Chohan Freight Forwarders has earned the dubious distinction of being one of the most disliked and widely ridiculed trucking companies in all of Canada. This is an achievement not to be downplayed.
I’m referring to the Surrey, B.C.-based trucking fleet that had its National Safety Code certificate stripped in the province of B.C. after striking six overpasses in the province over the past two years. Bridge strikes have become an epidemic in B.C., where 31 such collisions have occurred over the past two years, but no fleet has done so with such frequency as Chohan.
The incidents have even spawned the creation of an automated account on the social media platform X, which counts the number of days since the latest B.C. bridge strike. As of this writing, there have been four days without a bridge strike in B.C., according to @MVOverpassDWI, and 17 days since Chohan’s latest.
These high-profile smash-ups were well publicized and the province acted swiftly in naming and shaming the culprit and stripping it of its operating authority in the province. But keen-eyed motorists noted just days after reports of its suspension that Chohan trucks were still, in fact, running the province’s highways.
Alberta trucks move in
When contacted by media, the company said those were its Alberta-domiciled trucks, which were not affected by the B.C. suspension. Understandably, B.C. regulators – not to mention taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill for bridge maintenance and repairs – were unimpressed.
The audaciousness of Chohan to return to the scene of the crime so soon, and its ability to find shippers willing to entrust their oversized loads to its map- and measurements-challenged management and drivers, exposed a major loophole the province now wants to see closed.
B.C. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming penned a letter to his federal counterpart Pablo Rodriguez, which explained that a province’s ability to suspend only those carriers licensed in its own jurisdiction doesn’t adequately account for the interprovincial nature of trucking.
There’s currently no way for a province to prevent a carrier from continuing to operate within its borders using trucks plated elsewhere, as Chohan appears to have done after being suspended by B.C.
It’s a valid complaint that should be addressed. Carriers shouldn’t be able to dodge suspensions by swapping out local trucks with those domiciled elsewhere, just as they shouldn’t be permitted to register their trucks in distant jurisdictions for the benefit of lower insurance premiums.
I don’t pretend to have all the details behind Chohan’s spat of span strikes. Were erroneous permits issued? Did drivers mistakenly go off-route? Did they fail to properly measure their load? Does it matter? Once is an accident, six is a habit.
And it appears in B.C., six strikes and you’re out. Less, going forward, thanks to recent amendments to the Commercial Transport Regulations and Motor Vehicle Act, which ushered in stiffer penalties for infrastructure strikes. These regulations will also require dump trucks to have in-cab warning systems that would alert a driver when the box is raised, beginning this June. (That’s a requirement I can get behind right across the country, but a subject for another day).
B.C. also hiked the fines associated with overheight vehicles to the highest levels in Canada. Carriers with a history of non-compliance or multiple infrastructure crashes will see even tougher measures, including being sent to the penalty box along with Chohan. Or as Chohan was meant to be.
If any good is to come of this embarrassing run of ineptitude, it’s the potential strengthening of enforcement and hopefully the closing of a glaring jurisdictional loophole. And also heightened awareness of the importance of measuring oversized loads, and measuring them again, before getting on the highway.
Most of those who haul oversized loads are among the most skilled and safety-conscious drivers on the highway. They’re as puzzled and embarrassed as anyone as to how Chohan struck six bridges in 24 months and how it’s able to continue operating with impunity in the province despite a suspension intended to park its trucks.
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