There's a lot of trucks in Freedom Convoy 2022 — but not nearly the 50,000 they claim

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There’s a lot of trucks in Freedom Convoy 2022 — but not nearly the 50,000 they claim
© Provided by National Post Trucks move on the TransCanada Highway heading to Ottawa to protest against COVID-19 restrictions, January 28, 2022 in Levis, Que.

The organizers of “Freedom Convoy 2022” are now explicitly claiming that they have 50,000 vehicles within their ranks.

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“It is now estimated that the number of heavy trucks heading to Ottawa is closer to 50,000,” wrote organizer Tamara Lich in a statement posted to the official Freedom Convoy Facebook page.

The convoy is big enough that witnesses have reported that it can take up to an hour to pass. The truckers have also attracted hundreds-strong crowds of flag-waving supporters at stops across the country.

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But there is good reason to believe that the 50,000-truck claim — now being widely repeated on international media — is a wild exaggeration.

The U.K.’s Daily Mail cited the 50,000 figure in its reporting on the convoy. So did former NHL player Theoren Fleury when speaking about the convoy on Fox News.

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A quick look at the math, however, shows that 50,000 trucks would be so unprecedently massive that it would currently be lined up bumper-to-bumper across whole swaths of Ontario and Quebec.

  • What the truckers want (and why Ottawa can’t give it to them)
  • Ottawa police call for reinforcements as trucker protest gathers outside Parliament

The average truck-and-trailer is 23 metres long. This means that 50,000 of them would stretch 1,150 kilometres; the approximate distance between Edmonton and Vancouver.

Many of the trucks are not pulling trailers, meaning their length is closer to about nine metres . Even then, that’s a continuous line of vehicles stretching for 450 km — the distance between Ottawa and Toronto.

Even if the 50,000 was composed entirely of Honda Civics, that lineup stretches for 230 kilometres; longer than the distance between Ottawa and Montreal.

Any continuous lineup of 50,000 vehicles wouldn’t merely be an impressive convoy. It would be an utterly highway-seizing phenomenon without any equal in world history.

The Coquihalla Highway — one of the busiest trucking corridors in Western Canada — counts a maximum of 18,000 vehicles on its busiest single day of the year. And that figure includes motorcycles and private cars.

The Ambassador Bridge is the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada, representing 25 per cent of all trade between the two countries. On average, it sees 13,000 truck crossings per day .

Supporters of Freedom Convoy 2022 have made much of the fact that it could potentially break the world record for longest truck parade. But it’s notable that in a world heavily dependent on road freight, that record is nowhere near 50,000. According to Guinness, the longest-ever convoy of commercial trucks was a line of 480 vehicles in Egypt.

A diversion of 50,000 Canadian trucks into Freedom Convoy 2022 would also be expected to have far more severe effects on the economy than are being observed. According to Statistics Canada, there are only 633,663 total vehicles in the weight class comprising heavy-duty trucks.

There’s a lot of trucks in Freedom Convoy 2022 — but not nearly the 50,000 they claim
© Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press Trucks from the “Freedom” convoy travel on Highway 401 headed eastbound in Kingston, Ont., toward Ottawa, on January 28, 2022.

If the category was just semi-trucks, the implication would be that one of every 12 semi-trucks across Canada is currently in a protest convoy. But that category also includes everything from dump trucks to crane trucks to tow trucks, driving up the relative proportion still further.

It’s hard to arrive at an exact size for Freedom Convoy 2022 because it’s so loosely organized. The protest consists of multiple distinct convoys setting out from different locations throughout the country with the ultimate goal of converging in Ottawa on Saturday.

One of the first convoys set out from Delta, B.C., on Sunday morning . On Thursday morning, a convoy of Atlantic Canadian truckers embarked from Enfield, Nova Scotia. All these distinct convoys are then gaining or losing followers as they get closer to Ottawa.

Nevertheless, Ontario law enforcement has begun counting some of the convoys in a bid to give Ottawa Police a sense of what they’ll have to face over the weekend. The results thus far have participants in the hundreds, not the tens of thousands.

A convoy passing through Thunder Bay, Ont. on Thursday contained just 113 trucks and 276 private cars , according to a count by the Ontario Provincial Police.

When one of the bigger convoys passed through Kingston, Ont., the Kingston Police counted 17 full tractor trailers and 104 tractors without trailers. When adding in passenger vehicles and RVs, the convoy’s total size was 551 vehicles.

Thus far, Ottawa Police is expecting that the total number of Freedom Convoy vehicles will top out at between 1,000 and 2,000.

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