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Port of Vancouver Delays Old-Truck Ban Due to Supply Chain Issues

supply chain
Drivers from the United Truckers Association stage a protest in Surrey, B.C., July 2021 (UTA)

Published Jan 17, 2022 11:37 PM by The Maritime Executive

After a year of disruption in British Columbia - including fires, floods, COVID-19 and supply-chain congestion - the port authority in Vancouver, B.C. has decided that now is not the time to roll out a long-planned ban on older diesel trucks. 

In 2015, the port initiated a plan - the "Rolling Truck Age Program" - to ban trucks older than 10 years from its gates. The port's objective was to reduce hazardous emissions of NOx and particulate matter, which have a localized impact on public health. According to the port, stopping trucks older than 10 years at the gate would reduce PM emissions from its drayage operations by more than 90 percent. It set the implementation date far in the future, scheduling the change for February 1, 2022. 

Today, the majority of the port's truckers - about 80 percent - have vehicles that comply with the new rule. However, about 350 trucks are too old to meet the port's new standard, though they are still fully compliant with provincial and federal regulations. The port would like operators to replace these vehicles - but there is a problem: new trucks are getting hard (and costly) to find. 

In 2020-21, the disruption of the global pandemic created a shortage of computer chips, impacting the manufacturing of just about everything with computerized controls - including semi trucks. The chip shortage drove a slowdown at heavy truck plants in North America through most of 2021, according to the Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, tonne-mile demand for trucking has risen, driven by a boom in consumer spending and e-commerce shopping. With the truck supply down and demand up, prices for new and used trucks have skyrocketed, and availability is limited. At one Kenworth dealership in Kansas, salesmen told local media that they are sold out of new trucks until January 2023.

The United Truckers Association has appealed to the port to defer its ban on older heavy trucks, citing the expense and difficulty of replacing them - as well as the added hardship after a year of COVID-19, fires and floods. The association won the support of Canada's Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra, who wrote to the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to ask for "a short delay" for consultations with truckers. On Friday, the port concurred. 

"We have recently heard some concerns about our program start date from industry and Transport Canada, and we recognize that the pandemic, recent flooding, and on-going global supply chain issues may have created some short-term challenges for people looking to buy compliant trucks," said Vancouver Fraser Port Authority VP Duncan Wilson in a statement. "We are thus postponing our program start date slightly, to provide some additional time and engagement opportunities for industry, and to hopefully mitigate some of those challenges."