Canadian truckers unable to fill supply chain gap if CP Rail strikes: industry

Canada won’t be able to rely on truckers to transport more goods and fill the supply chain gap if CP Rail goes on strike or is locked out, according to the BC Trucking Association.

Close to 3,000 employees of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. could be off the job early Sunday morning after the Calgary-based company said Wednesday it issued 72-hour notice to the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference of its plan to lock out employees on Sunday if the two sides can’t come to a negotiated settlement or agree to binding arbitration.

Canadian manufacturers, grain shippers, and farmers have all warned of potential wide-ranging impacts.

“There’s just not enough vehicles to move that level of freight where it needs to go,” BC Trucking Association CEO Dave Earle told CityNews. “When you think about the container traffic that comes to the Port of Vancouver, the majority of it never sees a truck…Rail really fulfills a hugely important movement of a lot of goods into distribution centers inland in North America.”

Related: Canadian Pacific Railway issues 72-hour lockout notice on Teamsters Canada

In addition, the industry is already struggling to find drivers and equipment. Canada’s trucking industry lost about 10 per cent of its workforce over the past two years as people retired and left, Earle said.

“We’ve been faced with everything from fires to floods to an ongoing pandemic, to a chronic driver issue to supply issues,” he said. “Lead times now for new equipment are anywhere from, if you’re really lucky, nine months, but most of the time, it’s over a year to get something new. It’s just causing shortages everywhere, and it causes stress and what it means is the goods will get there. They just may not get there when you want.”

Recent truck convoy protests have not significantly impacted the supply chain, according to Earle.

CP Rail said it tabled an offer Tuesday to address 26 outstanding issues, including the union’s key issues of wages, benefits, and pensions through final and binding arbitration.

The company said the union rejected the offer and continues to table additional demands.

Workers recently voted 96.7 per cent in favour of strike action.

Teamsters’ spokesperson Dave Fulton said the union is committed to working with federal mediators and reaching a negotiated settlement. He said the union is willing to remain at the bargaining table until the March 20 lockout deadline and beyond.

The union represents about 3,000 locomotive engineers, conductors, train and yard workers across Canada.

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