Truck driver protest snarls traffic during Montreal's morning drive

Hundreds of truck drivers held protests across the province Monday to call attention to the use of what they call unregulated truckers on government construction sites.

Turcot Interchange among areas targeted in demonstration

A convoy of trucks and its police escort drives through the Turcot Interchange Monday morning as truck drivers hold a protest. (Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada)

Hundreds of truck drivers held protests across the province Monday to call attention to what they call unregulated truckers on government construction sites.

Members of the Association nationale des camionneurs artisans gathered at 60 sites across the province.

In Montreal, the truckers left from Carrefour Angrignon in LaSalle at around 7 a.m. and set off toward Highway 20 and the Turcot Yards.

Rolling slowly and honking loudly, the trucks, followed by a convoy of police vehicles, eventually parked in front of a Transport Ministry building located inside the construction site for the new interchange.

The convoy caused problems, mainly for drivers trying to head north on Highway 15 from Highway 20 East, as police blocked off part of the roadway during the demonstration.

The trucks stayed parked there until around 11:30 a.m.

Truckers also demonstrated in Sherbrooke, blocking the entrance to the parking lot of the Transport Ministry's Sherbrooke office, and in Quebec City, where they drove, horns blaring, in the neighbourhood of the National Assembly.

A matter of balance, says transport minister

The protesting truck drivers, who are regulated by the Commission des transports du Québec, mainly transport bulk materials (stone, earth, sand, gravel and asphalt, for example) to construction sites.

They are upset because about 50 per cent of the truck drivers doing the same job on government work sites, such as the Turcot Interchange, work for private companies, which they say opens the door to potential corruption and collusion.

Truck driver Charles Fournier says he wants all trucks on provincial work sites to be registered with the transport commission, like he is. (Matt d'Amours/CBC)

Transport Minister André Fortin pointed out the system in question has existed for six years.

He said the issue is one of balance — making sure the truckers who are part of the association have work, but also that construction projects don't take longer than they have to.

The contractors will call in other truckers, who aren't part of the association, to move things along if necessary.

"It's just a matter of making sure that we have a system in place that ensures that our large-scale projects in Montreal can go ahead on a timely basis," he said.

Fortin said the notion that using truckers who aren't part of the association opens the province up to corruption is "highly debatable" because they are subject to checks and balances.

He says he's in contact with the truckers who staged the protest, and they'll continue to discuss the issue.

With files from Lauren McCallum and Matt d'Amours