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When Manny Dhillon began working as a container truck driver eight years ago, he felt he had landed a dream job of sorts: Being an owner-operator meant he was his own boss; long drives between Horseshoe Bay and Hope meant freedom from an office and an opportunity to meet new people; and his hourly wage of $18 an hour was a comfortable living wage at the time, he says.
But while the cost of living has gone up over the years, Mr. Dhillon – who recently became a spokesman for the United Truckers Association (UTA) – says truckers’ wages have largely flatlined. In fact, most truckers are now paid by the load, rather than by the hour, and long wait times at port facilities cut into take-home pay, Mr. Dhillon said.
“Things have deteriorated over time,” he said. “The [cost of living] is more expensive … but the pay rate has deteriorated over time and workers have been exploited by having long work hours and less pay.”
Wait times and pay rates were two of the main issues that prompted both unionized and non-unionized truckers to go on strike earlier this year, choking the movement of goods through Port Metro Vancouver for nearly a month. While the truckers and provincial and federal governments have since reached an agreement, the truckers are again threatening job action, saying some companies are refusing to comply with agreed-upon pay rate increases.
“If the pay was standardized across the sector, this would be a really good job,” Mr. Dhillon said. “You get to be on the move all the time, the environment around you changes all the time. The movement is a big factor: It keeps your mind open and keeps you going.” He described a typical day as starting at 6 a.m. and lasting for 10 to 12 hours. Under B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act, a driver cannot drive more than 13 hours without an off-duty period.
Transport truck driver is expected to be the second most in-demand skilled job in B.C. over the next decade; 16,300 will be needed by 2022, according to government statistics.
According to the latest census figures, 96 per cent of truckers employed in B.C. in 2006 were male.
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