COLUMN: Going after every trucker won’t help City of Surrey

The truck parking issue in Surrey isn’t getting better, it’s getting worse.

While it’s good news for Fleetwood residents that an established truck parking facility at 84 Avenue and 162 Street is closing – to make way for a townhouse development – all those trucks still have to park somewhere.

While the city says that there is plenty of room in industrial areas where truck parking does not impact residential areas, there are far more trucks in Surrey than there are parking spots for them. This has been a problem for years. Almost 20 years ago, the city tried to regulate truck parking – and the net result was that some parking lots, such as the one in Fleetwood, were established, and many other truck drivers ended up parking in residential and agricultural areas.

Meanwhile, the city has grown almost exponentially, and many transportation, warehousing and manufacturing businesses have shifted operations. Proportionally, many more of all those in the Metro Vancouver area are located south of the Fraser.

One major factor is the growth of Deltaport. Twenty years ago, there were no container ships calling at Roberts Bank. Now containers are a big business there, and while many are transported by rail, a sizable number are hauled by truck.

The Fraser Surrey Docks have also grown. There are many more transportation businesses located in Surrey or adjacent municipalities, and the decline of warehousing and other similar businesses in Vancouver has led to significant growth in that area of business.

Then there’s the effect of the U.S.-Canada border. The Pacific Highway border crossing is the busiest commercial crossing west of Ontario, and may well be one of the three or four busiest crossings in the country dealing with commercial goods.

In other words, truck parking problems are a sign of Surrey’s economic growth and maturity. There are more trucks because there is far more business for trucks. There are more trucks because there are more people living in Surrey, and many of them drive trucks for a living.

A report two years ago estimated there were 12,000 independent truckers in Surrey, and about half of them had no place to park their rigs when they weren’t on the road. With growth in that business estimated at about 1,500 additional trucks annually, Surrey would need an additional 34 acres of truck parking land each year, the report states.

The city says it will be going after truckers who park on agricultural land. This is taking a hammer to squash a fly. While the long-term intent to end truck parking on ALR land makes sense, there is little point in going after existing ALR properties where trucks are currently parked, as long as there is enough space, proper parking facilities and farm operations are not being impacted.

In some cases, there is room to spare on agricultural land for parking. In some cases, family members of the farm operators are parking their trucks there overnight.

Instead of going after every trucker parking on agricultural property, the city needs to be more vigilant in dealing with building permits, location of buildings and soil-dumping permits within the ALR. The city has the power to ensure people aren’t buying farm land simply to set up truck-parking businesses.

Instead of announcing a crackdown on existing truck parking, the city needs to work with the industry and come up with some positive solutions that benefit everyone. It could host a series of forums where truckers could outline the issues that they must deal with, and also set up meetings with the B.C. Trucking Association and other groups that speak for the industry.

Surrey should not be imposing hardship on a vital aspect of the local economy, and make it much harder for truckers to go about its day-to-day business.

A strong trucking industry is good for Surrey.

Frank Bucholtz writes Fridays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.

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