Members of the trucking industry in southwestern Nova Scotia are hoping Bay Ferries will consider adding additional crossings between Saint John and Digby to alleviate a backlog of commercial traffic they say is costing them.
Representatives from industry met with Bay Ferries officials in Yarmouth on Thursday afternoon. The company declined CBC's request for comment on the meeting or the ferry service.
There are typically two crossings a day, one each from Saint John and Digby. That doubled during most of December.
Neil LeBlanc, the owner of the trucking company Chebogue Fisheries Ltd. in Yarmouth, said Thursday's meeting went well.
"They listened. They said they wouldn't give an answer today but they would get back to us in very short order, and we remain hopeful that we can find common ground," he said.
LeBlanc said the combination of the low dollar and the strong lobster season has meant more truck traffic heading to the United States. Now that the ferry is back down to regular service, traffic is backing up.
"There's competition for the spots and it's making it difficult," he said. "The ferry can't keep up. This morning there was a waiting list of nine trying to get on in Saint John that are not going to get on, obviously. There's a huge backlog now."
Fundy Rose has less space for tractor-trailers
LeBlanc said the previous ferry that left from Digby, the Princess of Acadia, could fit twice as many tractor-trailers as the dozen or so the current ferry, the Fundy Rose, can transport.
He said it's often a scramble to find drivers to handle the extra driving time required when crossing the Bay of Fundy isn't an option.
"It isn't like we have a huge pool of drivers so we can just say drive around all the time," he said.
"It's also problematic for the seafood industry that basically depend on us to try to bring their product to market quickly."
LeBlanc said perishable and live products like lobster puts extra pressure on delivery times.
"You just don't stop on the side of the road and wait for two days until it clears up," he said.
LeBlanc expects shipments of lobster and groundfish in the spring will mean another bump in traffic and said he's hopeful truckers can reach a compromise with Bay Ferries.
Questions remain about Yarmouth ferry
Brian Reynolds, president of B. Reynolds Trucking Ltd. in Barrington, N.S., said two sailings from each side through January would alleviate the problem for now.
He said these days deliveries can be late as a result of the delays caused by route changes.
"We end up going by road, two drivers, more costs, longer periods of time, worse weather," he said.
"I've turned business down knowing that I haven't got the drivers or the time to go by road. I know other companies have left fish products behind on account of the situation."
Both Reynolds and LeBlanc said summer ferry service between Yarmouth and Portland, Maine, takes some of the pressure off the Digby to Saint John route.
Reynolds hopes the next vessel that operates the Yarmouth route will be able to take commercial vehicles.