Canadian cities cracking down on illegal truck parking

Caledon, Brampton pursuing companies that evade laws on parking, storing of trucks

Two Canadian cities — Caledon and Brampton — have had some victories the past several years in the fight against illegal truck parking and truck storage in their Toronto-area communities, though the issue is far from resolved.

“Caledon has always dealt with small-scale issues of illegal land use with some owners parking trucks on rural properties,” John DeCourcy, Caledon’s manager of municipal law enforcement, told FreightWaves. “However, [since] 2019 Caledon has seen immense growth in terms of population and development, which in turn has demonstrated a prevalence of illegal use of lands.”

In Caledon, commercial truck storage facilities are only allowed on lands that are zoned for serviced industrial and unserviced industrial use. Since 2020, owners of 56 properties have been charged with illegal truck parking and storage.

The neighboring city of Brampton has been grappling with truck parking issues as well.

Caledon, population 76,581, and Brampton, population 745,557, are about 40 miles north of Toronto in the region of Peel. Peel is considered the heart of the trucking industry in the area. It is in Ontario, a province in east-central Canada that borders the U.S.

“To date, the city of Brampton has charged three separate property owners for operating illegal trucking yards contrary to the zoning bylaw,” Ashton Patis, Brampton spokeswoman, said in an email to FreightWaves. “The zoning bylaw prohibits the parking of oversized motor vehicles at residential properties.”

Caledon officials said they have identified over 180 properties with suspected illegal trucking operations in the town, and that they intend to go after all of them.

In 2021, Caledon created a land-use enforcement task force, which includes two dedicated officers.

“Caledon is blessed with some of the richest farmland in Ontario,” former Caledon Mayor Allan Thompson said when the task force was created. “Unfortunately, that land, especially along our southern border, is under serious threat from those who take advantage of our proximity to the greater Toronto area to illegally park commercial vehicles.”

In November, the town of Caledon successfully litigated 6230 Mayfield Inc., resulting in a court order to cease illegal land use operations and a $30,000 fine. (Photo: Town of Caledon)

Truck parking and storage a major problem in the region

DeCourcy said several factors have led to many trucking and transportation firms locating operations in Caledon, as well as Brampton.

“Factors include Caledon’s proximity to highways and the Canadian Pacific intermodal facility in Vaughan (located 35 miles east); and multiple large logistics facilities in Caledon and Brampton,” DeCourcy said. “Other contributing factors include insufficient municipal zoning bylaws that permit truck storage facilities and the rising costs of large vacant land in other municipalities such as Brampton and Vaughan.”

Another reason for so many commercial transportation firms locating in Caledon and Brampton is the financial motivation of illegal operators that are “making significant revenue from such operations,” DeCourcy said.

Approximately $1.8 billion worth of goods moves through Peel every day, carried by some 68,000 commercial vehicles, according to a 2019 study

“The region of Peel can be thought of as the distribution hub of Canada; retailers and manufacturers prefer Peel as the location from which to handle inventories and stage their operations,” the study said. “Peel is intersected by seven major provincial highways, contains rail intermodal yards operated by Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, and is home to Canada’s largest airport by passenger and cargo volumes.”

About four out of nine jobs in Peel depend on the commercial transportation industry.

Geoffrey Wood, senior vice president of policy at the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA), said adequate parking and rest areas for truckers across Canada has been a growing issue for years that is being addressed by municipal, provincial and national governments.

“Where the OTA has been asked to get involved is really with two aspects — truck parking with respect to what a driver needs to do to meet their hours-of-service requirements and land-use planning on the federal level for the Peel Region, which is where Brampton and Caledon are located, and is really the epicenter of the multimodal supply chain,” Wood said. “One of the things the OTA board has tasked us with is to work on a discussion paper as to how land-use planning at the federal, provincial, municipal level can be looked at to support the supply chain, specifically truck terminals.”

Wood said officials from Caledon, as well as the city of Mississauga, which is also in Peel, are part of the Peel Goods Movement Task Force, and “they are doing all kinds of amazing things to support the supply chain.”

“One of the other aspects that’s being looked at is if there are federal or provincial and municipal lands that become available for whatever use that the municipalities or the province or the feds determine it should be — for instance, if the land is deemed that it should be supporting the supply chain, that the process to access those lands is a transparent process,” Wood said. “If it’s land that may be designated for future use, that hasn’t been completely confirmed yet, that the process for carriers and businesses to access that land, if it’s in a lease arrangement or purchase arrangement, is open and transparent.”

Patis said Brampton is currently developing a citywide parking plan, “which provides recommendations for increasing truck parking opportunities.” 

“The nonavailability of existing and designated short-term and long-term truck parking spaces has been identified as a data gap,” Patis said.

The Brampton Mobility Plan, which was developed about a decade ago, has identified a need for the city to collaborate with government and private sector stakeholders to refine its overall goods movement strategy, and also recommended using underutilized parking facilities, such as sports venues and convention centers, for truck parking.

“Current strategies under consideration include truck prioritization, intelligent transportation systems, roadway design, expansion of the long combination vehicle’s network, and emerging technologies,” Patis said. “The city has made broader recommendations to address safety issues on roads with significant truck volume [but] has yet to implement a plan to use underutilized parking facilities, such as sports venues and convention centers, for truck parking.”

Officials in Caledon said there has been a large increase in illegal use of properties for trucking and industrial purposes since 2019. (Photo: Town of Caledon)

Pursuing illegal trucking operators

In 2021, Caledon successfully litigated local construction firm Darzi Holdings Ltd., eventually resulting in the company receiving a $1 million fine for contempt of court.

The case began in 2018 when residents complained about illegal parking and storage of commercial motor vehicles and contracting equipment at a property in Caledon.

Darzi Holdings was charged and pleaded guilty in 2019 to defying Caledon’s zoning bylaw and was fined $36,000.

Over a period of time, Darzi Holdings failed to bring the property into compliance and Caledon pursued a civil case. Darzi and its principals were found to be slow to comply and were eventually found guilty of contempt and ordered to pay $1 million by the Ontario Court of Appeal. 

Since January, Caledon has also fined three more illegal trucking operations with over $45,000 in fines.

Officials for Darzi Holdings and other trucking companies regulated by Caledon did not reply to a request for comment from FreightWaves. 

DeCourcy said while Caledon’s zoning bylaw does permit “transportation depots” in industrial zoned properties, many operators don’t want to go through the process of obtaining permits.

“The costs associated with the approval process and development of the property is an expense they wish to avoid,” DeCourcy said.

Some smaller trucking companies in Caledon have agreed to voluntarily comply with the ordinance, DeCourcy said.

“However, when it comes to the large-scale operators, achieving voluntary compliance is difficult,” DeCourcy said. “Our enforcement strategy has always tried to achieve compliance voluntarily by working with the landowners. Unfortunately, this does not occur, and we’re forced to try and achieve compliance through the courts.”