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Maple Leaf Motoring: Dorian deals near-miss in Canada-Florida freight lanes

Star Van Systems, with 55 dedicated Canada-Florida runs per week, had prepared for the worst, but now may get an uptick on southbound freight as the hurricane appears headed for Georgia.

Ontario-based Star Van Systems has 55 dedicated weekly runs between Canada and Florida. Photo: Star Van Systems

Maple Leaf Motoring is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of Canadian transportation. This week: How a Canadian carrier prepared for Dorian, a U.S. closure claims a Canadian company, and Ontario appeals carbon tax case to Supreme Court. 

As Hurricane Dorian changed course over the weekend, a trucking executive some 1,400 miles away in Canada joined Floridians in the collective relief that the storm would likely spare the state.

“It means everything can get back [to] normal,” Ken Simpson, vice president of Ontario-based Star Van Systems, wrote in a text message on September 1.

Star Van Systems runs 55 dedicated weekly runs between Canada and Florida, primarily from Ontario – but the trips can increase to 90 per week depending on demand. The company specializes in hauling cut flowers and off-shore fruit from Miami, and produce like onions and carrots from Canada in refrigerated trailers. 

The company had already been feeling the flag of lower volumes ahead of the storm. Now, Simpson anticipates a possible correction. 

“I hope there is a little more volume of freight going back to Florida to restock the shelves,” he wrote.

Simpson has dealt with his share of hurricanes, and on Friday afternoon was preparing to stage trucks in the Southeast 200 miles from their normal staging area.

“The most important thing is safety,” Simpson said on Friday.

Trucks move into position ahead of Hurricane Dorian. Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

The two-person teams also had instructions to refuel as often as possible in the event of shortages in Florida – something particularly vital for the perishable cargo. 

As a Canadian carrier, Star Van Systems did not have the luxury of sending its trucks to markets outside of the storm’s path and find domestic U.S. freight on the spot market.

Despite the inevitable spike in rates and freight that follow a hurricane, Simpson said they never make up for the loss in business.

“You’ll never make money in a hurricane,” Simpson said.

FTI was acquired by HCI Equity in 2014. Photo: FTI

HVH shutdown also hits Canada’s FTI

A Canadian trucking company, FTI, closed as part of the shutdown of HVH Transport

HVH’s owner, HCI Equity, purchased Ontario-based FTI in 2014 and merged it with the U.S. trucking company. At the time, FTI had revenues of about US$50 million in revenue and 275 independent contractors and 600 trailers doing an even split of cross-border and domestic Canadian business, according to HCI.

U.S. Department of Transportation records show that the company had scaled back to 80 tractors and drivers. 

Former FTI executives did not return requests for comment. Calls to the company numbers did not go through. 

Canada has been comparatively quiet on trucking company closures in 2019. The country’s largest transportation and logistics company, TFI International (TSX:TFII), closed its Highland Transport unit in June following weakness in the northeastern U.S. 

The company provided notice about a month in advance, and offered drivers placement elsewhere in TFI. 

The company did a mix of cross-border and domestic Canadian business. 

Ontario Environment Minister Jeff Yurek places a sticker on a gas pump advising consumers on the cost of the carbon tax.

Ontario appeals carbon tax fight to Supreme Court

Ontario’s provincial government escalated its fight against the federal carbon tax to Canada’s Supreme Court.

The Progressive Conservative government filed an appeal with the country’s highest court on August 28, challenging a lower court decision that found that the federal government’s imposition of a carbon tax was constitutional. 

“We remain committed to using every tool at our disposal to fight against the job-killing carbon tax, which is making life more expensive for Ontario’s hardworking individuals, families and businesses. That is why we filed our appeal of the decision on the carbon tax to the Supreme Court of Canada today,” Environment Minister Jeff Jurek said in a statement on August 28. 

Federal carbon pricing took effect in Ontario and three other provinces on April 1. The move was in response to those provinces failing to have their own pricing schemes in line with federal law. 

The Supreme Court is slated to take up Saskatchewan’s case against the tax later in 2019. 

Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at [email protected].