Category Archives: Transportation

News stories and links about transportation, from a Vancouver perspective.

Canada mandates locomotive video recorders

According to a press release from the TSB (Transportation Safety Board) today, Canada will (finally) act on locomotive voice and video recorders (LVVRs) for the country’s railways:

Today, the Minister of Transport has introduced a Bill in the House of Commons proposing some amendments to the Railway Safety Act (RSA) and the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act (CTAISB Act). One key provision of this new legislation pertains to locomotive voice and video recorders (LVVRs).

The proposed amendments to the RSA call for the mandatory installation of LVVRs in locomotives, specify the type of uses that can be made of the recordings and provide authority for TC to make regulations governing LVVRs. This addresses a key safety issue that has been on the TSB Watchlist since 2012, as well as two long-standing TSB recommendations.

WestJet pilots join union

After several failed attempts, pilots at WestJet Airlines have voted to unionize with ALPA (Air Line Pilots Association). 61% of counted ballots were in favour, with 851 pilots voting yes, while 531 voted no. WestJet employs about 1,400 pilots.

Shortly after results were announced today, WestJet said in a press release:

“We are disappointed with the outcome of the vote but we are dedicated to moving forward as a team. We will now focus on engaging in constructive dialogue with ALPA and concentrate on the continued success of the organization for guests, employees and shareholders.”

ALPA represents pilots at most major North American airlines.

WestJet’s flight attendants and customer service staff have also rejected previous organization drives and may be tempted to try again in light of the pilots’ success. (Sources: CBC News, 2017-05-12, “WestJet pilots vote in favour of forming a union“; ALPA)

Arctic focus from Canadian Sailings

This week’s issue of Canadian Sailings / Transportation & Trade Logistics has articles on the seasonal re-opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway and shipping in Canada’s arctic, including:

  • Trudeau’s Arctic: Warming up to the region
  • Trump’s Arctic: Making America Great in the region
  • Old issues plague Seaway when future focus is needed
  • The case of Clipper Adventurer: Between a rock and a hard place (A Federal Court decision examined government liability in the case of the adventure cruise vessel M/V Clipper Adventurer which ran aground in Coronation Gulf in the Canadian Arctic in 2010, necessitating an expensive rescue and salvage operation.)
  • A mandatory Polar Code – How does it affect shipping? (The IMO’s mandatory International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters)
  • NEAS to benefit from infrastructure spending and northern mining activities
  • Desgagnés’ Arctic business is thriving
  • Quebec Port Terminals anticipates major growth in its Arctic operations

See and (Registration may be required).

YVR plans 60% passenger increase between 2016-2037

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has released more documentation on its 20-year planning exercise, YVR 2037 Master Plan.

The most recent round of public consultation on Phase 3 launched on January 18th which coincided with the Flight Plan 2037 announcement and closed on Feb. 20, 2017.

The increased passenger number speculates on 35 million passengers in 2037, versus 22 million at present. YVR is careful to stress the risks or probabilities of 20-year forecasts. Its forecast of aircraft movements on the other hand is much lower than the 60% passenger increase cited in the title of this post. Whether this presupposes a greater number of larger capacity aircraft in future is not directly addressed (that I can see), but if aircraft movements cleave closely to passenger increases a 60% increase would translate into 510,000 annual movements compared to 2016’s 319,000 aircraft movements (runway and non-runway).

U.S. railways resist implementation of electronically controlled braking

Electronically controlled pneumatic braking (ECP) for trains improves braking efficiency when compared to standard pneumatic air brakes. ECP enables simultaneous application of wheel brakes on all of a train’s cars. Conventional air brakes on the other hand may require as much as two minutes before wheel brakes engage on the trailing units of a long train of more than 100 cars. Besides improved reaction time, ECP offers other advantages such as distributed braking and better control of the system’s air supply reservoir.

The slow brake reaction of trailing cars has been identified as a major contributing factor in oil train explosions. The continued momentum of those cars pushing against the already braking cars in front can cause derailments, broken couplings and subsequent puncture of the tank cars absorbing that momentum.

Aftermath of Lac-Mégantic derailment, July 2013Following several fiery derailments of oil trains, most notably Lac-Mégantic, American regulators — and to a lesser extent those in Canada — have been trying to advance the adoption of ECP. Railways have resisted because of cost. Today’s Washington Post covers the political battle over this issue in the U.S. with “Railroads, regulators clash over braking system for trains carrying flammable liquids.”

Canadian Perspective

Transport Canada continues to work with the Canadian industry to consider braking provisions, such as electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes, in train operating rules rather than requirements within the TC-117 tank car standard. Transport Canada is also following closely the new requirements brought forward by the United States FAST legislation, which imposed new research requirements before ECP braking can be brought into effect in the United States.1


Canada’s transport regulations for animals to be updated

This month sees two initiatives to modernize regulations for animal transport in Canada:

  1. the federal government has released for public comment (until February 15, 2017) “Health of Animals Regulations Part XII: Transportation of Animals-Regulatory Amendment – Interpretive Guidance for Regulated Parties“;
  2. the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) aims to update its 2001 transportation Code of Practice in 2018, and as a first step has launched a survey “Priority Welfare Topic Areas for the Transportation Scientific Committee,” which closes Dec. 9, 2016.

The former is managed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) which is empowered to enforce and administer the federal Health of Animals Act (HAA) and the Health of Animals Regulations (HAR) for the transportation of animals into, within or out of Canada. The proposed amendments apply to all modes of transport including aircraft, carriage, motor vehicle, trailer, railway car, vessel, crate, cargo container or any other conveyance or contrivance used to move animals, and apply to all aspects of animal transport starting with:

  • handling the animal(s) for the purpose of loading,
  • loading the animal(s),
  • transporting the animal(s), and
  • unloading the animal(s).

The regulations define cases that render animals unfit for transportation and cases of compromised animals which are subject to strict limits of transportation.

The CFIA Guidelines refer specifically to the NFACC Code of Practice that provide detailed advice on such topics as ramp angles, step heights and load density for different species. There is a link to the 2001 Code on the NFACC survey page cited above.

Typical method of catching broiler chickens in a darkened barn.
Typical method of catching chickens in a darkened barn. Catchers generally carry 7 or 8 birds at a time and place them altogether in a wire crate for transport to a slaughterhouse. Current Canadian recommendations for maximum cold weather chicken load densities are 139 lb/10 sq. ft., less in warm weather, with all birds able to sit on the floor at the same time. (Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals, courtesy of The Animal Museum)

ICAO adopts carbon offset for airlines

On October 6, a Plenary Session of the UN aviation agency’s (ICAO – International Civil Aviation Organization) 39th Assembly agreed to recommend adoption of a final Resolution text for the new global market-based measure (GMBM) to control CO2 emissions from international aviation.

ICAO’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) is designed to complement airlines’ independent mitigation measures to reduce CO2 emissions. These include technical and operational improvements and advances in the production and use of sustainable alternative fuels for aviation.

Implementation of the CORSIA will begin with a pilot phase from 2021 through 2023, followed by a first phase, from 2024 through 2026. Participation in both of these early stages will be voluntary and the next phase from 2027 to 2035 would see all States on board. Some exemptions were accepted for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and States with very low levels of international aviation activity. It’s the first global carbon offset system for a single industry.

In the draft Assembly Resolution text, the average level of CO2 emissions from international aviation covered by the scheme between 2019 and 2020 represents the basis for carbon neutral growth from 2020, against which emissions in future years are compared. In any year from 2021 when international aviation CO2 emissions covered by the scheme exceed the average baseline emissions of 2019 and 2020, this difference represents the sector’s offsetting requirements for that year.

The National Airlines Council of Canada said in a press release:

The National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC), the trade association representing Canada’s largest passenger air carriers, applauds the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for reaching an agreement
to implement a global carbon offset system and commends the Government of Canada for its role in reaching the accord.

(Sources: ICAO press release and What is CORSIA?; CBC News, 2016-10-07, “Historic agreement: Canada signs on to world’s 1st airline climate plan“)

Hanjin Shipping bankruptcy roils container market

Korea’s Hanjin Shipping, the world’s seventh-largest container shipping line collapsed into bankruptcy this week after a restructuring proposal was rejected by creditors. Korea’s largest liner company reported $4.5 billion (USD) in liabilities on its June 30, 2016 financial report and efforts to attract more capital and extend payment periods on current debt quickly fell apart.

Several Hanjin vessels have been detained at various Chinese ports and one was being held in Singapore. Korean courts dealing with the bankruptcy are expected to work out terms for an orderly discontinuation of Hanjin’s shipping business that involves regaining control of its fleet overseas and the eventual liquidation of its assets.

The company owns 59 of the 132 ships in its fleet which consists of container and bulk vessels. Among its chartered vessels are three from Vancouver’s Seaspan Corporation which were delivered in 2014 on 10-year contracts with a total value of $364 million (USD). Seaspan now has 88 ships in total and says the Hanjin contracts are not significant enough to endanger its own business.

Hanjin, a member of the Trans Pacific Stabilization Conference, calls at Vancouver and other West Coast ports. See Hanjin’s service map for an overview of its routes. The company’s demise has stranded cargo at the start of container shipping’s high season when retailers are stocking inventory for Christmas season sales. It has also led to rate increases of 50% or more on the spot market for some containers on the Asia-U.S. West Coast route. (Sources: Hanjin Shipping; Bloomberg, 2016-08-30, Korea’s Hanjin Shipping Becomes Symbol of Industry in Pain); Vancouver Sun, 2016-08-31, “Hanjin Shipping receivership affects Seaspan Corp’s charter operations“; CNBC, 2016-08-31, “More Hanjin ships seized, as freight rates surge and cargo owners fret“; CBC News, 2016-09-01, “Giant container vessel stuck in Prince Rupert, company in receivership“)

Ontario pilots HOT lanes on QEW

The province of Ontario will commence a pilot project on Sept. 15, 2016 of High Occupancy Toll lanes (HOT) wherein single drivers can buy access to HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes on 16.5 km of the QEW (Queen Elizabeth Way, aka Highway 403), in both directions, from Trafalgar Road in Oakville to Guelph Line in Burlington.

The pilot is scheduled to run for an indeterminate period of 2-4 years and sells 3-month permits for $180 ($60/mo.) The prospect of modest time savings attracted 3,500 applicants for the 500 available permits currently offered. Cost/benefit projections peg an average time savings of 10 minutes on each way of a commute, yielding an hourly price of $8.25 on reduced driving time.

Ontario HOV sign showing available HOT access Permits were assigned on a lottery basis and can be renewed twice before vehicle owners must reapply. The permit allows drivers to legally join buses, vehicles with 2+ passengers, etc. in the HOV lane.

The Province aims to introduce the HOT feature to some of its major freeways after pricing and tolling issues are refined. More permanent HOT lanes are expected to utilize electronic tolling. (Sources: Ontario Ministry of Transportation, HOT FAQs, HOT Lanes; Globe and Mail, 2016-08-27, p. A12, “How much would you pay to drive in this lane?”)