B.C. cancels licence of trucking company involved in multiple overpass collisions

B.C.'s transportation ministry has cancelled the operating licence of Chohan Freight Forwarders due to multiple instances of its vehicles hitting bridges and overpasses in recent years.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure dropped a bombshell Friday morning, announcing a company with a long rap sheet for colliding with bridges and overpasses is no longer allowed to operate in B.C.

The government says it has cancelled Chohan Freight Forwarders’ licence in the interest of safety.

“This is the most severe action that can be taken against a company with multiple infractions — and it sends a clear message to operators that infrastructure crashes around our province need to stop. It has never been easier to follow a route to guide a load safely through our highway system and avoid the potential for impact with infrastructure,” said Transportation Minister Rob Fleming in a statement.

He believes most truck operators in the province can do their jobs without striking infrastructure.

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“This decision, issued by the independent director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement branch, follows changes that allow for progressive enforcement of suspensions to better deal with those few companies and drivers who are not being safe and responsible.”

According to Ministry of Transportation data, Chohan Freight Forwarders drivers have been involved in six incidents since 2021 where a bridge or overpass was struck. Four of those incidents occurred in 2022 alone.

The most recent one took place around Christmas in December 2023, when one of its trucks hit an overpass on Highway 99. The B.C. government did an assessment and said the repairs would cost more than $2 million.

Chohan vows to challenge licence cancellation

In a partial statement released mid-morning, Chohan’s director of safety and compliance says the company “fundamentally disagrees” with the action taken by the ministry.

“We will continue to take steps to challenge this action on behalf of our drivers and their families,” Nitasha Chohan wrote.

Earlier this month, Chohan Freight Forwarders filed paperwork to take the B.C. government to court. It filed a lawsuit in the BC Supreme Court asking the ministry responsible to overturn the suspension of its safety certificate, which brought its entire fleet to a halt. It said it suffered financial losses, as a result.

At the time, Premier David Eby responded by saying, “My only hope is that on the way to court, they don’t run into a bridge. I encourage them to take the bus or some other form of public transit on the way to the courthouse.”

Eby added, “The astonishing part is that the company thinks that they should still be able to operate and they’re going to court to challenge our prohibition on their operating until they figure out how high bridges are and how high their trucks are.”

The company stated Friday it was “reluctant” to take legal action against the ministry, but was left with “no other option” due to procedural delays.

“To date we have cooperated fully with the Ministry of Transportation and Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement as a part of their investigation and will continue to take steps to ensure that our internal safety protocols are as robust as possible,” Nitasha Chohan wrote.

“At no point has the Government suggested those protocols were inadequate or that they led to the incident on December 28th, or explained what they say Chohan Freight Forwarders ought to have done differently that day.

“The incident was the result of a terrible decision by one independent owner-operator who has taken full responsibility, not a failing by the Company, and the Company’s customers and drivers should not bear the consequences as a result.”

BC Trucking Association not surprised by gov’t move

The ministry was really clear that it was going to increase enforcement, Dave Earle, the BC Trucking Association president and CEO, told CityNews Friday, adding that he wasn’t surprised by the ministry’s move.

“This is a conversation that began a couple of years ago, and here we are. This isn’t the only company by any stretch that’s had their operating certification cancelled this year, so I’m not really surprised,” Earle said.

Earle explained, however, that the ministry cancels certifications and licences for various violations, not just for infrastructure collisions.

“It’s really important work that the ministry is doing — they take it seriously. The message is, companies need to take this seriously,” Earle said.

“Our industry cannot ignore [this]. This is real. Certificates get cancelled, and that means you’re out of business. … We have to be doing a better job to make sure that we’re all operating safely.

While Earle was hesitant to directly link the company’s multiple infrastructure hits with its licence being pulled, he explained that companies are going to be suspended and shut down until the government is confident that businesses can be operated safely.

“It’s about following the maintenance routines and regimes that are required to make sure that your vehicle is able to operate safely,” he explained.

“It’s making sure that when vehicles are being dispatched, they’re being given routes that are actually possible to do in the time allotted, and that you’re working with your customer to explain that, ‘No, I can’t pick up your load at 10 a.m. in the Lower Mainland and have it to you by the end of business today in Calgary.’ It’s not going to happen.

“Having those conversations and being real about what’s able to be done and what’s not. It’s really, really critical for companies and drivers to do.”

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says Fleming is unavailable for comment Friday.

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