Gagan Singh, spokesperson for the United Truckers Association, said the program will wreak havoc on supply chains and force some truckers who can’t afford to replace their vehicles out of a job.
“We are not against the environment, we are worried about future generations too, but if someone is penalizing us, we don’t accept it,” he told Global News.
The Rolling Truck Age Program was initially set to begin in February, but the trucking industry called on the federal government to intervene. In January, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra asked the port authority to delay the program and gather more input from stakeholders.
Following that consultation period, the authority amended its original plan from a 10-year rolling truck age to a 12-year rolling truck age.
“We gave industry ample time to prepare,” said Greg Rogge, director of land operations with Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, in an interview.
“We’re prepared to make whatever accommodation is necessary to ease the transition into compliant, environmentally-friendly trucks.”
Rogge said four out of five trucks that access the port are already compliant with the program, and 25 to 30 trucks are being replaced every month.
The port authority will have an exception program in place, he added, allowing some trucks to continue within the system for between one and three years if their factory-installed environmental equipment is working properly. The organization is also prepared to offer a grace period to truckers who agree to replace their trucks, but need more time to acquire one, Rogge said.
The program is meant protect community health by “significantly” reducing climate-polluting emissions at the port from trucking activities. The port estimates 37 tonnes of particulate matter will be removed from the Lower Mainland’s airshed — the equivalent of taking 200,000 passenger vehicles off the road annually — if the program meets expectations by July 1, 2024, based on the 2019 trucking base fleet.
Singh, however, scoffed at the port’s claim the program is truly about the environment. He cited increasing coal exports from the port — more than 37.6 million metric tonnes in 2021.
Trucks accessing the port represent just two per cent of all commercial licensed trucks in the province, he added, and even if truckers sell their vehicles, they will still be used elsewhere on B.C. roads.
“If this policy is a provincial policy or a federal policy then it makes some difference,” he explained. “They need to change their management, not the trucks.”
The BC Trucking Association has previously expressed support for the Rolling Truck Age Program. In a news release from the port authority when the start-date of the program was announced, it said “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.”
Standing next to Singh, Lower Mainland truck driver Parminder Barar said nothing about the program is cost-effective.
“Basically they’re taking food off our table,” he told Global News, noting that his own truck would need to be phased out in three years.
“My truck works fine, there’s nothing wrong with it. I get an inspection every six months.”
Both cited increasing costs of new and used vehicles and supply chain shortages of both vehicles and much-needed vehicle parts.
Rogge said the port authority is “confident” that won’t be an issue, based on the current replacement rate at the port and its regular market scans.
“We’re quite confident that there are trucks available and they will be replaced and the fleet will continue to operate and function as effectively as it always has.”
Singh estimates some 1,200 truckers associated with the United Truckers Association will vote on the work stoppage on July 1, telling Global News they have “no choice” if they want governments and the port authority to listen to them.