A three-day protest by independent truckers in Canada's Province of New Brunswick that managed to close down an international border crossing as well as stretches of the Trans Canada Highway was blunted last night when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) moved in with ticket pads in hand.
According to a Canadian Press (CP) wire report, the RCMP stated that truckers were moving their trucks from "highway barricades" in New Brunswick Thursday night to avoid being slapped with "hefty traffic fines."
The wildcat action was mounted to protest rising fuel prices. The truckers who organized it, mainly based in northern New Brunswick, began their protest on Tuesday and by yesterday had convinced over 1,000 trucks to pull over. The organizers hoped their protest would spread elsewhere in Canada and even catch on in the U.S.
The blockades on various New Brunswick highways produced shortages in local grocery stores and, said CP, "a virtual shutdown in the flow of commercial traffic into and out of the Maritimes [provinces]." The CP report stated that as RCMP officers approached with tickets of up to C$120 for illegal parking, truckers agreed to remove their vehicles from the side of the Trans-Canada Highway in Saint-Jacques, near the Quebec border.
Similar action was taken at Grand Falls, in northwestern New Brunswick, and at Woodstock, near the U.S. border crossing at Houlton, ME. According to the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), by Thursday that border crossing was at a standstill.
CP reported that Eric Bijeau, a protest organizer in Grand Falls, said that truckers would comply under the threat of being ticketed because, "'We're truckers who go stateside. Can we afford a criminal record?'" However, as of midnight Thursday, Bijeau said hundreds of trucks had not agreed to move in several locations.
The commercial disruption caused by the action has taken a toll on for-hire truck fleets, stated CTA. "The blockades by independent truckers have hampered the free movement of consumables in the region," said the trucking group in a news release. "This delay is having devastating financial effects on for-hire trucking companies which have hundreds of loaded trucks sitting at the side of the road, many of them with perishable goods such as meat, etc."
"People have to realize that solutions to these problems cannot be reached by blocking the highway," said Atlantic Provinces Trucking Assn. (APTA) president Ralph Boyd. "The daily movement of consumables in the Atlantic Region by truck is imperative to our economy.
"Most of the carriers of the APTA already receive compensation from their shippers for the increase in fuel prices through a fuel surcharge," he continued. "In return, APTA carriers are compensating their owner-operators in various formats. In today's economic environment, a fuel surcharge is imperative if a trucking company or owner-operator is going to remain in business."
News reports had also indicated that the blockades were preventing goods donated by Canadians for the relief of Hurricane Katrina victims from even leaving the country let alone getting to the Gulf region.