B.C.’s commercial truck trade is booming, but drivers say they’re running out of parking spots

A tractor-trailer parking lot in Aldergrove, British Columbia, is filled with bumpers as drivers head home for the night – an all-too-familiar sight for Sukhwinder Cheema, who says finding a place to parking his big rig overnight is getting harder and harder.

“We have to park on the street several times,” said the trucker, who works for Red Star Transport in Aldergrove, a community in Langley Township about 59 kilometers east of Vancouver.

“We don’t do it by choice. It’s very frustrating.”

CBC News has spoken to several truckers who say they have few options left for overnight parking, particularly south of the Fraser River, as increased driver numbers in British Columbia have resulted in fuller parking lots .

It also means some drivers end up parking illegally — on the side of residential streets, in dangerous areas, or asking farmers to park on their property, says Navi Brar, an Abbotsford truck driver, who operates also a trucking company.

According to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) — the province’s public automobile insurance provider — there were 69,000 active Class 1 commercial driver’s licenses in 2017, which have since grown to 75,000 in 2021.

A class 1 license is required to drive a semi-trailer and can be used for all other vehicles except a motorcycle, according at ICBC.

This does not include the number of trucks arriving in British Columbia from other provinces or the United States to drop off and pick up goods.

Drivers and city officials are demanding more solutions, including more parking lots and an increase in the number of trucks allowed to park on farmland impassable for farming, which requires permission from the local city council and of the Agricultural Land Commission.

Increased number of drivers, parking tickets

Trucks may be parked in industrial areas such as land owned by transportation and trucking companies, commercial truck parks, rest areas, and on farms depending on specific local zoning rules.

“Our fleet is growing every year by several hundred vehicles a year. And that’s only because of population growth,” said Dave Earle, president of the BC Trucking Association, who says more drivers are needed to meet growing demand in the province due to population growth.

A lack of parking as more drivers travel south of the Fraser River, unaffordable land prices and high fees to park on private land are some of the factors causing overnight parking to squeeze , according to truckers. (Baneet Braich)

Earle says parking issues are especially common in urban areas, primarily in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley, where most trucks are registered.

According to the City of Abbotsford, the number of tickets issued to commercial vehicles, including those with a gross vehicle weight of 5,500 kilograms or more, trucks with trailers, and taxis parked illegally on city streets and private properties, increased from 165 in 2015 to 1,187 in 2022.

“[It’s] a growing problem that we fear will continue to grow, as the pressure on our lands continues,” Earle said. “There is enormous frustration.

Full and expensive private grounds, with security issues

Jatinder Gill, owner of Red Star Transport, says he had five trucks in his fleet in 2018. Now he has 40.

When his one-acre lot is full, Gill says some of his employees have to park their trucks illegally. He says parking tickets cost the company between $1,000 and $1,500 per month.

Gill says the demand for business is high and a growing fleet is needed to meet it, but buying more land is simply too expensive. The company therefore assumes the parking tickets instead. While on weekdays it’s not as common for all the trucks to be parked at once, it’s even more difficult on weekends when many drivers are at home, he says.

“There’s frustration… anger, but there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said.

Brar says that over the past five years, some private landowners have also nearly doubled the cost by charging more than $700 a month for a truck to park on their property.

Driver and truck safety is another concern, adds Brar, especially for those who have no choice but to park on the streets because trucks, tires and trailers “get stolen all the time.” time”.

Truck driver and trucking company owner Navi Brar says the safety of drivers and the loads they haul is a major concern when they can’t find parking. (Baneet Braich)

Car parks under construction, according to the ministry

The Department of Transport and Infrastructure says it operates an overnight parking site on Highway 91 at Nordel Way between Surrey and Delta. Another in North Surrey, which can accommodate 106 commercial trucks, is under construction and is expected to open in 2023.

The truck facilities are also being considered as part of the Fraser Valley Highway 1 Corridor Improvement Program, which includes widening Highway 1 between Langley and Abbotsford, the department said, adding that it continues to explore other commercial parking options.

British Columbia truckers say more urgent solutions are needed to increase the number of overnight parking lots for trucks. (Baneet Braich)

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun and Council. Dave Sidhu says another potential solution is to allocate farmland unsuitable for farming to truck parking.

“I think we need to protect our farmland because that’s where we get our food, but we need to look at some of that land that’s not passable for farming and how we can potentially use that for parking lots. trucks,” Sidhu said. , adding that it is important that all levels of government help find solutions.

According to the municipality, there are specific limits on the number of commercial trucks that can park on agricultural land that is not for agricultural use.

In Abbotsford, for example, a maximum of two commercial trucks can be parked — if one of the trucks is owned by a resident of the property, Braun says.

In Surrey, two trucks are allowed on lots up to four hectares (9.88 acres) and three trucks are allowed on larger lots. Trucks must be owned and operated by the owner/occupier of the land.

Braun says that while there has been an increase in truck parking spaces in Abbotsford, more is still hard to come by.

“The Minister of Agriculture and the ALC…are not willing to withdraw more land. And yet, we need transportation to move goods and services. So I don’t understand where the disconnect is at the provincial level,” he said.

In one case, the city of Abbotsford submitted an application for 115 agricultural properties totaling 288 hectares (711 acres) to be used for industrial purposes which was denied in 2018 by the ALCwho found the land were still able to sustain agriculture.

A number of truckers argue that unsuitable farmland should be used to create more parking spaces for truckers, but the Farmland Commission says farmland does not necessarily require good quality soil. (Baneet Braich)

The Farmland Commission, whose main mandate is to preserve farmland, says landowners can apply to use their land for non-farm purposes, such as truck parking.

However, this usually requires a lot of gravel or pavement, making the land unsuitable for farming.

He says using more land for parking will reduce the amount of land available for farming.

“Agricultural land does not necessarily require good quality soil,” the commission said in an email to CBC News.

With no immediate solutions in sight, drivers like Cheema say they are left in limbo.

“We live away from home for this job. So at least we need some respect.”

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