Truck drivers facing a deteriorating situation as protestors continue to block the Coutts border crossing in Alberta for the fourth day are likely to see some relief. The RCMP on Tuesday begun removing the blockade of protesters and vehicles.
A convoy of semi-trucks, four-wheelers and farm equipment are parked on Highway 4 south of Lethbridge in support of the convoy to Ottawa with a goal to repeal a federal vaccination mandate for truckers, among other demands.
Owner-operator Lovepreet Singh was stuck at the Sweet Grass port of entry in Montana due to the Alberta blockade for two days.
He was seen in a video on social media pleading for help from Canadian authorities and lawmakers to help drivers stuck at the border to get through with their loads.
“What may have begun as a peaceful assembly quickly turned into an unlawful blockade. While the Alberta RCMP has been in a position to conduct enforcement, we have been engaged with protesters at the Coutts border crossing in an effort to find a peaceful and safe resolution for all involved. We thought we had a path to resolution, the protesters eventually chose not to comply,” RCMP said in a release on Tuesday.
“As of this morning, further action is being taken by the Alberta RCMP as this blockade continues to impede the ability for emergency agencies to provide full services to area residents. It has also negatively impacted the flow of goods and services, and impedes the public’s freedom of movement.”
When Singh arrived at the border on Jan. 29 at about 6 p.m. there were about 50 to 70 trucks lined up waiting. As time went by, the number grew to about 150 commercial vehicles, mostly loaded with produce in reefers.
Singh was hauling a load of produce from California bound for Edmonton. He said the truckers survived the first night, but the situation worsened on the second day. “When you have 150 truckers, only two or three washrooms are not enough,” he said.
Since the truckers were returning from their trips, they were running low on food and supplies. There were no restaurants within a radius of 30 km from where they were forced to stop.
Singh says some drivers had thyroid issues, high blood pressure problems, asthma, and other medical conditions and were running out or had run out of medication.
That is when Singh decided to reroute through British Columbia, adding about 300 miles and five to six hours to his trip. He had to also obtain fresh paperwork for border clearance.
Singh says the delay is affecting his livelihood. He drives in a team and has had to reschedule his next trip into the U.S. He does not want to head back out unless the border blockade has been cleared.
“I have to pay installments every month – $3,500 for the truck, $1,600 for insurance, $2,000 for the trailer rental,” he said. “The extra 300 miles I drove, I had to pay for the fuel out of my own pocket. That cost me another $300 to $400.”
Trucker Baz Gill was also stuck for two-and-half days. He was hauling a reefer filled with bananas. He got home on Monday night. “We faced food problems and washroom issues,” he said on Tuesday.
Singh, who is fully vaccinated, said truckers are suffering most due to the border blockade. “I don’t know what kind of message they want to convey to people. I don’t know what kind of freedom they are looking for when they strand truckers for more than two days at the border.”
The Canadian Meat Council on Monday said there are more than 150 loads of Canadian beef stuck at the border and its members are going to have to slow down production if the blockade continues.
The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) in a press release on Tuesday said the actions at the Coutts border and other land crossings “slow international trade and put heavy constraints on an already depleted supply chain.
“While the PMTC does not support vaccine mandates for truck drivers and have and will continue to lobby government to reconsider, we do not support the actions that have been taken in recent days to try to change them.”
- This is a developing story and has been updated with news of the blockade being removed.
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