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Toronto-Michigan hauling contract in discussion

In an article in the Globe & Mail newspaper, columnist James Rusk has reported that Toronto could face piles of rot...


In an article in the Globe & Mail newspaper, columnist James Rusk has reported that Toronto could face piles of rotting garbage this summer if the city cannot resolve a dispute with the company that says it’s losing money on its deal to ship the material to Michigan.

Wilson Logistics Inc., the trucking company that carries Toronto’s refuse to a Michigan landfill, is trying to cancel its haulage contract with the city. A change in U.S. trucking laws means it has been losing more than $10,000 a day on the contract since the start of the year, according to chairman and chief executive officer James Wilson.

“Wilson would be very prepared to pass on the baton, if there was someone to pass it on to,” he said in an interview with Mr. Rusk.

The news that Wilson Logistics is trying to get out of the contract surprised city hall only two days after council passed a budget handing home owners a 3-per-cent tax increase.

Since last fall, the company has been trying to get city officials to agree to a $5 increase in the $33 a tonne shipping fee to make up for increased costs under the new rules. If everything stays on track, the company will ship about 950,000 tonnes of trash this year.

With the talks at an impasse since December, Mr. Wilson said the company has been forced to refer the contract to an arbitration panel, which will have its first meeting on May 19.

A ruling against the city would throw the trash-collection system into chaos, because Toronto has the capacity to hold only two days’ worth of garbage.

Washington’s new rules, which apply to all truckers in the United States as well as those who enter the country as part of their daily runs, are much tougher than the old ones.

The previous regulations limited work shifts to 15 hours, required drivers to have eight consecutive hours off between shifts and allowed drivers to take the time for coffee breaks, bathroom stops and meals out of their hours worked.

Rules that came into effect January 4 that limit shifts to 14 consecutive hours, including breaks, and require 10 consecutive hours off between shifts.

Until recently, a Wilson driver would pick up a load of garbage at a Toronto transfer station, drive the truck 475 kilometres to the Michigan landfill and bring the empty truck back to the transfer station, where the next driver took over. The routine roundtrip took 12 hours.

But trips have been taking longer. One reason is slower loading and unloading as both the city and Republic Services, the operator of the Michigan landfill, adjusted to increased tonnage after Toronto’s Keele Valley landfill closed.

The company also has delays of up to three hours to get across the border in the wake of stepped-up security after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as U.S. officials check paperwork and each load carefully.

After tracking his trucks with global positioning devices, Mr. Wilson now estimates that forty per cent of roundtrips take longer than 14 hours.

To ensure compliance with the new rules, it now takes two drivers to get a truck to Michigan and back. One driver, who does two runs a day, drives from Toronto to London, Ontario, then turns the truck over to another driver who does one run a day from London to Michigan and back.

That has meant that Wilson Logistics has had to hire 150 more drivers and build a new terminal next to Highway 401 at London, where the drivers do their switch.

The arbitration panel will have to decide whether the new U.S. rules create what the contract calls uncontrollable circumstances, and if it so finds, it must rule that the contract between the city and Wilson is null and void.

A city official who has been dealing with the issue said yesterday the city believes it likely will win the arbitration case and that Mr. Wilson is trying to pressure Toronto politicians into cutting a deal.


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