By Adam MacInnis and Dave Stewart
The ferry service between Wood Islands, P.E.I., and Caribou transports more than 400,000 people a season as well as 14,000 truckers who have become dependent on the service.
Gerald Battist, of Battist Trucking in Abercrombie, said it’s having a terrible impact on his business. They truck a lot of gravel and animal feed to the island.
“It’s costing us an arm and a leg, the lost time and the man hours,” he said.
He estimates his drivers are waiting three and a half hours each way for the ferry.
“It’s just a nuisance,” he said.
But he said to travel around would cost even more.
“It’s very expensive because we’re unloading and loading on this side of the island. It’s got a major impact if you have to go around.”
Truck drivers waiting at the terminal in Wood Islands Tuesday expressed similar frustration.
“We’re trying to save on fuel with the price of fuel what it is today,” said Perry Smith, who drives for Far East Transport in Nova Scotia.
Wilson said he often hauls loads from Montague, P.E.I., to New Glasgow. When Northumberland Ferries Ltd. has its usual two boats running that trip will take him seven hours. Now, it’s taking him 15 hours, which means rather than two runs a day, he’s only able to make one, and it hurts business.
“It’s quite frustrating. Somebody has to pay the cost (to sit in the terminal waiting). The company doesn’t get paid. It’s a long day sitting here.”
John Van Ouwerkerk, a trucker from Stratford, P.E.I., says what really bugs him is seeing cars late for the scheduled crossing get on the ferry while trucks that were there early get left behind.
“Every time I come down here I am getting left behind,” said Van Ouwerkerk. “I’d be better off pushing a shopping cart at Sobeys. We are here filling these boats from May to June and from September to October yet these campers from the United States that won’t be back to contribute to the economy are gone and won’t be seen again.”
Gordon Graham of Montague, another trucker waiting for the 1 p.m. crossing, said he agrees completely with Van Ouwerkerk.
“They take this traffic arriving late and leave us just sitting there and we’re here every single day. If they don’t want (our business) just tell us,” Graham said.
Don Cormier, vice-president of operations for NFL, said there is a simple explanation for why late-arriving cars get on while heavy haul trucks sometimes get left behind.
“The explanation is simply that the space that those vehicles would be occupying has restricted head room capacity. We have decks that you can only put vehicles on that are (no more than seven feet high),” Cormier said. “Those trucks would not actually be competing for the same space.”