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Truckers demand pay for long waits at Vancouver ports

Truckers fed up with long lines at the port have formed a 1,200-member lobby group to demand shorter wait times…

By Elizabeth Hames , in Business Feature story , on October 16, 2013 Tags: , , , ,

Trucks waiting on Commissioner Street
Trucks have been lining up by the port’s entrance on the Vancouver side of the Burrard Inlet.

Truckers fed up with long lines at the port have formed a 1,200-member lobby group to demand shorter wait times and payment for every hour spent idling.

The newly-formed United Truckers Association argues drivers can spend up to four hours waiting to offload a container at Port Metro Vancouver‘s Burrard Inlet facility in east Vancouver and its Deltaport terminal near Tsawwassen.

This cuts into their take-home pay because, unlike salaried employees, truckers are only compensated for the containers they deliver. An hour spent waiting in the queue is an hour without pay.

“Nobody makes any money,” said Paul Johal, president of the Vancouver Container Trucking Association union.

Currently, truck drivers receive a minimum of $100 per container, and Johal said delays at the port means they can only deliver about three or four containers a day. From that $300 or $400, the driver pays for gas and insurance.

“By the time you’re done, you’re left with $125,” said Johal.

The truckers association, composed of union and non-union members, has a tentative meeting set with Port Metro Vancouver this week to discuss its concerns.

Calls to Port Metro Vancouver were not returned by deadline.

Wary of strike

Container truck at the port in Vancouver
Record-high grain yield has contributed to more traffic.

Some drivers believe a strike is the only way to draw attention to their concerns.

Others fear a repeat of the summer of 2005, when more than 1,000 independent truckers walked off the job demanding their pay reflect rising fuel costs.

The six-week strike reportedly cost the provincial economy an estimated $75 million per day.

It led to hundreds of layoffs in shipping-dependent industries, such as retail, restaurant and forestry.

The strike ended in late July when arbitrator Vince Ready negotiated a deal that included a standard increase in hauling rates, which became known as the “Ready rates.”

Enforcement of rates

Today, the port requires all non-union companies and owner-operators wishing operate a container truck at its terminals to agree to the Ready rates.

However, Johal said enforcement of the rates is weak and the more than 149 companies and owner-operators that operate in Metro Vancouver are constantly bidding for jobs at lower than the minimum standard.

The new truckers association would like to see stronger enforcement of the Ready rates in addition to shorter wait times and better pay.

A record-high grain yield has increased the number of trucks at the terminal, while construction for an elevated trucking road along adjoining McGill Street has snarled traffic, said Louise Yako, president of the B.C. Trucking Association.

However, Johal said wait times at Vancouver’s Commissioner Street entrance were long even before construction began.