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Travels of the Trucker The Ports, CN and CP Rail Post #3

October 23, 2011


The Port System of Vancouver

Working in and around the Vancouver area will inevitably lead to either entering Vancouver’s Port Authority, CN Rail or CP Rail at one point or another in one’s local trucking career. It is one of the major industry here since Vancouver is a Port of call for many industrial ships. Everything from Cars, to bulk Steel, Grains, Sulfur, Lumber, and 1000’s  other goods come and go through the Port system or the rail system every day. Being a Port carrier is not easy. Slow lineups, slow entry and at times attitudes of Port workers can make the day extremely aggravating. Since the Ports are unionized they are a little like crybabies. Lunch Breaks are mandatory. Coffee breaks are mandatory and I am sure if they could washing their hands after using the john would be a union paid position too. I really have no respect for the Ports or the rail since they are slow, treat drivers like shit and then they expect to be treated like Gods by the drivers who create their jobs by hauling the containers from the Ports and from the Rail.

The Drivers

The drivers who work in these areas are often underpaid and have to hustle to make a decent living. It is not uncommon for those who work in the delivery and pick up of these containers to have to race around like bats out of hell. I have heard of rates as low as $40 for a person who owns their own truck. This includes driving to the Port, waiting in line, ordering the container, waiting for the loader to load it and delivering the container to the customer or to the yard. It is not an easy thing to do working in the Ports. There are many conflicts since drivers seem to want to pass each other and overtake one another to be first in line or to be the first through the gate. It is often frustrating, aggravating and at times it has made me want to yell at someone.


The Workers 

Perhaps the most frustrating thing is the lazy attitude of the workers. I have seen many who appear to be doing nothing. Yet they will drive around all day pretending to be doing something. A good example is the Surrey Fraser Docks where it seems everyone is a Supervisor and driving around in a pickup is the only thing to do. This is a classic example of too many chiefs and not enough workers. At some points in my career I have sat upwards of 6 hours in a Port waiting to be offloaded. It isn’t for those who have no patience to be sure.

Working in the Ports is not for everyone. As a matter of fact some drivers refuse to deliver or enter the Ports for the very reasons listed above. If you compound these issues with a dispatcher who needs you in Calgary for the morning after sitting in a Port for 4 or 5 hours you can begin to understand some of the frustration of drivers.

The Customer

Loading containers is also a complete wasted scenario. Sitting at a shipper or a loader for 4 or 5 hours while your load is hand bombed in by workers who are paid low wages is no less aggravating. A good example is meat loading at Versacold or Olymel and the container needs to be delivered to the Port the next morning. They have no problem holding you while they load for four or five hours and then they expect that you will be back in Vancouver for the next morning during the middle of Winter. There is very little sleep on these occasions and it sometimes one is working 18-20 hour shifts. This is a far cry from those who work 8-4 or 9-5, go home to a nicely cooked meal, see their children and get to sleep with their spouses night after night. For the trucker he must carry on as if he is a machine requiring nothing but the diesel fuel in his truck and wired on energy drinks or coffee. People often forget that we are people no less too. Sitting behind the wheel of a truck is no less taxing than the person who sits behind a computer all day. Except in the case of the office worker he or she isn’t going to kill themselves or someone else if they fall asleep behind the computer! Nor do they have to worry about White outs, Blowing Snow, Black Ice and Icy roads.






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