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Ontario pushes back IRP implementation date

TORONTO, Ont. - After much lobbying by the Ontario Trucking Association and other industry groups, Ontario has decided not to implement the International Registration Plan (IRP) until April 1, 2001.Th...

TORONTO, Ont. – After much lobbying by the Ontario Trucking Association and other industry groups, Ontario has decided not to implement the International Registration Plan (IRP) until April 1, 2001.

The province had intended to implement IRP on Nov. 1.

The OTA wanted the Nov. 1 target pushed back because – if the payment system was introduced this fall – many carriers would have been forced to pay registrations under both the IRP and the current CAVR system until next spring, when most provinces are scheduled to join the IRP’s apportioning plan. Currently, all U.S. states as well as British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan belong to IRP.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation is changing all CAVR expiry dates to March 31, 2001, and it will credit fees already paid for any over-laps in registration periods.

Started in the U.S. in 1973, the IRP system allows for the distribution of registration fees paid by inter-jurisdictional carriers. So instead of carriers paying fees in each jurisdiction in which they travel, IRP takes a “one-stop shopping” approach.

“You indicate where you go and how far you travel,” explains Mercedes Sawach of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s (MTO) Licensing and Control Branch, which will manage the IRP program. “Carriers pay fees based on mileage traveled in each state or province.”

Each IRP carrier gets one license plate and one cab card for each of their trucks, listing all the jurisdictions where that carrier operates or may operate in the future. The truck owner then has access to all IRP jurisdictions and the Licensing and Control Branch sends registration money to the states and provinces every 45 days.

The change to IRP will affect any carrier traveling to more than one jurisdiction.

“The only alternative to IRP will be to buy full plates or trip permits in every jurisdiction,” says David Firzzell, co-ordinator of commercial vehicle prorate for the MTO. “And that, of course, would be quite costly and an administrative nightmare.”

Although the IRP system is almost 30 years old, it has only really gained widespread acceptance in the last few years, mostly due to the massive increase in north/south commercial traffic. For the past 20 years, commercial travel between jurisdictions in the U.S. and Canada has been governed by reciprocity agreements. These agreements between individual provinces and states exempted Canadian carriers from paying registration fees in every U.S. state in which they traveled and vice-versa. That system started to break down when certain states began to feel it was no longer fair.

“As the truck traffic increased, some states started to grumble and then drop out because they felt the playing field wasn’t level,” Firzzell said. “For example, Idaho found that there were certain Canadian carriers running eight to 10 times as many miles in that state as many Idaho-based carriers.”

In fact, the U.S. will be canceling all reciprocal agreements, and that’s what moved other Canadian jurisdictions to announce plans to join.

Although the move to IRP will certainly streamline the registration process for carriers, there is no guarantee that it will result in lower costs. Ontario’s ministry stresses that there will be no changes to any requirements other than IFTA, including Heavy Vehicle Use Taxes (HVUT) and any other special fees and taxes specific to a particular jurisdiction.

“Your fees may be higher or they may be lower, depending on your travel patterns,” Sawach says. “If you travel to an area with high fees, your fees will be high.”

IRP audits will be conducted by the carrier’s home jurisdiction. In the case of Ontario, audits will be conducted by the Ministry of Finance with the same frequency as fuel-tax audits. The ministry plans to audit 15 per cent of all registered carriers within a three-year period.

MTO plans to mail IRP applications to all IFTA registrants and an office is being set up in Downsview, Ont. that will be dedicated to IRP application processing. Trucking companies can obtain IRP credentials from the IRP transition office or their local prorate office. n

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