Truckers form blockade at Port Metro Vancouver

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VANCOUVER, B.C. — At this point there still doesn’t seem to be an accurate count of just how many truckers parked their rigs and protested at Port Metro Vancouver today, but the consensus is it’s a large number.

The Financial Post calls it “roughly 1,400”, CBC British Columbia says “some 1,200 Metro Vancouver container truckers” while CTV News Vancouver provides a lower estimate of “hundreds”. But no matter the exact figure, it’s possible to say a significant number of owner/operators tried to make their concerns about port delays heard.

The O/Os aren’t unionized, but they are part of the United Truckers Association. They are frustrated with operations at the port, claiming they experience excessively long wait times waiting times. They also wish to see pay-rate enforcement as a way to eliminate under-cutting of prices.

Port Metro Vancouver says it really in a position to do anything about the truckers’ complaints. In a statement, port vice-president of planning and operations Peter Xotta said, “Though we cannot get in the middle of the commercial relationship drivers have with trucking companies, the port is committed to continued collaboration with the UTA and other stakeholders in enhancing operational efficiencies within our jurisdiction.

“It is in the best interests of all stakeholders to maximize the efficiency of the port and Port Metro Vancouver actively works with stakeholders to ensure the efficient and reliable movement of cargo in support of Canada’s domestic and international trade.”

According to the port, many recent delays can be blamed on the elements rather than on procedures.

“Over the past two months, extreme weather conditions in eastern and central North America have forced the need to shorten and slow trains so they could operate safely. Meanwhile, storms in the Pacific Ocean delayed ships. Overall, there has been enormous impact on the movement of goods, affecting railways and terminal operators, and at times, causing extended delays for truckers.”

It’s not just the independent O/Os who are unhappy with the situation at the port. Unifor is also readying itself to take action to gain some improvement in the situation. The union’s BC trucking branch, Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association (VCTA), has a strike vote set for Saturday, March 1.

According to Unifor, the VCTA is “fed up with a lack of progress at the bargaining table and government inaction that is costing truckers money.”

Commenting on the UTA action, Paul Johal, president of Unifor-VCTA, said, “This morning’s protest is just the beginning. Truckers are prepared to escalate job action if the port and both levels of government don’t take our concerns seriously.”

BC’s largest union representing container truckers will be holding a strike vote on Saturday, March 1. Members of Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association (VCTA) are fed up with a lack of progress at the bargaining table and government inaction that is costing truckers money.

Unifor is in a position to call for a strike as its collective agreement expired in June 2012. Since then, Unifor says it has been “raising concerns that long line-ups and wait times at the Port of Vancouver are costing truck drivers money. Unifor-VCTA is demanding increased rates of pay at the bargaining table and wants the rates standardized and enforced across the sector to put an end to under-cutting.”

Gavin McGarrigle explains why he feels a strike vote is necessary.

“Without container truck drivers doing their job, ports grind to a halt. They are vital to BC and Canada’s economy, but the government is taking them for granted. We’re taking action because our members are finding it harder and harder to make a living in the industry.”

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  • The general public would be in support of these drivers, but they aren’t because of the complete lack of professionalism that they demonstrate on public roads. Speeding, jawing away on cell phones, cutting people off, taking up all lanes on the roads as they try to race each other to and from the port. It’s ridiculous how these guys drive. People are tired of it and if they blockade normal streets again they’ll get even less support. The fact is that many of the problems are ones they bring on themselves. Rates were agreed to last time, then they just start undercutting each other, it’s ridiculous.

  • From what I understand the problem is the “undercutting of rates” every Tom, Dick, or Hardeep that buys thier own truck drops the rate and before you know it they aren’t making a dime. So why should the Government step in and set the rates for them after they’ve undercut thier way to the situation they are in now?

    This is Canada, survival of the fitest has applied during my 30 years in this business. If the load doesn’t pay enough then find one that does!

  • Both the unionized truckers and the O/O have every right to strike. The only solution is a port congestion fee which should have been brought in to the port(s) of Vancouver the last time this happened. It wont eliminate the line ups as the global economy and demand for foreign products and cheap labour continues to grow at this pace. To the person who complained about how they drive, grow up and get off the road.

  • So learning to be a professional driver and learning to drive a big rig is one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life and I have done many things in my 60 years. Driving a loaded truck around a busy city with thousands of other vehicles and trying to meet scheduals is easily as dangerous, difficult , and stressful as operating other large industrial machinery , yet drivers must work in an atomosphere with pedestrians and traffic that would never be allowed in an industrial setting. The average truck driver including owner opperators in lower mainland B.C. Earns near poverty level. I don’t haul to the port myself however their plight is real. All professional drivers in big rigs are like a giant on the streets with little cars zipping around them …they are far more careful of other traffic than ever given credit for. They are the the giants among you all.!!!! They deliver everything we buy or use , truckers should have the support of all , they are looking after you.I see some negative comments here , those comments show the persons intelligence . The finger that points has three fingers pointing back at themselves. Hold strong driver , you deserve fair pay and respect .

  • Truckers who choose to work in the lower mainland choose the environment over the rate of pay. If a trucker seriously wanted to earn a good wage Northern British Columbia and Northern Alberta would be a better fit. As a professional driver I have learned if you are going to compete for wages BC specifically the lower mainland is the worst place to do so. To the individual who complained about the cell phone drivers and speeding drivers, phone them in. They are dangerous to everyone on the road. Mining, forestry, oil and gas are still the best overall paying gigs for drivers. Until BC allows drilling in southern BC there will not be any way to make a good living there when driving a truck.

  • Blocking the port will only force your customers to find alternative ways to get goods to market. A little short term pain, but we will find a way to work around you.

    Good Luck in your fight.

  • Client you will come back when you find other ways and realize its hurting your bottom line. This is all about the bottom line you care about your costs and they about there’s. It is wrong to push 1200 drivers and excpect them to carry the burden so the consumer can get the lowest prices at walmart.

  • It is mainly the company owners of truck companies , undercutting each other ,and forcing drivers to work below agreed cost, or not get dispatched , as well , drivers going to ports for drop off , must return into long line ups to go back into port for pick ups , rather than give the pickup while already on site. This is the main reason why it takes hrs on end to drop off and pick up at ports, truck company owners and slow ports are the real issue.

  • I work on the docks at Delta Port and have a few points to make. There are two gates, one going in and one going out. For safety reasons and to avoid congestion that could cripple movement on the docks, only so many trucks can be allowed in at a time. There’s a speed limit. There’s a significant number of truckers who get confused about where they’re supposed to go once in. Then there’s the fact there’s only so much space available at the ports, and it has to accommodate all of the operations, all of the containers and goods, and all of the people, including the truckers.

  • The new rules that mean that drivers can no longer cheat on their hours to make up for unpaid time the fed. gov was told back in 2006 that truck drivers would leave and do other jobs. The fed gov. allowed drivers to come in from other places in the world. These drivers have less options to get other kinds of work. The same problem is happening all over U.S. and Canada in trucking. I expect that there will be many more strikes this year about unpaid(or underpaid) driver time, of instead of correcting the truck driver pay issue. The trucking co.(s) bring in more offshore drivers to keep wages down. One trucking company( bringing offshore drivers) told me you to make sure that you lease these drivers truck so that can not leave.

  • The Trucking Company gets paid for the wait times at the Port but they do not pass that payment on to their drivers. Has someone even brought this to light or what.
    Is world shipping going to be hostage to a bunch of violent protesters? Trucks being shot, stoned and vandalised on the highway and at the Port. Should these people be in a position of control over anything at all? Seriously? Is anybody ever going to run out of patience? Who will protect shipping if the owners are this corrupt with their own employees?

    Hoping someone will take the time to gather the facts and publish them at some point soon.

  • As a fellow Trucker I used to feel for the drivers that had to go to the ports and sit for hours waiting to get a container. They do have a legitimate gripe with the current way that the Port conducts business and it SHOULD be fixed.

    Unfortunately, now, with all the vandalism, threats of bodily harm and threats towards peoples families they have given the morale high ground to the Port. As of right now, all they are capable of is criminal behavior it seems. Which portrays them in the worst kind of light to the public eye.

    The Port should revoke ALL port privileges to ALL striking truckers and ban them from doing business there for life.

    It is terrible that (because they cut brake lines on a vehicle which, according to a court of law…)they resorted to attempted murder. Any truckers that don’t want to be associated with that kind of behavior should quit striking. The people doing this are not looking out for your best interests and those that are letting it happen are just as guilty.