Union protests Vancouver truck retirement rule

by Emily Atkins

Container truck drivers’ concerns are being ignored as the Port of Vancouver forces through a program to retire trucks arbitrarily, says Unifor.

“The program is a farce. Not only does it ignore the financial concerns of truck drivers, it exempts more than 98 percent of trucks on B.C.’s roads,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor western regional director. “It’s ‘greenwashing’ at its worst. The Port’s plan imposes massive costs on truckers and will have no real effect on emissions.”

The Port of Vancouver will introduce a ban on trucks older than 12 years beginning September 15, 2022. The port says there are trucks older than 20 years operating there, and they are a significant source of particulate matter, which is known to cause cancer.

The Rolling Truck Age Program will cap the age of container trucks serving the port. The current fleet provides an average of 30,000 single-sided port moves per week. The port estimates that the program will reduce particulate matter by 93 percent; cut nitrogen oxides, which are smog-forming pollutants, by an estimated 80 percent; and cut carbon dioxide by 2.5 percent.

80 percent compliant

Approximately 80 percent of the 1,800 vehicles serving the port are already compliant with the new requirements, including 150 trucks that have come into service since the port authority began additional engagement over the last few months.

The BC Trucking Association, which represents more than 1,000 companies operating more than 15,000 commercial vehicles, advocates for the reduction of environmental impacts from the commercial road transportation sector.  “We believe that the most cost-effective and least disruptive measure that the industry can take to reduce our sector’s environmental impact is through accelerating fleet turnover,” said Dave Earle, president and CEO for the BC Trucking Association.

“We applaud the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority for their Rolling Truck Age Program, an important initiative that encourages our industry to adopt cleaner, lower emission vehicles.”

Exception process

The port has implemented an exception process for trucks older than 12 years. It will grant extensions of up to two years for a fee of $1,100 plus tax.

Unifor says the temporary exemption fees are prohibitive.

Unifor wants the port to undertake additional consultations about the fairest way to transition the trucks without causing major financial hardship for truck drivers and minimal disruption in port trucking capacity.

The union says a two-year pause to the phase-out and access to financial assistance would start to ease concerns.

“Container truckers are already struggling with the rising cost of inflation. Trip payment rates have not increased in two years,” said Paul Nagra president of Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers’ Association. “The purely arbitrary truck retirement age will mean financial ruin for many truck drivers in Metro Vancouver.”

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers.