A truck hauls a vat to a brewery near Toronto. Ontario Trucking Association lauds crackdown by province’s workers’ compensation agency on companies that skirt payroll deductions by misclassifying drivers

Maple Leaf Motoring is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of Canadian transportation. This week: Ontario workers’ comp agency cracks down on Driver Inc carriers; study highlights roadside pollution from trucks; and CN hauls Korean War-era tank across the country.

The Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) reported that provincial authorities have stepped up enforcement efforts against Driver Inc carriers, which misclassify employee drivers as contractors.

The OTA reported on Nov. 1 that the province’s workers’ compensation board, WSIB, made payment adjustments on “dozens” of additional Driver Inc carriers.

While it was not immediately possible to verify the report with provincial authorities, it is welcome news to many in Ontario’s trucking industry.

WSIB deducts premiums from employers. Under Driver Inc, carriers avoid or substantially reduce those payments as well as larger tax withholdings for drivers. The carriers classify drivers as contractors despite providing them trucks.

The practice allows the carriers to offer artificially low rates. This has been especially damaging in 2019 as Canada’s freight market has seen a reduction in volumes with excess trucks.

The OTA praised WSIB for going after the carriers but called on provincial and federal authorities to push harder.

“Compliant carriers would like to thank the WSIB for being the only agency to date, provincially or federally, to put such a focused effort on ensuring compliance and protecting workers in our sector,” Jonathan Blackham, director of policy and public affairs, said in a statement.

Alain Bedard, the CEO of TFI International (TSX:TFI), singled out Driver Inc multiple times during a conference call with analysts after the company reported third-quarter results, likening it to a “cancer.” He suggested it could hurt TFI Canadian truckload business.

TFI’s Canadian truckload business can most likely withstand the competition, posting an 83% operating ratio during the quarter. But smaller compliant carriers are far more vulnerable.

Study: Heavy trucks emit troubling levels of pollutants near roads

A new University of Toronto study found that diesel trucks are generating disproportionately high levels of harmful pollution near roads.

The study from the Southern Ontario Centre for Atmospheric Aerosol Research looked at emissions from six locations near Vancouver and Toronto from 2015 to 2017.

Researchers found that heavy diesel trucks were generating problematic levels of an array of pollutants near the roads. The study also noted that the very worst polluters had a significantly worse profile than other vehicles.

“If these highly polluting diesel trucks were repaired, retrofitted, removed or relocated, it would make a significant difference,” University of Toronto professor Greg Evans, the study leader, told U of T News. “You can’t move your nearby schools or homes, but we can do something about these highly polluting trucks that are a small proportion of the truck traffic, and yet causing a lot of the trouble.”

CN hauling Korean-war battle tank across the country

A Centurion battle tank deployed during the Korean War began its journey from Nova Scotia to British Columbia on Oct. 30.

Canadian National (NYSE:CNI) is sponsoring the weekslong intermodal transport of the 51-ton piece of military history.

“We have a proud and strong history of moving Canadian military equipment and soldiers,” Keith Reardon, CN’s senior vice president for consumer product supply chain, said in a statement. “During this month of commemoration for the sacrifices made by our veterans and our Armed Forces, we wanted to contribute by doing what we do best. This also serves as a reminder of CN’s role in the supply chain that has shaped our society for over 100 years.”

The tank had been on display at Cornwallis Park in Nova Scotia. Its new home is Langley, British Columbia. The city has a large Korean-Canadian community, and earlier in 2019 a war memorial was unveiled commemorating the Battle of Kapyong.

More than 26,000 Canadians served during the 1950-53 conflict under the banner of the United Nations, and 516 died.

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