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B.C. trucking company's licence cancelled, transportation minister says

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A B.C. trucking company that had its licence suspended after multiple infrastructure crashes in the last two years has now received a cancellation notice from the province.

Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming said in a statement Friday the cancellation notice was issued to Chohan Freight Forwarders the day before.

"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," Fleming said.

"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."

In a statement, Nitisha Chohan, director of safety and compliance with the trucking company, said Friday they "fundamentally disagree with the Government of British Columbia."

"We will continue to take steps to challenge this action on behalf of our drivers and their families," the statement said.

Initially, the safety certificate for Chohan's 65-truck fleet was suspended after a crash on Dec. 28 lodged a steel girder in an overpass over Highway 99 in Delta. Fleming said at the time it was the company's sixth "infrastructure crash" in the past two years.

Earlier this month, Chohan filed a court petition alleging B.C.'s Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement left them in a legal "no man’s land" with an indefinite suspension they have no grounds to appeal. The company blamed a rogue driver for reporting an over-height load to the company, which claims it told him would require an alternate route with a special permit. The documents allege, after talking to friends, and “in breach of the petitioner’s directions, (Sangha) departed” and hit the overpass on Highway 99. 

"Chohan Freight Forwarders was reluctant to take legal action against the Ministry of Transportation, but due to the procedural delays targeting Chohan, we were left with no other option," Chohan's statement said.

"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."

Dave Earle, president of the BC Trucking Association, estimates the CVSE branch cancels an average of six to 12 safety certificates each year – and he believes that shows the system is working.

"Certainly, the public can have faith and have confidence that not only are the people working in the industry professionals, but there is effective enforcement happening as well,” Earle said. “Now, depending on what happens from there, there's a right to reconsideration. And there's of course always a judicial review process." 

Premier David Eby addressed the company’s legal efforts to get its fleet back on the road, describing Chohan as "one of the worst offenders" with six overpass strikes. According to Ministry of Transportation statistics, Chohan is the only company with repeat incidents.

The company acknowledges they were responsible for five "infrastructure crash incidents" from Dec. 10, 2021, to June 8, 2022, and that enforcement action was taken against them, but insists they had cleaned up their act until the Dec. 28 incident.

"We know the vast majority of commercial drivers in B.C. operate safely and responsibly," Fleming's statement said.

"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."

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Penny Daflos 

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