Vancouver Port Turns Up the Heat on Striking Truckers

Bill Mongelluzzo, Mar 20, 2014, Journal of Commerce


In an effort to turn up the heat on striking truckers, Port Metro Vancouver has announced it will not renew port-issued licenses and permits that are set to expire soon, and will issue new ones only to those truckers who return to work today.


“I cannot imagine why we would issue future licenses and permits under the new licensing system to truckers who are not at work,” said Robin Silvester, president and CEO of Port Metro Vancouver.


Unionized and non-unionized truckers are in the third week of a strike over pay and working conditions that has reduced truck traffic to about 20 percent of normal at Canada’s largest port. Container terminals have become so congested that shipping lines are diverting local Vancouver containers to Seattle and Tacoma, Wash.


Containers that move into and out of the port by intermodal rail are being handled, but rail has also been an issue at ports on the Pacific Coast of North America this winter because of weather problems in the eastern half of the continent. Trains have been delayed, thereby causing a shortage of rail equipment at some ports.


Vancouver at the moment is more concerned about its truck problems, however. Drivers are pushing for large pay increases, paid wait time at terminals, longer gate hours and other measures to reduce congestion at marine terminals.


Drivers have been cohesive for three weeks now in pressing their demands. Trucking company executives said some of the drivers who want to work are not doing so because they fear retribution from striking drivers. The last time Vancouver experienced a major strike was in 2005, when the truckers strike lasted six weeks.


The federal government of Canada, the provincial government of British Columbia and Port Metro Vancouver last week distributed to the licensed drivers a 14-point action plan the authorities said will be phased in and should address all of the drivers concerns.


However, truck traffic has remained low. Silvester announced yesterday that reform of the Truck Licensing System that has been in place since the 2005 strike is now being accelerated. The port authority issues licenses and permits. Drivers that do not possess a license are not allowed access to the marine terminals.


“We expect everyone with a license or permit to be at work,” Silvester said.


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