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Frustrated, angry truckers want to park on ALR land in the region

Trucking association says 5,000 more parking spaces are needed
Kulwant Saran puts a sign on a truck tractor prior to a news conference at Aria Banquet & Convention Centre in Surrey on Wednesday, May 15. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Long-haul trucker Varinder Toor says he and fellow drivers are frustrated and getting angry about a lack of tractor parking in Surrey and the rest of Metro Vancouver.

For truckers it’s a long-running problem in the region, and they want government to help find solutions that could include relaxation of Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) rules to allow truck parking on those sites.

“We don’t want something for free, we are willing to pay for the parking spot, but at least give us something, give us some options,” said Toor, who lives in Newton.

In Surrey Wednesday (May 15), Toor and others attended a news conference and rally urging immediate action on the region-wide shortage of truck parking.

“Where I park changes every few months,” Toor explained as he stood in the parking lot of Aria Banquet & Convention Centre. “Parking on the boulevard is not an option, I understand that too, so we find parking and then after a few months we find out that is not a good parking spot, not allowed by the bylaws, and we pay for that space. There’s no public land for this.”

Trucker Varinder Toor with a sign during a news conference and rally at Aria Banquet & Convention Centre in Surrey on Wednesday, May 15. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

The Canadian Trucking Association of BC (CTA-BC) says 2,000 more truck tractor parking spaces are needed in the Surrey/Langley area, and 5,000 more in the region.

In March, the B.C. government’s new 106-stall North Surrey Truck Parking Facility opened on Highway 17 (South Fraser Perimeter Road), just east of Port Mann Bridge, and in March Surrey council OK’d use of city property for commercial truck parking at four locations in North Surrey, amounting to 150 parking spaces.

Truckers say it’s nowhere near enough.

“They have opened a few spaces, yes, but that is a drop in the bucket,” Toor said. “I appreciate the government did that, but a lot more needs to be done.”

Amit Kumar, president of Canadian Trucking Association of BC (CTA-BC), at a news conference and rally at Aria Banquet & Convention Centre in Surrey on Wednesday, May 15. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

CTA-BC president Amit Kumar says truckers are the backbone of the local economy, delivering food and other goods we buy. But many operators have nowhere legally park their rigs at night, and often incur large fines when forced to park in non-designated areas.

Kumar wants to make truck parking an issue in this fall’s B.C. election, and doesn’t rule out truck convoys to get more public attention.

He and others at Wednesday’s rally wonder why trucks aren’t allowed to park on ALR lands.

“Trucking is an agri-support industry, we cannot be looked at differently,” Kumar said. “If we look south of the border, there are no such restrictions, and you look east toward Alberta and Saskatchewan, there are no restrictions like that, so why do we have a made-in-B.C. problem?”

Avtar Sundher, director of opertions of Agricultural Land Commission, says ALR lands in B.C. are generally reserved for farming purposes, nothing more.

“The Agricultural Land Commission Act reserves the land for agricultural purposes, and anything outside of agricultural purposes requires an application to the commission and approval by the commission in order to use that land for a non-farm purpose.”

He said it’s “a stretch” for truckers to say they’re part of the agriculture business.

“As we all know, truckers transport all sorts of goods and materials,” Sundher said in a phone call. “There are lots of truckers that move soil around and that sort of thing, and it all fails under a commercial enterprise. Commercial enterprises under our legislation require a non-farm use application to the commission, that’s legislated.”

At Wednesday’s rally, truckers applauded former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum when he said the solution is allowing truck parking on ALR lands.

“People don’t realize that a third of our land base in Surrey is ALR land, and I cannot understand why anybody would think to not put five trucks on maybe a 10-acre plot that is zoned, or X number on a larger plot, why would there be any problem to do that? It’s a simple solution.”

Other speakers at the rally included B.C. Conservative leader John Rustad, Mission-Matsqui MP Brad Vis, Surrey-Newton MP Sukh Dhaliwal and Surrey Coun. Linda Annis.

“I think all levels of government need to step up and fix this,” Annis said. “I think it means building multiple locations, locations that are close to major transportation routes. So I don’t think there’s one part that is a solution. I think it’s multiple, but I do think we need to get on with it. This problem is being kicked down the road for so, so many years now, and it’s time that we get ahead of it.”

Toor has been driving long-haul for 12 years now, and says he’s proud to live and work in Surrey.

”I only get to come back home one or two days a week,” he noted. “Being away five days a week is not a challenge, and the most frustrating or challenging part of my job is finding a parking spot, that’s my biggest challenge. I’ve gotten tickets, yes, and each time is about $200. That is something, but the mental strain you go through when you get that ticket, when you arrive at your truck and you’re now planning to travel a long distance and you see the ticket on your window. That changes the scenario of your whole trip.”

Toor said he’s considered moving and changing jobs, as have other truckers.

“I have thought about going to the next province, Alberta, where the parking is half the price of what we pay here, those lots are paved and fenced, security cameras and all those things,” Toor said. “But I’ve been living here for a long time, I like my city, my kids go to school here, all my relatives and friends are here, so moving is a challenge. The next easiest thing would be to change the profession. This is why we’re not finding new drivers. Parking is one issue, though, and there are so many other hurdles.”

Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news for Surrey Now-Leader and Black Press Media
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