Atlantic Canada is on track to join IRP

by Matthew Sylvain

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – In December, Prince Edward Island held a series of carrier information sessions on the International Registration Plan, signaling a gearing-up by the Atlantic provinces to meet the implementation date of Apr. 1.

“It’s a major systems development,” says John Macdonald, P.E.I’.s registrar of motor vehicles, who is executing that province’s switchover from the Canadian Agreement on Vehicle Registration (CAVR) to IRP. He stressed that his province is on schedule to make kick-off time and that Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia have been tackling the work, as well.

“We had decided a very long time ago that we, in the Atlantic region, were going to work very close together (so we could provide the same level of service),” says Donna Arseneau-Eastabrooks, deputy registrar of motor vehicles and IRP for the province of Nova Scotia.

Ralph Boyd, president of the Dieppe, N.B.-based Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association (APTA), attended a session in Charlottetown, P.E.I, and says he is optimistic that the jurisdictions serving his group are well on their way to hitting the deadline.

“I’m hopeful that we will at least have test data. We will at least have preliminary registrations occurring in February so that,” Boyd tells Truck News, “by the time we reach Apr. 1, when the bulk of people jump into the program, all the bells and whistles are working, and its been tweaked and all the problem areas have been discovered.”

Arseneau-Eastabrooks says the Atlantic provinces’ processes are identical… right down to sharing the same manual – called The Atlantic IRP Carrier Manual.

“We worked very closely to try and ensure that we had the same- as close as we could under our own legislation-rules and everything, so that our industry down here would have a little higher comfort level with what’s going,” she contends, adding that the remaining Atlantic provinces would hold information sessions in January.

It’s probably fitting that the little island province took the lead on bringing the news to its carrier audience. According to Macdonald, P.E.I. only has about 250 carriers, and roughly 52 of them haul into the U.S.

Launched in the U.S. in 1973, IRP distributes registration fees for commercial vehicles travelling through various states and provinces. It is now used in all 50 states and eliminates duplication; even though a rig may run through a dozen jurisdictions, with just as many fee schemes, an IRP-registered truck sports one license plate and its carrier makes only one lump payment. Dues for individual jurisdictions are, in effect, sliced out of that lump payment by the carrier’s home, or “base-plate”, jurisdiction.

British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan are three provinces that have already joined IRP.

Ontario, which had been scheduled to join IRP on Nov. 1, is now aiming to come online with the Atlantic provinces and the rest of the non-IRP provinces on Apr. 1. It yielded to that date because its carriers feared they would get double billed – once under the old CAVR system, and again under IRP.

Manitoba and Quebec are also close to becoming members.

But that’s not likely to happen down east. P.E.I. has promised to issue interim CAVR certifications, to blanket any coverage gaps between the two systems. And it’s a good thing the jurisdictions are working together to shepherd the Atlantic provinces’ carriers into the IRP herd, if setting up the system’s computer networks is any indication of its complexity.

“When you have to develop a system that will calculate registration fees and, in some cases, taxes and what not, for 58 or 59 jurisdictions, that’s a challenge. Because you have to ensure that when you plug in your parameters, for this particular vehicle, and carrier, that you’re going to get results out the other end that the correct registration fees are being calculated for all the states and provinces in which this vehicle is intended to travel,” says Macdonald.

“That’s a major piece of work.”

In essence it’s a computer technician’s problem, he adds.

“The jurisdictions don’t provide each other with the electronic code on how to calculate fees,” Macdonald says. Jurisdictions merging into IRP are provided with a list of business objectives, but no directions on how to reach them.

“You have to take that and convert that into computer code and plug it into your program to make it work,” he says.

Macdonald noted that the CAVR system was less complicated, and that the jurisdiction’s administrators shared their operating codes for calculating the fees.

P.E.I.-along with the rest of the jurisdictions aiming for the Apr. 1 implementation date-has a lot on the line, a point which the APTA’s Boyd emphasized is motivating them to hit the target.

“You have to look at it this way: If the governments aren’t able to provide what is required in order to operate your vehicles, and the U.S. is looking for those credentials and the government isn’t able to provide them, then the government itself is hampering the industry and hurting themselves, because they are looking for revenue generation as well,” he says. “And not only can they not collect revenue for themselves, they can’t collect revenues for other jurisdictions, which they’ve taken on an obligation to do.” n

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