Unionized container truck drivers at Port Metro Vancouver agreed Thursday to vote on a tentative deal drawn up by veteran labour mediator Vince Ready.

Ready will also conduct an independent review of the key issues including wages, working conditions and wait times at port terminals.

The unionized truckers will vote Saturday on the deal and have agreed to a 60-day truce while Ready works on his report.

The truckers had threatened to walk out at noon Thursday, but agreed to discuss their outstanding issues after Ready was appointed by Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt.

The union, Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers' Association, lobbied to have Ready appointed.

Mediator Vince Ready

Veteran labour mediator Vince Ready met with Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers' Association Thursday just hours before the union's noon strike deadline. (CBC)

Ready was the mediator who brokered a deal in the 2005 illegal B.C. teachers strike. He also mediated the 2001 transit strike in Vancouver.

Unifor is concerned about long line-ups and wait times, which it says are costing its drivers money. 

It is demanding increased pay rates and wants the rates standardized and enforced across the trucking sector to put an end to under-cutting.

Both sides far apart

Both sides agree it takes too much time for truckers to drop off and pick up cargo at the port's four shipping terminals.

However, no one agrees on how to fix the problem. Truckers want higher rates to compensate for long wait times, but the port and trucking companies want to extend operating hours to speed things up.

Tempers flared on Sunday night when a driver with a Delta trucking company was reportedly hit in the head by a large rock as he was driving at 70 km/h along Highway 17.

The rock flew through the driver's side window, shattering the glass and cracking the windshield on the opposite side. 

Some $885-million worth of cargo moves through the port every week, or about $46 billion a year, said Raitt's office Thursday in a statement on the dispute.

The port says it is already feeling the effects of work stoppages begun by some non-unionized truckers — effects that could be worsened if unionized truckers were to follow through with job action.

With files from the CBC's Kirk Williams