The performance of the drayage sector is vital to the cargo fluidity of Canada’s dominant container trade served by Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) as the conduit through the Asia-Pacific Gateway. Given this importance, it’s not surprising that 2014’s disruption in trucking service caused significant concern amongst shippers, businesses and government.
To address the issues, the B.C. Government appointed a B.C. Container Trucking Commissioner in early February 2015 to support better working conditions for container truckers and to ensure efficient and reliable operations at Port Metro Vancouver. The appointment of Andy Smith, who remains President and CEO of the B.C. Maritime Employers Association, has drawn some criticism from trucking industry representatives as a potential conflict of interest however, Smith’s record in successfully negotiating two historic eight-year collective agreements on the West Coast waterfront has established his reputation for fairness while bringing reliability to Canada’s Asia-Pacific Gateway.
With no less than two lawsuits launched by the trucking industry (one by Unifor which asks the court to enforce new provincially-imposed minimum rates that were previously promised as well as the removal of Smith from the Commissioner role; and the other by the United Truckers Association addressing the new licensing system and the resulting loss of jobs for hundreds of truckers), Smith remains focussed on the task of ensuring long-term stability for Canada’s largest port.
The importance of trucks
Thirty one per cent of laden import containers at PMV’s marine container terminals were transferred to truck in 2014. Based on 2009 data, 70 per cent of the containers loaded to truck were destined for import transload facilities where the contents are transferred to larger domestic containers or trucks, and 77 per cent of this traffic is moved to local rail intermodal terminals for shipment to destinations outside of B.C. On the export side, 73 per cent of export containers were loaded in the Lower Mainland by truck and then moved to marine terminals in 2014. To support this container traffic movement, Port Metro Vancouver currently has 97 local trucking companies and 29 long-haul trucking companies licensed to provide drayage service. The drayage industry is composed of a variety of firms that service the needs of major retail importers such as Canadian Tire and Walmart; exporters of grain and forest products; and others who provide a more specialized project cargo-related logistic service.
We’re not alone
With a wide variety of client interests, supply chain professionals commonly manage a dashboard of key performance indicators (KPIs) to respond to customer requirements and one would perhaps expect a wide variety of KPIs to monitor the performance of the drayage sector. Yet, British Columbia Container Trucking Commissioner Andy Smith has only a single KPI: no more work stoppages in the Port Metro Vancouver drayage sector.