Risky Business

Container Trucking Compliance

Risky Business

The regulatory landscape for container trucking in British Columbia and particularly the Lower Mainland is a direct response to the industry labour unrest of 2014. The current regulatory and licensing scheme aimed at those labour issues, however, creates logistical challenges for trucking companies and leaves them with compliance risk.

“Prescribed” container trucking services (movement of marine containers through the Port of Vancouver and within the Lower Mainland) must be carried out by companies licensed by the BC Container Trucking Commissioner, using “tagged” trucks. With broadly cast powers in the Container Trucking Act and Regulation, the Commissioner dictates the total number of container trucks permitted to operate in the Lower Mainland, which companies may operate those trucks, and how many tagged trucks each licensed company may operate. The Commissioner is also the sole individual dictating the terms of the container trucking services license (CTS Licence) and adjudicating compliance.

CTS Licences tend to expire every two years and whether or not a company is licensed again is at the Commissioner’s discretion. Although the Commissioner purports to consult industry on the CTS Licence terms, the Commissioner did not alter his proposed terms after the most recent consultation. As drafted, the CTS Licence terms can leave companies unsure about what they can and cannot do in order to serve their customers.1

See, for example, the CTS Licence prohibition on subcontracting to unlicensed companies. The prohibition is intended to prevent subcontracting to unlicensed companies in the Lower Mainland that do not pay regulated rates and in that context, the prohibition seems reasonable. However, when it comes to subcontracting for long-haul container trucking services (to and from locations outside of the Lower Mainland), the prohibition is unclear.

Despite the Commissioner stating in 2022 that the CTS Licence does not prohibit subcontracting to unlicensed companies performing long-haul container trucking services (which do not require a CTS Licence), the CTS Licence terms suggest otherwise, prohibiting “any Subcontract for Container Trucking Services with any party who is not a Licensee.” The CTS Licence does not clearly limit the prohibition on subcontracting to prescribed container trucking services — the services which actually require a CTS Licence.

If a licensee is unsure about subcontracting under the circumstances, it might think to perform long-haul container trucking services itself in addition to local drayage, but logistically speaking, that is not so simple. As transportation to and from the Port of Vancouver requires the use of tagged trucks, a licensee must either use one of its few tagged trucks to perform a long-haul move instead of using it for multiple local moves — an approach which could put its tag at risk for under use — or use a tagged truck at the Port and an untagged truck beyond. This is where overbroad CTS Licence language strikes again, as the Licence requires licensees to use tagged trucks for all “container trucking services,” not just prescribed services. This is the same over-inclusive language that creates compliance concerns with subcontracting. Can a licensee use an untagged truck for non-prescribed container trucking services? The legislation suggests yes, but the CTS Licence terms suggest no.

Compliance risk is not merely a financial concern for container trucking companies. Non-compliance can put a company’s operations at risk. A company’s ability to grow its businesses is limited by the size of its tagged fleet, which is determined by the Commissioner — the same individual that dictates and determines compliance with the overbroad, and in some cases unclear, CTS Licence terms. With all power vested in one individual, container trucking companies must proceed with caution, or risk their businesses.

  1. The current CTS Licence and the Commissioner’s 2022 CTS Licence Amendments Consultation Report are viewable on the Office of the BC Container Trucking Commissioner’s website: obcctc.ca. |