Truck News


A closer look at border truck traffic patterns

A mind-boggling 25 trucks a minute cross the Canada-United States border.

A mind-boggling 25 trucks a minute cross the Canada-United States border.

Last year truck traffic across the Canada-US border declined 3.2% from the peak of 13.6 million trucks in 2000. Although some suggest new security measures since 9/11 are partly responsible for the decline over the past two years, the real reason is the volume of trade. In 2003, trade between Canada and the US fell by $32 billion from the previous year. At $570 billion, though, Canada and the US still remain the largest trading partners in the world.

Almost 70% of the trucks crossing the border have Canadian registrations which, in almost all cases, means Canadian-based carriers and Canadian drivers. This percentage has been gradually rising over the past two decades.

The table (on pg. 17) shows the top 11 border crossings as measured by 2003 truck traffic. (The cut-off point was originally the “top 10” but this didn’t seem fair to Alberta where the Coutts-Sweetgrass border point is pretty close to being in the top 10.) The numbers shown for the Ambassador Bridge are a bit of a guess because Statistics Canada combines Ambassador’s numbers with those of the Detroit-Windsor tunnel. But even with the guesswork, it’s a safe bet that the bridge accounts for by far the largest volume of Canada-US truck traffic. In fact, in 2003, 26% of all trucks travelling between the two countries used the bridge. All numbers in the table are based on Statistic’s Canada data of inbound truck movements. Total two-way movements are simply double the StatsCan numbers.

As shown in the table, the decline in truck traffic of about 2% isn’t matched by the experience at individual border crossings – particularly Ontario’s Blue Water bridge where traffic jumped by a healthy 9.2%. This increase at the Blue Water continues a long-term trend of more and more trucks using the bridge at the expense of other Ontario-US border points. For the last two decades, truck traffic on the Blue Water has been increasing by an average of over 8% a year versus only 3%-to-4% for other Ontario border points.

Another figure that stands out in the table is the sharp drop of 7.6% in truck traffic at Coutts – you have to guess that mad-cow disease is responsible for this because, historically, the crossing has been one of the faster growing routes for truck traffic.

Of the total 13.2 million trucks crossing the border, 63.6% did so in Ontario. Further, the drop off in truck traffic in 2003 was less pronounced in Ontario than anywhere else. This counters a longer term trend that has seen cross-border truck traffic in Western Canada (except Saskatchewan) growing at a faster rate than in Ontario. The long-term trend in Qubec and Atlantic Canada has been for a slower rate of growth than Ontario or Western Canada. The other (small) peculiarity about truck traffic between Ontario and the US is that this has the lowest proportion of Canadian-registered trucks-65.5% versus 76.3% in other provinces and territories.

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