Some truckers are angry they’re the only set of drivers who aren’t being offered an introductory deal when the new tolled Port Mann Bridge opens in December.
The province last month unveiled half-price tolls for regular motorists until at least the end of February, and those who sign up by then get the 50-per-cent discount for a full year.
The discount is 25 per cent off the $6 toll for light trucks and cars hauling trailers, and one-third off the $1.50 motorcycle toll.
But drivers of semis and tractor trailers get no such break – they’ll pay the full $9 per crossing toll for big rigs from the outset.
“It’s not fair,” says Surrey trucker Jason Law. “There’s nothing for us. Everybody’s getting these discounts except the trucks.”
Law hauls lumber in containers from a North Surrey sawmill to Vancouver port terminals and crosses the Port Mann four to six times a day.
At $9 a crossing he figures he stands to lose up to $12,000 a year since neither his employer nor their customers appear likely to pick up the cost of tolls.
“That’s a good chunk of money,” Law said. “Every truck driver around is pretty choked about these tolls. It’s just crammed down your throat and this is what you’re going to pay.”
Unlike other drivers, truckers won’t have the option to buy a monthly pass giving them unlimited crossings either – something Law said would help.
Paul Uppal, a Canadian Auto Workers’ union official who represents container truckers, said many other big rig drivers are in the same position – needing to take the Port Mann regularly or facing a long, inefficient detour if they use an untolled bridge.
“It’s definitely unfair to the drivers to take on this extra expense – on top of all the other expenses that have been rising, such as fuel costs,” he said.
B.C. Trucking Association president Louise Yako said it’s “disappointing” the first-year discount wasn’t extended to big trucks, adding she’s heard some complaints.
“But I think most of my members are taking a look at the bigger picture and seeing there’s a very good opportunity for improvements in trip times,” she said. “I think they’re taking the long view on this.”
If transportation ministry estimates of the expected travel time savings are accurate, she said, paying the $9 each way should be worthwhile.
Port Mann/Highway 1 project spokesman Max Logan noted large trucks are being offered a 50-per-cent overnight discount if they travel between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. – an incentive that aims to reduce peak period congestion by encouraging more big rigs to roll after dark.
“That’s a permanent discount,” he said. “It does not expire after the first year.”
Logan said most truckers are pleased with that and the project’s inclusion of some truck-only ramps to Highway 1 that will open later in 2013.
“Everyone always wants as much of a break as they can get,” he said.
Yako agreed the overnight discount is welcome but said she doubts many truckers will switch to late-night runs in order to save on Port Mann tolls.
“I don’t think that’s really going to (be an incentive for) a change in behaviour,” she said. “Most truck drivers don’t get to choose when they’re going to be travelling from point A to B. That’s dictated by customers.”