City’s contract truckers can now follow the money

Vancouver’s city engineering department has responded to concerns raised by its independent truckers with a new web-based system that allows them to track the entire fleet’s call-out rankings and earnings.

The city paid more than 60 trucking firms more than $3.5 million for their services last year, so slight variations in the dispatch order can make a difference of thousands of dollars in take-home earnings.

A move up or down one or two spots in the call-out order can have even more dramatic consequences: the top three to five contractors can receive one-third to one-half of the work from a given city department.

Convinced that annual evaluations were too subjective, their rankings were wrong and that their complaints would not be heeded, a number of independent truckers approached me for assistance earlier this year.

A review of information provided by the engineering department showed that city staff have had a focus on the call-out procedure since 1998, when a VPD investigation confirmed allegations of corruption in the management of the dump truck contracts. Two city employees were terminated and several truckers were struck from the list.

The new rankings and evaluations instituted in the wake of that crisis were updated in 2002 and 2006, along with a “zero tolerance” policy on improper behaviour of any kind.

But the 2007 civic strike delayed evaluations in some departments, leaving the truckers operating under lists generated at least three years ago. Frustration grew.

After I brought the issue to the attention of senior city staff, City Engineer Tom Timm Implemented new measures to ensure transparency in the hiring process.

The new site includes:

  • The list of branch rankings, which will be updated twice a year;
  • Current ranking for each branch;
  • A description of the evaluation process along with the weighting given to each factor;
  • The date of the next branch assessment release; and
  • A copy of the current haulage/trucking contract.

No trucker’s ranking has changed as a result of this process, but each operator now knows where he stands and the process to seek a change if he believes one is warranted.

He will also know how his evaluation is being conducted, when, and how to appeal if decisions appear unfair.