Ontario Truckers Hit by High Bills as Fees Waived During COVID-19 Come Due


As Ontario waived $1 billion in annual license fees for motorists, it is charging companies in the trucking industry two years of fees, which were suspended during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ontario government stopped charging permit fees to trucking companies when it implemented restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19 in March 2020. The move was intended to reduce in-person contact at offices of Service Ontario.

The province lifted that moratorium in January 2022, then billed businesses for any fees they would have incurred registering their trucks over the past two years.

Luke Judson, manager of a trucking company based in Fort Frances, Ont., says provincial staff were unsure if the fees were waived or temporarily suspended when the waivers began.

“There was very little information throughout this period about how it would be refunded, if it would be refunded, when the extension period would end,” Judson said. “There was a lot of back and forth and it was really muddy water for a while until we all got our letters in the mail a few months ago outlining what we owed and he seems that the fees for these 22 months are payable now.”

For ML Judson Trucking Ltd., that means paying between $2,500 and $4,700 per year, per truck, depending on weight, Judson said.

Judson found he wasn’t the only one in the Rainy River district of northwestern Ontario who found himself in a tough spot when restrictions were lifted. He said some of his colleagues were facing license renewal fees of over $60,000.

Twenty-two owners and operators of 17 businesses stretching as far east as Thunder Bay sent a letter to Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford on March 7 asking that license fees between 2020 and 2022 are completely removed.

“Frankly, at a time when the provincial government is reimbursing sticker fees and ending license renewal fees for passenger vehicles, trucking companies in Ontario face a different reality,” says in part their letter. “The charges that MTO now expects our businesses to absorb will cripple trucking businesses across the province just as we try to get back on our feet.”

A response from Rickford’s office explained the regulations and when Judson clarified that his industry was seeking policy change, he said he received no response.

Financial hit comes amid rising costs and labor shortages

In February, the province announced it would waive vehicle license renewal fees and decals for passenger vehicles, light trucks, motorcycles and mopeds, but heavy-duty vehicles still have to pay renewal fees. and stickers. The change is estimated to cost the province $1 billion a year in lost revenue.

While the province’s heavy-duty vehicle deferred payment plan allows companies to pay these fees over 24 months, truckers say their companies are experiencing record fuel costs, labor shortages, bonuses insurance policies that outpace inflation and supply chain issues for vehicle parts.

According to the Ontario Trucking Association, there are 23,000 vacancies for drivers in Canada and this number is expected to increase to 55,000 by 2024. On the supply side, they see a 30-45% decrease in availability trucks since last year in the North. America. The shortage comes at a time when cargo volumes are tripling.

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Mike Ford is the Fort Frances Sales Representative for Thunder Bay Truck Centre, a Peterbilt dealership and service company with outlets in Northwestern Ontario.

He says vehicle manufacturing plants are at full production, but that’s not enough. As the minerals needed for computerized parts slow production in many industries around the world, Ford says it sees a broader supply chain trend that prevents trucks from reaching local batches.

“I had a customer last year who ordered a truck in February. It was supposed to be built in April, it was pushed back to July, then it sat at the factory for four months waiting for a bumper. front, brake assemblies and a few other little bits. None of that was chip related,” he said. “He got it eventually – there was snow on the ground – so I think I delivered it in early December.”

CBC News has reached out to Rickford’s office and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation for comment, but has not yet received a response.