Maple Leaf Motoring: Northern Pulp ‘hibernation’ vs. closure cold comfort to truckers

Maple Leaf Motoring is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of Canadian transportation. This week: Trucking awaits impact of Northern Pulp; British Columbia makes life easier for oversized loads; and employment topped 1 million in Canada’s transport and warehouse sector for 2019.

Despite its owner’s announcement that Northern Pulp will “hibernate” instead of shut down this month, the Nova Scotia pulp mill is still effectively shutting for the purposes of the trucking industry that relies on the company’s millions of dollars in annual freight spend.

“We are still gathering information, but yes, there will be some trucking companies impacted,” Jean-Marc Picard, executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, told FreightWaves in a text message on Friday.

No trucking companies appear to have closed yet. But the plant, in Pictou County, recently stopped taking lumber, so the worst impact may be to come.

Owner Paper Excellence Group began mothballing the plant on Sunday as it presses ahead with an environmental assessment for a proposed treatment facility for its effluent waste product. While the news raises hopes that the plant could resume operations, don’t count on it — at least not anytime soon.

The provincial government has prioritized legal obligations to the Pictou First Nation, who are keen to have the plant stop dumping its effluent waste into their waters.

The province has established assistance funds for personnel and businesses affected. While that may cushion the blow, it seems unlikely to make up for Northern Pulp’s estimated C$50 million in annual spending connected to the transportation of lumber and finished pulp.

British Columbia speeds approvals for oversized loads from Port of Vancouver to Alberta

British Columbia unveiled a pre-approval scheme that aims to speed and simplify operations for some trucks hauling oversized loads between two Port of Vancouver facilities and Alberta.

Project Cargo Corridor, announced Jan. 6, will cut the pre-approval approval process for eight- to 13-axle superloads with a gross combined weight of up to 125,000 kilograms (275,500 pounds) from up to 12 business days to as little as two.

The new permits are available for eligible loads traveling between the port’s Fraser Surrey Docks and Lynnterm East Gate and Alberta via Highway 16.

British Columbia’s provincial government has complete details on the program and requirements on its Project Cargo Corridor website.

Employment in Canada’s transport and warehousing sector ends 2019 more than 1 million strong

Employment in Canada’s transportation and warehousing sector stayed essentially flat in December, but it ended 2019 just above the 1 million mark, Statistics Canada reported in its monthly Labour Force Survey.

For the year, the sector employed an average of 1,037,900 people, a modest bump of nearly 48,000 workers over 2018’s 990,000.

Statistics Canada doesn’t parse out individual industries in the survey, but trucking makes up the single largest component.