A friend of the court …

The first paragraph in Art. 5 (this volume) included these words written earlier this year by Capt. Gordon Houston, President and chief executive at the Vancouver Port Authority: “Capacity throughout our trade corridors is paramount to meet future demands, and pressure will continue to mount to provide transportation solutions not only on the dock but throughout entire gateways.  Ports and all transportation stakeholders will need to respond rapidly or risk compromising the competitiveness of the industries they serve … we are hopeful that all levels of government will view our transportation corridors as extensions of our trade corridors to support new initiatives to capture new trade and opportunities and foster enhanced service to port customers.”  It appears now as though Capt. Houston’s audience has been fast asleep.


Later headlines, on April 29th to be exact, looked like this: “16-km truck convoy rolls through Greater Vancouver”.  The truckers were complaining about low cartage rates and the frequent four to five hour delays at the port, and they pleaded with federal and provincial governments to lower fuel taxes.  The audience was still asleep.


Late in June, the other shoe fell.  About 1200 truckers in the Vancouver Container Truck Association gave a wake-up call to “transportation stakeholders”.  Claiming that they just couldn’t survive on their diminishing take-home pay, they parked their rigs and just walked away.  Now everyone is concerned about their own “diminishing take-home pay”, but at least they’re no longer asleep.


“I can’t overestimate the concern and impact that this could have if this is a prolonged dispute,” said a spokesperson at the Vancouver Port Authority.


“This is a serious disruption to the Canadian supply chain and there’s no question both retailers and consumers are getting hit,” was the comment from the Retail Council of Canada. The Council requested the intervention of the federal government in the dispute.


“A couple of days probably won’t have a substantial impact, but every day we’re not working it’s 700 trucks backing up,” said a spokesman at Fraser Surrey Docks.


Werner Knittel, a V-P at Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said many of his members will suffer most by being cut off from supplies of Asian industrial goods that are used to manufacture products for U.S. customers.  “That’s the biggest issue, but the overall impact is as big as your imagination,” he said.


The VCTA truckers make about $ 400 a day hauling containers, but the average amount of take-home pay after a 10 to 12-hour work day can be as little as $ 50, after about $ 350 for daily expenses to operate the truck.  “That’s why all the drivers are crying, because they aren’t making any money right now,” was the explanation given by VCTA executive committee member Paul Johal.  Johal said the problem has been the result of increasing fuel costs and competition between the companies engaging the drivers.


“We’re overwhelmed by the support we’ve received today,” said Paul Uppal of the VCTA.


“There is no argument — everybody believes and agrees that the truckers need more pay.  The methodology of how you work that out is the question,” commented Morley Strachan, director of marketing and strategic planning for TSI Terminal Systems Inc., operator of Deltaport and Vanterm.

[The B.C.  Transportation Minister stated that because the dispute is between parties in the private sector, there is no defined role for the provincial government.  They stay neutral, you understand.  At this point, the reader should be mindful of the $ 1.5 billion that is being provided by the Port Authority, the terminal operators, and their “neutral” government partners for five different projects in the Port of Vancouver.  Another $ 60 million has been pledged to Prince Rupert by the “neutral” Federal and British Columbia governments.  But for the lowly driver?  Nary a passing thought.]


Where were we?  Oh, yes.  1200 drivers each needed another $ 150 per day in order to subsist — or they’d be required to seek more gainful employment.  Hasn’t any one of the dozens of officials decrying the situation sharpened his/her pencil and looked at what it would cost to settle the dispute?  It would come to about $ 45 million annually for a 5-days-per-week work schedule.  If 2700 “containers” represent 40% of a typical days total — this is the estimate being bandied about —  then about 1,700,000 containers will transit the port this year.  Simple arithmetic tells us that another surcharge of $ 25 per “container” would get the show on the road again.  No, you say?  You think $ 25 is a little too much for the trucking segment of the infrastructure?  Dollars to donuts the same authorities who would deny monetary relief for the embattled  truckers, at $ 25 per “container”, will soon be launching their own version of the PierPASS program.  $ 80 fees/fines/surcharges would gain widespread approval just as long as the money can be retained by management entities.


Our patented systems, by the way, would be the solution to all the problems at the Port of Vancouver because truckers would be employed by the terminal owner.  They would be generously compensated and enjoy all the benefits that come with union membership.  No longer would brokers, carriers, port officials or government agencies be burdened with labor disputes, walkouts or grievances.   The cost-efficient system described by this website, the system we’ve been touting throughout the pages of these commentaries, would provide more than enough funding to enable the terminal owner to keep everyone happy.  Everyone.


So is this just another sales pitch?  No.  At this moment we are assuming the role of amicus curiae.  Take a closer look at the “Chronology” page in this website and you’ll notice that our firm, Automated Storage & Retrieval Systems, Ltd., owns no patent rights in Canada.  No one does.  Any one of the terminal operators in British Columbia can install this system without paying us a dime and with no risk of patent infringement.  Coincidentally, the theoretical $ 45 million settlement figure mentioned above, is much higher than the cost of fabricating and installing this system.  So now there are two options available to the distressed Vancouver port officials.  The first one is the $ 45 million worth of surcharges which would temporarily settle matters with the VCTA, and the second is the less-than- $ 45 million which would provide a money-machine to the terminal owner and a permanent solution to the problems now facing drivers in the supply line infrastructure.


Call us if we can be of further assistance.