02/01/2015 03:51 EST | Updated 04/03/2015 05:59 EDT

Hundreds of Port Metro Vancouver truckers losing jobs today

Hundreds of truckers say they're without work today after Port Metro Vancouver granted access to just 68 companies under a new licensing system finalized Jan 20.

Port Metro Vancouver promised to create a new system after drivers, complaining of long wait times and low rates, conducted a bitter work stoppage for nearly a month last year.

On Saturday hundreds of container truck drivers and their families rallied at Surrey's Holland Park. Michelle Mann says her husband is a truck driver and she works as a dispatcher.

Both have been told they don't qualify for port access. Mann says companies were notified of the port's decision just days ago.

"Essentially we just got about four or five days saying shut down your company. You're out of business — go," she said.

"They have told us we can go and work in other sectors, but there's a lot of arguments why that is not going to work that easily. And you know what? Why take 600 truckers from the container industry and go flood another industry?"

Gurmeet Gill's trucking company was also shut out.

"This is not a diplomatic approach. Rather the port is behaving like a dictatorship," he said.

Gill says most truckers were unaware the port was using a point system to make its evaluations.

"When we went to the debriefing session, that's when we came to know they were using a different system," he said. 

"If we knew that and we could provide a $250,000 up to a $1.4 million bond or $35,000 up to $225,000 annual fee for the trucking company, so we would have been aware of that, and we could have got ready for that too."

Gill says the point of the rally is to try to get the port to reconsider its decision and deliver a message to government.

Under the new licensing system, 68 companies representing 1,450 trucks have been approved to serve the port. Last year the number of trucks working the port was estimated at more than 2,000.

Port says new system brings stability

In a statement issued shortly after the decision was made more than a week ago, Port Metro Vancouver vice-president Peter Xotta said it was a necessary step.

"For years, the container trucking sector that serves Port Metro Vancouver has been unstable and drivers have found it increasingly difficult to make a living," he said. "There is widespread agreement there are too many trucking companies and drivers, which has resulted in undercutting and other problems."

On mobile? Click here for the port's letter outlining new licensing system