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Successful Truckers Rally in Vancouver Demands Actions to Save Lives
Very different to the so-called Freedom Convoy whose organizers seem intent on encouraging hooliganism and instilling fear across the country, B.C. truck drivers and supporters organized a successful rally and convoy on Saturday, January 22 in Vancouver. The rally was organized to bring attention to their working conditions and demand that the provincial government take immediate action to ensure their safety and that of all drivers on B.C. highways. Organizers estimate that approximately 350 big rigs participated in the convoy that assembled at the Gurudwara Dashmesh Darbar in Surrey and traveled to downtown Vancouver.
Drivers say that the road conditions this year are the worst they have seen, with large potholes, black ice and snow on highways, particularly in the Interior. They also point out that although this year is the worst, the poor maintenance of highways, including timely snow clearing, predates the pandemic and the damage to roads caused by flooding in November of last year.
An email from BC Transportation Minister Rob Fleming was quoted in the Vancouver Sun. He admitted that “contractors have not operated up to ministry’s standards” this winter and that “we have followed up with the contractor to ensure they are fulfilling their required maintenance duties.” Drivers report that often in snowstorms they do not see any maintenance contractors until there is an accident and that in all likelihood the accident would not have happened if the maintenance had been done in time.
The dangerous state of BC highways is directly related to the privatization of maintenance which the people of BC have opposed from the start. While BC highways are not privately owned, the maintenance of roads was privatized in 1988. The province was divided into 28 service areas which are maintained by contractors ranging from local companies to huge foreign companies including the Spanish multinational Acciona.
The government has basically washed its hands of responsibility and on its website responds to concerns and complaints by telling people to contact the contractor directly, even in cases where the complainant reports repeated calls to the contractor without any action being taken. Successive BC governments, since 1988, have abandoned their responsibility to the people of BC so the private companies can enrich themselves at the cost of lives and livelihoods of truckers and the public.
Speaking at the rally in Surrey before the convoy set off for Vancouver, a spokesperson for West Coast Trucking Association explained that the aim of the action was to save lives, to pay respect to truck drivers and others who have died on the highways and who could have been saved if proper maintenance had been done, and to demand better. He explained that the drivers at the rally work for many different companies and formed the Association in order that their collective voice would be heard, to inform the public about the conditions that truck drivers face, and to be heard by the authorities.
He said that the Association is pleased that a couple of days before the rally they were contacted by the Ministry of Transport to set up a meeting. He pointed out that memorandums that were sent to the Ministry in November and December of last year drew no response and that it was only after the rally was announced that the Ministry made contact, which shows that “our unity matters.”
Truck drivers face many problems including a lack of clean washrooms and rest stops, all of which the Association intends to discuss with government representatives when they meet, and report back to its members.
(Workers’ Forum, posted February 5, 2022. Photos: WCTA)