The president of the BC Truckers Association expects supply lines to Kamloops will experience “a few days” delay to start as a result of the recent massive rainstorm that caused mudslides and flooding, severing all highways between Kamloops and the Lower Mainland.
Since Nov. 15, when mudslides and flooding caused infrastructure failures and evacuations south and west of Kamloops, reports and photos on social media have shown bare shelves at local grocery stores — apparent bids by shoppers to mitigate the impending supply chain disruption due to closed highways.
But Kamloops supply lines are not completely cut off, BC Truckers Association (BCTA) president and CEO David Earle pointed out during an interview with KTW.
“Not everything you use and consume comes from the Lower Mainland,” Earle said. “A lot of it comes from the east already. Much of it comes from the south, particularly when we’re talking about fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Due to the extreme weather event, the supply chain is in a state of flux at the moment, meaning some goods will take a bit longer, and cost more, to get to Kamloops, he said.
“The supply chain is having to readjust and reset and redeploy assets and figure out how we can get trucks from where they are to where they need to be,” Earle said. “The goods will arrive. They may take a little longer, they may take a few days more, but they will get there.”
Earle estimated goods coming to Kamloops will take an extra day or two more than usual, depending on where they are coming from, with the disruption likely taking longer going forward as delays stack up while the supply chain resets.
“There are carry forwards, so if a load is a day late coming north, it’s a day late coming south and then it’s two days [late] and then away we go,” Earle said. “But we pick up efficiencies because we pick up different loads, different ways, different configurations and different equipment to be able to use.”
Earle’s message to Kamloopsians cleaning out grocery store shelves is to remain calm.
“Steady hand at the wheel,” he said. “Remember, you’ve got thousands of evacuees, there are thousands of people who are in Kamloops who have no home to return to. Goods are coming. The stuff you rely on, it’s going to come. The supply chain is going to be bumpy, it’s going to be interrupted a little bit, but we need to be really thoughtful of our neighbours and people who’ve been displaced. Before you go to the supermarket and make that purchase, think about the others that are in your community and that’s what we all need to do right across the province.”
Costs will rise with those transportation delays.
“As we move forward, it’s just going to take a little longer and cost a little more to get what we need every day,” Earle said.
Everything people buy has transportation built into its costs, Earle said, adding he doesn’t anticipate prices to jump too high due to the current station.
“Different goods are different amounts, but a rule of thumb is about 10 per cent of any good is related to transportation,” he said, noting that can vary between truck, plane and boat.
“If it costs 10 per cent more to move something because it’s taking 10 per cent longer — instead of taking nine days it’s taking 10 — what that means for you and I is it’s one per cent more when we go to buy it,” Earle said. “Are we going to see big price increases? No.”
He said he expects those incremental price increases to continue until the supply routes return to normal, which is something engineers will determine as they assess damage on area highways.
It will be a challenge to get products to Kamloops and reset amidst the current route disruptions, but a way will be found, Earle said.
He said the BCTA is working with Canada and U.S. customs and border services and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance to use routes through Washington state to get to areas of B.C. cut off by the highway closures.
He said meetings have been taking place at a “feverish pace” to figure out solutions, with government officials, carriers, national and other provincial trucker associations involved.
Earle said there are hundreds of truck drivers around the province, including in Kamloops, waiting to get to their destinations, noting they are equipped to be on the road for long periods of time.
He said the BCTA has reached out to the Ministry of Transportation to get word to drivers in smaller centres to get to major ones, noting the province may open Highway 3 to essential and emergency traffic by the coming weekend.
“All the carriers are working with all their drivers to figure out where can they get the loads that are in transit to now, and then where is the next load coming from,” Earle said.
When it comes to receiving goods, Earle said Kamloops receives products from a variety of places, noting a container of pineapples may come up through the Port of Vancouver or land at Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach and get trucked up Interstate 5 through California, Oregon and Washington.
“The beauty of the supply chain is it’s so efficient in normal circumstances that when bad things happen, we redeploy and find ways around it because we have different ways of getting those goods to the different areas that they need,” Earle said. “You can think of it like a web.”
Earle said if products can’t be sourced from one area, they will be transported from another.
“A supplier, what they’ll do is they’ll source to from a distributor and, if the distributor can’t get it from the Vancouver warehouse, they’ll get it from Calgary, Edmonton, you name it. They’ll go south,” Earle said.
The BC Truckers Association represents more than 1,000 fleets, comprising about half the commercial fleets of truckers in the province, from small companies up to large International firms.
Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week