Shippers are paying surcharges. –APTC

MONCTON [Feb. 22, 2000] -The Atlantic Provinces Transportation Commission (APTC) says shippers are being held hostage as truckers block highways to protest high fuel costs.

“While carriers have little control over fuel prices, neither do the shippers, said Peter Vuillemot, executive director of the APTC. “To hold shippers hostage to the situation is unfair and totally unacceptable.”

For the past three days, up to 500 trucks have been caught up in a protest action, taking place near Amherst, N.S. Some truckers are indicating that shippers haven’t been forthcoming with surcharges applied to cover the astronomical price of fuel. Diesel prices in the Amherst as of Tuesday were reported to be in the high 70’s.

Vuillemot suggested that most shippers have been responsive to the motor carrier’s escalating costs in recent months by accepting surcharges of between 5% and 11%.

He added that he expects those carriers to live up to the terms of their carriage contracts by getting the freight to market.

The carriers have been hamstrung by blockades set up on the Trans Canada Highway, near Amherst, N.S., by an unidentified group of owner operators. It was earlier thought that the Truckers Association of Nova Scotia (TANS) was behind the blockade, but TANS office manager, Dave Roberts, has said that TANS has no official involvement in the activity.

The APTC has said it supports the Nova Scotia’s action in obtaining a court injunction to remove the blockades. “As hundreds of trucks line up in protest, millions of dollars of freight are being delayed causing manufacturers and producers to face interruption and closure of their operations,” Vuillemot said in a press release. “The APTC encourages the provincial governments to take whatever action necessary to remove the blockades.”

The Nova Scotia provincial government obtained a court injunction, yesterday, to end the blockade. But no action has been taken to enforce the injunction. Vuillemot said that as of Tuesday afternoon, some manufacturers were fearful that product shortages might affect production, with some anticipating having to cease production entirely until shipments resume.

Vuillemot acknowledged the pressure carriers and owner operators are facing in light of the price of fuel, but says the owner operator group in Ontario, The National Truck Drivers Association, has taken the appropriate route. “They’ve simply withdrawn their equipment from the market place for a time,” Vuillemot said. “That is a positive and responsible way of demonstrating their dissatisfaction with rates.”

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