Port commissioner defends unlicensed off-dock trucking

by Abdul Latheef, Today's Trucking


VANCOUVER. B.C. – The controversy surrounding unlicensed off-dock trucking at the Port of Vancouver deepened this week, with the Office of the B.C. Container Trucking Commissioner (OBCCTC) defending the work.

“The off-dock container trucking activity Unifor refers to as (a) ‘black market’ activity and the United Truckers Association (UTA) calls ‘illegal’, is not illegal,” Commissioner Michael Crawford said Tuesday.

Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, had demanded a crackdown on what it called a large container trucking black market at the port, and the UTA is planning to hold a Labour Day protest outside the commissioner’s office to highlight the issue.

The two groups say unlicensed truckers are moving containers off-dock within the Lower Mainland area at steeply discounted prices and undermining licensed, fee-paying companies.

In a written response to Today’s Trucking, Crawford said that under the Container Trucking Act and Regulation, the commissioner has jurisdiction to regulate and licence container trucking work that requires access to a marine terminal.

If a trucking company needs access to a marine terminal, it requires a licence and then must pay the commissioner’s trucking rates for on and off-dock work, he said.

“Trucking companies engaged only in off-dock trucking are not required to have a licence, and do not fall within the scope of the Container Trucking Act and Regulation,” he said.

The UTA disputed this, arguing that the commissioner does have jurisdiction.

“The commissioner is not following his own regulations, and allowing companies to openly break the law,” said UTA spokesman Gagan Singh.

“It is time to stand up and fight against these injustices that are hurting container truckers,” Singh said in an interview.

Unifor said it is seeking to have the legal framework modified as needed to ensure that all movement of defined marine containers within the prescribed area of the Lower Mainland must be licensed and regulated.

“This was the intent of the 2014 Joint Action Plan that I personally was involved with negotiating,” said Gavin McGarrigle, the union’s director for Western Region.

Crawford said that the OBCCTC is aware that work for Unifor and UTA drivers has been decreasing because of recent economic conditions and rising costs for licenced companies.

“As the amount of work decreases for these licenced drivers, they have begun to focus on the unregulated off-dock work.”

Crawford added that his office wants to continue engaging in respectful dialogue with all stakeholders in the drayage industry, including the UTA.

“We will continue to work with our partners in the drayage industry to learn about their challenges and discuss potential opportunities to create a more fair, equitable and professional industry.”

Asked whether the situation could get out of control, Crawford acknowledged there is growing concerns around off-dock container movements.

“We think the best way to support the industry and address these concerns is by first gaining a thorough understanding of the dynamics of off-dock container movements in the Lower Mainland.”

The OBCCTC and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure have commissioned a study on the off-dock container movements. That report is expected to be released in the coming months.

The Port of Vancouver is the largest port in Canada. Its is operated by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, a federal government agency.