Truck News


Get off your soapbox, into reality

I don't spend near as much time on the highway as any of the over-the-road truckers who make this magazine possible. But when I do get to travel around Western Canada, I relish the opportunity to pick...

I don’t spend near as much time on the highway as any of the over-the-road truckers who make this magazine possible. But when I do get to travel around Western Canada, I relish the opportunity to pick up the local newspapers and get a sample of the flavor of the community.

Usually, the smaller community newspapers can be counted on to deliver an accurate taste of the area I’m visiting. Unfortunately, the first article I happened to lay my eyes on during a recent visit to Vancouver left me with a distinctly different taste – the taste of sour grapes.

The article came in the form of a column published in one of the left-wing rags that can be found littering the floors and tables of cheap pizza joints throughout metro.

The column, entitled Truckers fuel up outside GVRD caught my eye (for obvious reasons) and I read it expecting to find some valuable insight into the local trucking industry. I soon realized, however, that it would have been better left on the table to soak up the spilled ketchup and mustard stains.

The author of the piece was a fellow by the name of Allen Garr.

In his column, Garr lambasted Vancouver-area truckers for purchasing their fuel outside the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) to avoid the four cents per litre fuel tax that was initiated about 10 years ago to help bail out TransLink.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the plight of TransLink, it is the tragic tale of a struggling transit body that managed to dig itself into a monstrous debt and counted on the trucking industry to help rectify the situation.

Although a proposed vehicle levy that would have cost local carriers thousands of dollars was shot down earlier this year, TransLink is on the verge of implementing a much-maligned fuel tax increase of an additional two cents per litre, which could ultimately cost trucking companies more than the dreaded levy.

Garr complains that trucking companies have been intentionally buying fuel in the GVRD’s outlying areas to avoid paying the extra four cents per litre, and he predicts even more will do so when the tax is hiked to six cents per litre.

However, this hard-nosed journalist evidently had trouble finding a trucking company that did so, as he chose B.C. Trucking Association (BCTA) president, Paul Landry, as his whipping boy of choice.

He accused Landry of being, “quite blas about this tax-evasion scheme.” And for good reason, too. When Garr questioned him about the issue, Landry had the audacity to stand by the trucking community, and suggest that it simply “gets down to value for money.”

Mr. Landry, how dare you suggest that trucking companies should be allowed to purchase their fuel where they choose? Your comments reek of free enterprise. Wait a second, is this not Canada? Do we not pride ourselves on the fact that we live in a free society and are welcome to buy what we want, where we want, when we want?

Mr. Garr apparently feels that all truckers who run the GVRD’s roads have the moral responsibility to line up at the pumps to fill the pockets of TransLink.

Better yet, perhaps the BCTA could take up a collection from local fleets to pay for Mr. Garr’s bus pass (after all, fares are also slated to rise considerably under the latest proposal).

Admittedly, trucking companies operating in the GVRD stand to benefit from TransLink’s road improvement spending. But should trucking companies really shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden when the majority of the money raised through the fuel taxes goes towards subsidizing transit users?

Garr seems to think so.

He insinuates that trucking companies that buy their fuel outside the GVRD have, “little regard for the common good.” He goes on to state that, “What the BCTA is involved in is a tax revolt that seems totally beyond the GVRD’s control.”

Tax revolt? In my eyes, buying their fuel outside the GVRD is a perfectly legitimate form of protest – not to mention a very sound business practice – and last I checked there were no laws against peacefully protesting unfair government policies and watching out for your own best interests.

Mind you, Garr does acknowledge that truckers aren’t the only ones exercising their right to buy the lower-priced fuel.

He admits other motorists are partially to blame on the impending doom that threatens to cripple the region’s transit services.

“Truckers aren’t the only fuel tax evaders; they’re just the biggest,” reasons Garr.

Mr. Garr, I commend you for taking the high (and well-maintained) road, and buying your fuel at the inflated prices charged within the GVRD. The extra dollar or two you shell out in fuel costs each time you fill up your tank is surely what will make TransLink a more viable and efficient operation.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Even if the majority of trucks boycott fuel stations within the GVRD, the trucking industry is still footing the majority of the bill to ensure you can get where you’re going on the public transit system.

While it’s very noble that you accept the fuel tax hike and are willing to pay it out of hand, don’t, for a second, think that the trucking industry isn’t pulling its weight. And that’s a lot of weight to pull.

– James Menzies heads our western news bureau and he can be reached at 403-275-3160.

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