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Fairness for Container Truckers

Collage of photos of trucks

Port Metro Vancouver will introduce a ban on trucks older than ten years beginning in 2022. On August 18, 2021 truck drivers will be forced to pay a steep fee for simply applying for a temporary exemption. 

Unifor has resisted the proposed program for years, including a court challenge in 2017. Unifor demands drivers be consulted about the fairest way to transition to newer trucks that doesn’t penalize truckers financially.

Unifor is calling for a two-year pause in the implementation of the truck age program. To encourage better policy-making in the sector, Unifor is seeking the establishment of a joint advisory council involving truckers, employers, the B.C. government and the federal government.

“COVID-19 has been a difficult time for port truckers and their families, but PMV Chief Executive Officer Robin Silvester doesn’t get that. We need Minister Alghabra to step in, press pause, and set up a process with his B.C. counterpart to properly consult those who will be impacted.”

—Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western Regional Director. 

Read the open letter below and click here to take action to support container truckers.


Open letter to federal Minister of Transportation Omar Alghabra

July 13, 2021

Honourable Omar Alghabra
Minister of Transport
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Alghabra:

Re:  Port Metro Vancouver Rolling Truck Age Program

Unifor represents the largest number of container truck drivers working in the metro Vancouver drayage sector. We hold certifications representing hundreds of truckers in various bargaining units throughout the lower mainland drayage sector under both the BC Labour Relations Code and the Canada Labour Code.

We write to request your urgent intervention to assist struggling truck drivers operating under the authority of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority operating as Port Metro Vancouver (PMV).  

In addition to ongoing instability and unrest in the drayage sector that has been building related to this rolling truck age program since shortly after the last large drayage sector dispute in 2014, further changes are underway provincially the Office of the BC Container Truck Commissioner is now acting under its jurisdiction and undertaking consultations related to an intent to change the scope of enforcement due to the development of a two-tiered system of on and off dock drivers and the Commissioner is recommending a new hourly payment model that could have an impact on many drivers.   

We will engage with the BC Ministry of Transportation and the Container Trucking Commissioner to ensure that drivers are not negatively impacted but note that two jurisdictions proceeding in two different ways that could ultimately download extra costs onto workers as they try to recover from this pandemic is both unfair and inefficient. 

Our national president Jerry Dias wrote to your predecessor Minister Garneau on December 14, 2015 outlining serious concerns with the PMV truck model age requirements (attached).  I also brought a delegation of truckers directly to meet with Minister Garneau to convey these concerns.  We maintained that whatever the merits of PMV’s program, the costs of such a program would be unfairly borne directly by thousands of owner operators as they are forced to upgrade costly equipment at a time of tremendous rate instability.

Unifor sought judicial review of the decision made by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to adopt requirements concerning the age of container trucks licenced to operate in the Port of Vancouver (Unifor v. Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, 2017 FC 110 (CanLII) ).

The application for judicial review was dismissed by Justice Boswell in part because PMV had not yet finalized its temporary truck exemption process.  Despite this decision almost 4 years ago, PMV has waited until mere months before the program moves to a 10-year ban before finalizing its temporary truck exemption process.

PMV has now published statements that under the authority granted in Section 49 of the Canada Marine Act, it will implement a new non-refundable fee charged directly to truckers to cover the administrative and inspections costs of applying for an exemption.  PMV created this temporary exemption program and now will charge truckers a new non-refundable fee of $1100 per truck just for the ability to apply for a possible one-year exemption to PMV’s program.  The application period for this fee is set to begin on August 18, 2021 and therefore urgent intervention is required.

As you know, the impact of COVID-19 has been devastating on many individuals and families and British Columbia has been under a declared state of emergency since March 2020.  Many programs have been impacted and delayed by COVID-19 and associated impacts yet PMV is again proceeding as if this makes no difference to truckers and their families and they can simply absorb new fees or purchase new trucks as a time of shortage and insecurity for both drivers and equipment.

Our members have continued to speak to members of your caucus about this urgent issue and we were advised to write to your office.

We seek a minimum two (2) year pause in the implementation of PMV’s truck model age requirements set to take effect on February 1, 2022 and cancellation of the proposed temporary truck exemption process (and associated fee of $1100 per driver) while this pause is in effect to allow for exploration of options that do not unfairly penalize drivers.  

We also reiterate our request that a federal-provincial high joint table such as the Lower Mainland Drayage Advisory Council that existed for several years with deputy minister support from BC and the Director General of Transport Canada be convened once again during this period to discuss PMV’s program and many other cross jurisdictional issues that are leading to a serious risk of instability including but not limited to the impact of a new payment system on waiting time fees and fuel surcharges.  

Given the shared jurisdiction over these truckers, we believe both governments must lead a shared consultation involving all relevant parties including PMV and the BC Container Truck Commissioner.  We have copied BC’s Transportation and Infrastructure the Honourable Minister Rob Fleming as we are requesting that both jurisdictions cooperate to convene joint stakeholder discussions as soon as possible.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter and we remain available to meet at any time.

Sincerely,

Gavin McGarrigle
Western Regional Director

cc.
Honourable Rob Fleming, BC Minister of Transportation & Infrastructure
Robin Silvester, President and Chief Executive Officer, Port Metro Vancouver
Michael Crawford, BC Container Truck Commissioner
Kennedy Stewart, Mayor of Vancouver
Peter Julian, NDP House Leader
Chris MacDonald, Assistant to Unifor President