and Washington, much more quickly, and in some cases the same day.
The OS-OW vehicle sector encompasses vehicles with dimensions that exceed legal limits and are in excess of 27.5m in length, 4.15m in height, 2.6m in width and exceed a weight of 63,500 kg. In BC these loads are time restricted to night only, with large loads restricted to midnight to 5pm through the Lower Mainland. While these loads are often not seen by the public, they are critical to major project development. Large, major industrial projects depend on having oversized loads delivered to their sites. For example, oversized carriers move important pieces of equipment for major infrastructure projects, such as turbines for the Site C dam, large power generators used in natural gas process facilities, pipelines, mines, wind turbines, and specialized equipment for the Canada LNG site and bridge beams.
Permit delays lead to significant costs for carriers/shippers due to resulting daily storage fees, major project delays, and diversion of cargo ships to American ports. It has been noted that as much as 85 percent of imported project cargo loads destined for Western Canadian provinces is being shipped from American ports. Shipping through American ports to avoid BC permitting delays and to ensure certainty in the process can add up to 14 extra days at sea (for goods originating from Asia) and 15+ additional days of land transportation, resulting in additional transportation costs in excess of $200,000 for oversized loads. This diversion leads to significant lost revenue and jobs in BC at a time when economic stimulus is desperately needed. Shipping though American ports instead of BC directly also results in a significant increase in transportation emissions associated with transporting loads from distant US ports to their final destination in Canada.
BC’s provincial permitting system is antiquated, primarily manual and paper-based, with insufficient staff resources to efficiently deliver, review and process applications. More importantly, it is governed by a regulatory framework that is far too complex. Alberta’s regulatory requirements are approximately 250 pages, Ontario’s is a 30-page manual, while BC’s regulatory requirements are around 800 pages1. The Province of Alberta developed an online system that streamlines and grants municipal and provincial permits electronically 2 , including permits for OS-OW vehicles and often within a day. The State of Washington has similarly made such an online portal available3. Despite calls from the BC OS-OW vehicle sector and the industry more broadly, little progress towards addressing systemic inefficiencies has been made and, as a result, the international shipping community continues to divert cargo away from BC in order to avoid costly delays and uncertainty. The international and regional perception that BC should be avoided due inefficient permitting processes has resulted in significant lost economic opportunities for British Columbia, BC ports and transportation companies and unnecessary transportation-related GHG emissions.
A high percentage of carriers are moving loads in the province without a permit and it is likely that the complexity and inefficiency of BC’s permit system and the length of time required to obtain a permit is causing the level of non-compliance for over-dimensional load movements to increase. This means legitimate safety and infrastructure-related issues that the permit system is designed to consider are not being addressed for many of the over-dimensional load movements taking place in BC.
It is critical that the BC Government support its OS-OW vehicle sector and the broader gateway by addressing the inefficiencies of the provincial permit system. In additional to reviewing and simplifying the regulatory framework, one consideration could be given to providing a general authorization for term permits that are legal weights with the following dimensions, which account for nearly 43 percent of BC’s permits: ≤ 3.2m width, ≤ 27.5 m length, ≤4.30 m height.
THE CHAMBER RECOMMENDS
That the Provincial Government:
- In consultation with the trucking industry and relevant stakeholders, review and amend the current regulatory framework with the core principle of ensuring safety and moving to a much simpler, commodity agnostic permitting approach where feasible.
- Expedite the development of an online permit system with the ability to support multijurisdictional permitting.
1 BC Trucking Association. (December 2019). Bulletin: BCTA Urges MoTI to Act on Inadequate OS-OW Permit System. Online. Accessed on March 2, 2021. https://www.bctrucking.com/bulletin/2019/12/16/bcta-urges-moti-act-inadequate-os-ow-permit- system
2 Government of Alberta. Ministry of Transportation. Webpage. Accessed on March 2, 2021. https://www.trans.gov.ab.ca/TravisWebLogin/welcome.htm