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Covid-19 and the Transportation Industry

The world is working through the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic and you can see the effect in our current daily lives - fewer cars on the road, fewer people on the streets, and an increase of empty store shelves. The demand for every day essentials is skyrocketing as people stockpile and prepare for staying at home for longer periods of time, doing their best to “flatten the curve”. While so much of our attention is turned towards how we as individuals and civilians are impacting, and hopefully slowing this pandemic, the wheels are still turning out there in the transportation industry!

Updates are provided daily through various government agencies, so the information is always changing, but this week we are here to give you the most up-to-date information in regards to how COVID-19 is affecting the transportation industry as of September 23, 2020.

 

Driver Licensing & Insurance

ICBC has taken steps to reduce their employee’s interactions with the general public and has cancelled all scheduled road tests for all classes of licences and is only providing knowledge tests for commercial classes of licence - by appointment only. They have reduced their driver licensing office hours and staff on-hand so, while still remaining open, they are asking the public to only come in if their needs are urgent. To help facilitate this request, ICBC has extended the services that are available online and over the phone! During the current pandemic, you are now able to extend your expiring driver’s licence as well as renew your licence over the phone. 

There are other services that have been available online previously and ICBC has made these available exclusively online to further encourage customers to stay home and practice physical distancing. Through the ICBC website you can obtain driver records and abstracts, change your address, and pay violation tickets. They have also recently started allowing those who are on an Autoplan monthly payment for their insurance to defer a payment for up to 90 days with no penalty and this too, can be done online - however, for anyone who is close to their due date, you should give them a call to discuss your options.

If you do need to visit a driver licensing office in person, they ask that you only come if it is an urgent matter and if you are not showing any cold or flu symptoms.

May 1, 2020 - Update from ICBC - Knowledge testing has been expanded for some customers and is by appointment only.  Motorcycle Skills Testing (MST) will resume on May 11, 2020 for applicants who hold an existing learner's licence.   

June 1, 2020 - Update from ICBC - Knowledge testing remains by appointment only, but has been expanded to include all classes of licence. Appointments continue to only be bookable by calling ICBC directly. 

July 20, 2020 - Update from ICBC - Knowledge test appointments can now be booked via ICBC's online booking service, which has been redesigned and also allows for booking appointments for: renewal or replacement of an existing BC licence or ID and new ID applications, reciprocal licence exchanges, medical exams and licence downgrades, and violation ticket disputes. See ICBC's updated information regarding COVID-19 and affected ICBC services here.


Public Transit

Public transit is an essential service and as the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has said it is crucial to remain open and running for other essential workers getting to and from work. With this in mind, public transit has pushed forward implementations to promote physical distancing and take steps to help the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

TransLink has made multiple changes to their operations, including having their public transit buses now instituting rear-door boarding and forgoing fares across the Metro Vancouver area. Riders who need assistance to board and unload can still use the front doors and any vehicles that do not have a rear entry will continue with front door loading. Some buses have started blocking off seats to encourage social distancing, and TransLink is working towards installing more protection barriers for the driver. While fares are being waived on transit buses, they are still being collected on TransLinks’ other forms of transportation including the SeaBus, SkyTrain, and West Coast Express.

BC Transit has also announced that they will be implementing the rear-boarding process where applicable, while still allowing riders who need assistance to board and unload at the front of the bus. Fares have also been waived for public transit buses as well as HandyDART services, for a 30-day period that started on Thursday, March 19th in Victoria and Nanaimo. Other jurisdictions will see the changes being implemented as well, as soon as possible.

Apr 1, 2020 - Update from TransLink - Bus operators will not be able to assist our wheelchair customers with being strapped in a front-facing position on our conventional buses. Those with mobility devices on buses that have a rear facing accessible seat will be able to park in the designated area themselves and secure their device. For buses that do not have this area, customers with mobility devices will need to travel with someone who can assist them.

May 4, 2020 - Update from BC Transit, TransLink - Free rides on Lower Mainland buses are set to come to an end as of June 1, 2020 as both TransLink and BC Transit bring back fare collection.  TransLink will be installing temporary plexiglass barriers to conventional buses currently equipped with traditional operator barriers.  Buses that don't have the traditional barriers, will have vinyl barriers installed.  BC Transit (who operates outside of Metro Vancouver), will install a temporary vinyl panel to allow for physical distancing for drivers and customers on all buses without a full driver door.

June 1, 2020 - Update from BC Transit - BC Transit will begin to implement riders entering only at the front and exiting only at the rear door to get more one way flow, with the exception of mobility aids.

August 24, 2020 - Update from BC Transit, TransLink - Both BC Transit and Translink will be proceeding with mandatory use of face coverings on buses, while providing exemptions for some riders. See BC Transit's updated information regarding COVID-19 and affected services here. See Translink's updated information regarding COVID-19 and affected services here.


Ride Sharing

Lyft and Uber are still operating across the country, but have suspended the use of “shared rides” so the pooling option is not available via the ride-sharing apps at this time. Both companies show that the shared rides make up a small portion of their total rider base, but this is a great step for them to take.

Lyft says that riders or drivers will be temporarily suspended from using or providing ride-hailing services and will be reinstated once they have been medically cleared. Lyft has stated they will continue to follow the CDC recommendations for ridesharing, which includes keeping windows open, increasing ventilation, and regularly disinfecting vehicle surfaces.

Uber has also promised that any riders or drivers that have contracted or been exposed to COVID-19 will have their accounts temporarily suspended. In addition to cutting out the pooling option, Uber is asking their riders to sit in the back seat, open their window to improve ventilation, and be sure to practice proper hand washing hygiene when they enter and leave any ride-hailing vehicle.

May 7, 2020 - Update from Lyft, Uber - Lyft has instated a Health Safety Program, which now requires drivers and riders to complete a personal health certification and wear face masks. They are also distributing cleaning supplies and masks to all drivers, and providing health safety education for drivers and riders. Uber has instated a Door-to-Door Safety Standard, which requires riders and drivers to wear a face cover or mask - riders and drivers are free to cancel a trip, without penalty, if the other person isn’t wearing a mask.

June 10, 2020 - Update from Lyft, Uber - Lyft now requires that all riders and drivers stay home if they’re sick, increase sanitizing of hands and car surfaces, and leaving the front seat empty. By the end of September, Uber will require all drivers to check-in before starting their shift, showing a face-mask wearing selfie. See Lyft's updated information regarding COVID-19 and affected services here. See Uber's updated information regarding COVID-19 and affected services here.


Commercial Drivers

Like many of our healthcare personnel, commercial drivers across the globe are essential workers and are working hard to make sure the necessary goods and supplies are readily available. Without commercial drivers staying on the road during this time, grocery store shelves would continue to be empty, healthcare workers would continue to deal with lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), and communities under self-isolation would have no way of receiving necessities to their homes. Various trucking agencies and companies are all doing their part to help commercial drivers through this time, wherever possible.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement Branch (CVSE) has implemented an extension for any Vehicle Inspection Certificate of Approval expiry dates, due to Designated Inspection Facilities possibly closing amid COVID-19 concerns. This extension will push any March 31st or April 30th expirations to May 31st, with the possibility of a further extension, based on current events. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure does mention that any vehicles operating outside of BC should ensure they meet other jurisdictional requirements, as this extension is only valid in BC.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) has provided a COVID-19 Top Sheet for carriers, which provides a jumping off point with suggestions for procedures and policies that should be looked at and possibly implemented. While the CTA reiterates that this is not a complete checklist of policies or best practices, it does have considerations for implementation that include avoiding high-traffic areas, staying home if they are showing COVID-19 symptoms, and increased vehicle sanitizing. The CTA has also set up an information portal just for COVID-19 which features news updates and information, as well as uplifting stories of thanks to inspiring truck drivers.


Hours of Service

Hours of service regulations are designed to limit the time a commercial driver can spend driving. These rules help to reduce the risk of fatigue-related commercial vehicle crashes, by giving drivers more opportunity to rest. The Motor Vehicle Act Regulations (MVAR) does provide exemptions for drivers who are “... transporting passengers or goods for the purpose of providing relief… ” but the restrictions and limitations can be confusing, depending on what is described as an emergency and where this ruling must come from.

The CVSE has announced the expectations and requirements for the current public health emergency that has been declared. Providing relief does not currently include “... routine commercial deliveries or the transportation of mixed loads (including essential supplies, equipment, and persons) that are not being transported in support of emergency relief efforts related to COVID-19.” The list of exemptions is covered in the document provided by CVSE.

This exemption does not require the completion of a daily log, however it is recommended that drivers keep track under the “remarks” section of their logbook to ensure an accurate record of their driving habits and routes. Carriers are still required to provide their drivers with adequate rest and off-duty hours even while under this exemption.

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The COVID-19 pandemic is a time of uncertainty across the globe but now, more than ever, is the time for us all to stick together and build each other up. Our commercial drivers, our ride-hailing drivers, and our public transit workers are all helping to push our communities through this tough time, ensuring everyone’s safety while “flattening the curve” and adhering to the Ministry of Health’s recommendations.

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