British Columbia

Port of Vancouver's incoming ban on older trucks will cause 'immediate' supply chain problems: union

Dozens of truckers and union representatives are calling on the federal government to delay the Port of Vancouver's plan to tighten environmental restrictions on container trucks as of next month.

Union is calling on federal government to delay regulations by several more years

Container transport trucks are seen at the entrance of the Port of Vancouver in May 2019. New rules from the Port of Vancouver mean semi-trucks more than 10 years old won't be allowed at Canada's largest port starting Feb. 1, 2022. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

UPDATE — Jan. 14, 2022: The Port of Vancouver said Friday it is postponing the launch of its ban on older model container trucks for at least 90 days.

A statement said the port decided to push back the launch after recognizing "the pandemic, recent flooding and on-going global supply chain issues may have created some short-term challenges for people looking to buy compliant trucks."

The port said more details would be released in the "coming days."

EARLIER STORY:

Truckers and union representatives in B.C. are calling on the federal government to delay the Port of Vancouver's plan to tighten environmental restrictions on container trucks starting next month.

The new rules mean semi-trucks beyond 10 years old won't be allowed at Canada's largest port as of Feb. 1, as the port moves to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Container trucks with engine and exhaust systems older than a decade will have to be retrofitted or upgraded, otherwise drivers will be turned away.

"I don't know what I'm going to do ... I can't afford a new truck or a used truck," said driver Parminder Brar, who's been working at the port since 2018.

"Either you have to find a second job somewhere, or you can't survive, you can't feed your family."

Trucker Parminder Brar has been working at the Port of Vancouver since 2018. His truck, a 2015 model, won't be affected by the new environmental restrictions for several more years, but he said he can't afford a replacement in that timeframe. (CBC News)

300 trucks could be out of rotation, union says

More than 80 per cent of trucks using the port are already in compliance with the new regime, according to the port.

But as many as 1,800 trucks currently serve the port, meaning a loss of 20 per cent still takes more than 300 trucks off the route.

Unifor, Canada's largest private sector union, said that will have an "immediate effect" on operations.

"We've just come through the floods and the challenges with the supply chains," said Gavin McGarrigle, western regional director with Unifor.

"[The port] should think carefully about the livelihoods that they're affecting and the the innocent folks who will be impacted when they can't get their goods on time or can't keep the businesses going at a critical time."

The union is asking governments to pause the port's "arbitrary" plan for two more years. McGarrigle warned truckers could strike, hobbling the supply chain, unless federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra intervenes.

"The rest of the truckers aren't really going to stand by and watch 20 per cent of their fellow workers being forced out due to this arbitrary and unreasonable requirement, frankly," McGarrigle said.

The United Truckers Association has also called on the port to postpone the rules. Replacing trucks is a "significant expense," it wrote in a letter, and there is "extreme shortage" of trucks available to buy even if drivers could afford one.

Brar's truck is a 2015 model, so it wouldn't be affected until 2025. Still, he said, he can't afford to replace it within that timeframe.

Container transport trucks at the Port of Vancouver entrance in Vancouver, B.C. in May 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Regulations necessary, association says

While the union argues the timing is unfair to truckers in a bruised economy, the B.C. Trucking Association said the rules are a necessary change years in the making.

"Yes, it's going to cost money. Yes, it's going to be expensive. Yes, we're going to have to adapt, but we don't have an option. We have to get a handle on our emissions profile," association president David Earle told CBC.

"Operators, companies, independent operators have had in some cases years and in all cases, at least many, many months to get ready for this change."

The port first told the industry about its "10-year rolling truck age program'' in 2015, according to a statement. Another warning came last June.

Earle said there are still trucks across North America burning diesel with no emission controls, as trucks did back in the 80s or 90s. 

"We have this problem where we've got a whole bunch of the fleet that's running vehicles that are heavy polluters that need to be changed and moved out ... you need to pick a line and draw it in the sand and that's what the Vancouver Port Authority has done."

He acknowledged drivers will "absolutely" run into fees and long waitlists for brand new vehicles, but said there are used trucks on the market that are within the port's rules. 

"You may not be able to get that brand new 2022 or 2023 truck you were looking for, but you can certainly get something that will serve you for a few years until those things come online."

The program does include an exemption application process for older trucks that can meet modern emission standards, but Unifor said the applications will leave truckers on the hook for hundreds of dollars in fees.

Retrofitting older trucks could cost between $10,000 and $20,000, Earle said.

With files from Janella Hamilton and The Canadian Press

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