OTTAWA – The Canadian Army has parked some of its big trucks and smaller transports to save money.
Defence sources say the decision affects up to half the army’s so-called B-fleet, including heavy and medium trucks used to transport troops and equipment, as well as support vehicles, such as ambulances.
Military records indicate there are a total of some 6,800 trucks among the affected fleets.
National Defence confirms the move, but an official says it involves vehicles too expensive to maintain and due to be replaced. The spokesman would not say how many vehicles were being mothballed.
The sources say the commander of the army, Lt.-Gen. Marquis Hainse, presented the strategy at recent command council meeting.
The savings are apparently being plowed back into keeping the army’s fleet of armoured vehicles, including Leopard 2 tanks and light armoured vehicles, on the road.
Since the end of the Afghan war, the army has seen cuts to its budget of up to 22 per cent. The decision has left commanders trying to figure out how to maintain a high-level of training and readiness.
It also comes as the Harper government wrestles with the idea of spending $2.1 billion on a new fleet of close-combat vehicles — a decision made more complicated by the concerns within the army that it can’t afford to drive and maintain them.
Army officials decline to say what the impact of the order might be. Although it is widely anticipated that soldiers, who would normally be driven to training areas and exercises, will now have to march.
Army spokesman Doug Drever painted the decision to take the trucks off the road as part of the normal financial-management process where available funds are “reallocated to higher priorities.”
Most of the army’s trucks are between 20 and 30 years old.
“A number of the Canadian Army logistic support vehicles are nearing the end of their life expectancy and are growing more expensive to maintain,” Drever said in an email.
“With the end of the mission in Afghanistan, reduced operational demands on the Canadian Army and being in a time of financial restraint it is prudent that we do not spend significant amounts of money to repair certain aging vehicles when we know we will need to transition to new ones before too long.”
Mechanics have been asked to assess each vehicle, and those in the need of the most upkeep will be parked and cannibalized for parts.
Drever says essential medium-sized vehicles, such as ambulances and communications trucks, will be retained.
The Harper government has long promised to buy new trucks for the army.
The medium support vehicle system program was first conceived in 2006 as an “urgent requirement,” but it took two years before defence companies were asked if they were interested in bidding on the $430-million program.
Planning was still stalled in 2011 when Public Works was forced to adjust the requirements. In 2012, the Conservatives shut it down altogether and started anew.
Some defence publications have suggested the military won’t able to conduct large-scale deployments overseas until it gets new trucks.