What We Heard Report—Consultation on proposed specifications for multiple dimension measuring devices

Introduction

From June 2, 2023, to August 4, 2023, Measurement Canada (MC) conducted an online consultation with interested stakeholders to seek feedback on plans to replace the temporary terms and conditions for the approval of multiple dimension measuring devices (MDMDs) with permanent specifications pursuant to Section 13 of the Weights and Measures Regulations, which authorizes the Minister to establish specifications relating to the design, composition, construction and performance to which any device must conform before it is approved.

MDMDs are used by shipping and storage industries to measure the size of packages, pallets and other objects. The measurements obtained are then used to bill customers. In accordance with Section 3(2) of the Weights and Measures Act, the Minister may approve a device or class, type or design of device for use in trade on a temporary basis and under specific terms and conditions, until such a time as MC establishes final specifications and concludes its evaluation of the device for approval in accordance with those published specifications. MC's existing requirements for MDMDs were published in 2006 in a Terms and Conditions document, which means that all currently approved devices are only temporarily approved. This presents a risk to manufacturers and traders as they continue to manufacture or use devices that may not conform to final specifications. MC is planning to publish specifications for MDMDs to replace the temporary requirements of the Terms and Conditions.

The World Trade Organization's (WTO) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, to which Canada is a signatory, strongly encourages members to base their measures on international standards as a means to facilitate trade. MC intends to harmonize Canada's requirements for MDMDs with International Recommendation 129 (R 129) set by the International Organization of Legal Metrology (OIML). OIML R 129, which was last updated in December 2020, incorporates the latest technological advancements in MDMDs.

The development of specifications for MDMDs will result in:

  • greater certainty of the status of MDMDs for all stakeholders,
  • better harmonization with international standards,
  • improved access to more approved MDMDs,
  • consideration of newer technologies, and
  • consideration of Canadian marketplace needs.

Who we consulted

The consultation was posted on MC's consultation web page, as well as on the Consulting with Canadians section of the Canada.ca website, and was open to all Canadians. It specifically targeted manufacturers of MDMDs and traders who use these devices for trade. MC received comments from 38 respondents. These included 19 MDMD manufacturers, 1 MDMD distributor, 5 traders who use MDMDs in the course of conducting business, 7 members of the public, and 6 other respondents. Respondents were notified about the consultation by email, both directly and through MC's mailing lists.

What we asked

During the consultation, respondents were asked about five specific major differences between Canada's existing requirements for MDMDs and the requirements of OIML R 129. These differences concern the following requirements:

  • Minimum length
  • Permitted values of "d" (dimension division value)
  • Maximum indicated value
  • Units of measurement
  • Error messages and limits of indication

Each of the questions asked respondents about the impact on their business of harmonizing the requirements with those of OIML R129, and gave the respondents a chance to express any concerns. Respondents were also asked about their involvement with MDMDs and if they had any general feedback.

What we heard

Overall, the feedback received was positive regarding the harmonization and updating the existing requirements. The concerns expressed mainly revolved around existing devices and the implementation of the changes. Many manufacturers indicated that changing the existing, temporary terms and conditions into a more permanent specifications would benefit them.

There were relatively few concerns about the requirements for minimum length, permitted values of "d" (dimension division value) and maximum indicated value. The main concern expressed was about the transition from the existing requirements to new requirements for MDMDs of a type already approved and in service.

The results showed that 43% of respondents indicated that harmonizing Canada's requirements for units of measurement would have an impact on their business, while 44% indicated that they had concerns about it. The most commonly expressed view from manufacturers was that their customers (i.e. traders) would want MDMDs that measure in imperial units of measurement. If Canada harmonizes its requirement for units of measurement with OIML R 129, then only MDMDs measuring in metric units would be approved for use in trade in Canada. One trader expressed the same view but for cross-border trade. Most respondents indicated that harmonization (i.e. requiring metric‑only units) would have:

  • moderate impact on domestic operations within Canada,
  • moderate to high impact on cross-border business with the United States, and
  • low impact on cross-border business with Europe and the rest of the world.

Feedback received about harmonizing the requirements for error messages and limits of indication generally indicated low levels of concern. The only concern raised was whether MC intended to exercise additional authorities allowed by the wording in OIML R 129, such as limiting the use of measurements that are accompanied by an error message.

The sole response to the length of time it would take to adapt to these changes indicated a period of six to twelve months.

In summary, the feedback received was positive regarding harmonization and updating the existing requirements. The main concern was how MC would handle existing devices and how the changes would be implemented. Many manufacturers indicated that replacing the existing, temporary terms and conditions with permanent specifications would benefit them.

Conclusion and next steps

MC would like to thank all the respondents for their contribution to the consultation. The feedback will provide valuable insight when developing the new specifications for MDMDs and any associated programs for implementing the changes on devices already in service.

MC is committed to upholding Canada's commitments to the WTO's Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement by harmonizing Canadian requirements with those of the international community wherever possible.

All concerns shared with MC through this consultation, including issues regarding the use of metric-only units, will be considered as MC continues to work on establishing final specifications. Once the specifications are published, MC will collaborate with stakeholders to develop a gradual transition strategy with clear timelines for the implementation of the changes.

MC will continue to work closely with industry stakeholders to ensure the integrity and accuracy of trade measurement and related technologies in Canada, in a manner that supports and fosters innovation while protecting consumers.