Short lines organize licence opposition

Saskatchewan’s short-line railways are forming a united front against what they consider unnecessary and potentially costly grain handling regulations proposed by the Canadian Grain Commission.

Members of the Saskatchewan Shortline Railways Association who attended a June 9 meeting in Saskatoon expressed unanimous opposition to a commission proposal aimed at licensing producer car loading sites in Western Canada.

They say the grain commission’s proposal will add cost and complexity to producer car loading operations while delivering no clear benefits to producers, short-line railway operators or the Canadian grain industry as a whole.

The association has formed a committee aimed at co-ordinating member efforts and mounting a unified opposition to the grain commission plan.

“I think everyone was a little bit blindsided by it (the CGC proposal) and they don’t understand where it’s coming from,” said Matt Enright, general manager of the Battle River Railway in Alberta, who was named to the SSRA committee.

“The problems that the CGC is outlining in its proposal, we don’t really think they exist as problems in the industry.”

The grain commission says the licensing plan is aimed at enhancing its oversight role at producer car loading facilities.

It said operational changes at producer car loading facilities over the past decade or more have prompted a review of its licencing exemptions, which currently apply to producer car loaders.

The plan addresses a number of issues:

  • the commission is unable to capture data from loading facilities, causing a gap in statistical reports on grain movement.
  • the commission feels producers who load grain at these loading facilities receive inconsistent treatment with respect to dispute resolution, compared to producers who deliver to licensed grain elevators.
  • the commission says producers who load grain at these facilities often do not have access to documents that accurately record grain deliveries, largely because many loading sites do not have certified weigh scales.

SSRA members who attended the Saskatoon meeting say the grain commission’s concerns are either unfounded or could be addressed in ways that do not add cost and complexity to the system.

For example, a proposal that modern loading sites should have certified weigh scales on the premises would add unnecessary costs to the system, with no clear benefit.

“The benefits of installing scales are quite dubious, because everything is settled off of the unload weights anyways,” Enright said.

With respect to data collection, there are simpler ways to get the information that the CGC wants, he added. It is already involved in allocating producer cars and it knows how much grain is typically loaded into a car.

“It just seems like there would be much simpler ways of getting those numbers that imposing costly regulations on producer car loaders,” Enright said.

Much of the producer cars are loaded by producers themselves with no facility employees present. As a result, there would be no guarantee that samples taken accurately represent grain that’s delivered.

“It just comes across that the CGC maybe doesn’t really understand what happens at a lot of these producer car facilities,” he said.

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