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Vancouver Port open, but truckers still not showing up for work: VPA

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Trucks have started moving again at the Port of Vancouver, but the backlog of shipping containers remains sitting on the docks as truckers fail to take advantage of extended operating hours, the Vancouver Port Authority is saying.

According to reports from the port's container terminals, more than 1,000 reservations were booked at Deltaport last Saturday, but only 400 transactions were completed. Similarly low Saturday volumes were also reported at the port's other two terminals, and on Monday and Tuesday afternoon, the proportion of completed reservations was even lower, the port says in a release.

The strike effectively ended last week, when the VPA implemented an interim licence provision that requires the carriers to attain licences to pick up or drop off cargo containers within the port. By accepting the provision, carriers have also been forced to accept a two-year contract proposed for the 1,200 independent truckers that went on strike in late June. A majority of carriers reluctantly agreed and trucks have been slowly trickling back to the port since.

However, according to the VPA, many drivers still haven't gone back to work. Furthermore, the port's container terminals want to open on Saturday to expedite the removal of stacked shipping containers, but need assurance that the trucks will be there.

"The low number of completed reservations means that trucking companies are booking the appointments during extended hours, but their drivers are not showing up," said Jim Cox, Vancouver Port Authority vice-president of Infrastructure Development.

Approximately 9,000 cargo containers continue to be held up at the lower mainlands container terminals. An additional 2,000 shipping containers are at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, waiting for the Vancouver backlog to clear before they are loaded aboard ships destined for Vancouver.

"We need support and co-operation from all stakeholders so that we can move local imports off our terminals and resume normal operations. That means a commitment from truckers to work some additional hours until the backlog is cleared. Without this co-operation, we will continue to see excessive volumes backed up at our terminals and people and businesses will continue to suffer. The VPA and its terminal operators are willing to do whatever is reasonably required in order to alleviate the current problem, but that won't be possible without the active participation of all stakeholders, particularly the truck drivers," said Cox.

The port estimates that at the current rate the backlog will take more than a month to clear up, while successful extended hours initiatives could have it removed in a fraction of that time.

While the VPA wonders where all the truckers are, they now have to deal with the BC Trucking Association on another front. While the BCTA chose to sit out the six-week strike, it says it's being dragged in by an 'inexplicable', government-sanctioned policy by the VPA to extend the licence provision to many carriers who own their own equipment and were not involved in the strike.

In a letter to Transport Minister Jean Lapierre and the VPA, BCTA President Paul Landry blasted the government for accepting the provision change forcing hundreds of other fleets in long-haul operations, with entirely different business models and compensation agreements.

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