Ruling throws port trucking into ‘chaos’

Federal Court finds Port Metro Vancouver's new container truck licences were imposed unfairly

Port Metro Vancouver is reviewing its options after a Federal Court judge found its new licensing system that sharply reduced the number of permitted container truckers was imposed unfairly.

The new licence system cut up to 600 trucks from the system in January, resulting in layoffs to drivers, and spawning a lawsuit that challenged the port’s point-based system for deciding the winners and losers.

The methodology gave an advantage to companies that applied early and was “procedurally deficient and profoundly unfair,” Judge Robert Barnes found.

New licences were part of the reforms flowed from a month-long container truckers strike last year and aimed to end rampant undercutting caused by too many trucks competing for business.

“While we endeavoured to apply the selection process in as fair a method as possible, with respect to certain applications, the Federal Court of Canada has disagreed,” the port said in a statement.

It’s unclear whether the port will appeal the ruling, which directs the port to issue licences to late-filing companies that otherwise met the same standard as the early filers.

Control of truck licensing is supposed to shift to a provincial trucking commissioner, who has held off exerting authority pending the outcome of the court case.

“It creates more chaos,” said Gavin McGarrigle, B.C. area director for Unifor, which represents some unionized truck drivers.

“It looks like there’s going to be a lot more truckers coming back into the system. The whole situation is a mess.”

He blames Port Metro Vancouver and also the provincial government, which he said supported the new system but has not delivered on all of its commitments, particularly rate changes that were promised in January.

Unifor and affected companies protested the licence reforms and are now supposed to be starting contract negotiations, McGarrigle said.

“We don’t know where we stand in terms of the rates for the law. And we don’t know how many truckers are going to be out there. So it’s pretty hard to bargain a new collective agreement when you’ve got this chaos.”

He said the union supports a last-in-first-out system where any truck licence reductions are done on the basis of seniority.

B.C. Trucking Association president and CEO Louise Yako said it’s important to the entire port supply chain to clarify the uncertainty left by the ruling.

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