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Border bothers: What Quebec carriers think of border crossings

MONTREAL, Que. – Ask Quebec carriers what the biggest hassles are at the Quebec and Ontario border crossings and some will tell you about a lack of booths, a lack of coordination with brokers, too many documents, long lines, too many...


MONTREAL, Que. – Ask Quebec carriers what the biggest hassles are at the Quebec and Ontario border crossings and some will tell you about a lack of booths, a lack of coordination with brokers, too many documents, long lines, too many documents to transmit and the attitude of border officers.

Ask them what they are cool with and some will reply that wait times are not too bad, border crossings in Ontario and Quebec are about the same and access to information about how to conform to border requirements is easy.

Half of them will not know that Transports Quebec has traffic cams at the border crossings and about half will not know that they can find out what the border crossing times; ie., delays are. And probably disappointingly for the Forum des intervenants de l’industrie du camionnage, a kind of roundtable of industry and government members that keep the lines of communications open between their respective camps, only 21% of the carriers will know about its Web site, which has a repository of information and documents on conforming to border requirements. If it is any consolation, though, half are unaware of the existence of the border Web sites.

These numbers come from a survey done by Montreal-based Jolicoeur & Associes in 2010 for Transports Quebec on what Quebec carriers that move goods into the US do, know and think. Tapping the Quebec Transport Commission’s carrier list, that November Jolicoeur & Associes interviewed 469 transporters that ship to the US. The firm submitted its results to Transports Quebec last March. It made the survey public just before Christmas.

First, in roughly equal measures, transporters reported large drops, light drops and stable southbound traffic, 34%, 26% and 32% respectively, to the US since the world financial implosion in 2008. Of those reporting a drop in traffic, 21% attribute it to the strong Canadian dollar 58% to the recession and 9% to both.

Just over half of Quebec transporters use Quebec border crossings, 27% the crossings in Ontario and 19% both in equal measures. An average of 51% return to Canada via Quebec border crossings. The Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle crossing south of Montreal is used by 60% of the heavy vehicles heading to the US, but this number rises to 80% for carriers with more than 20 trucks.

Jolicoeur & Associes learned that 47% of respondents use C-TPAT, but 72% of them do not use PIP, its Canadian equivalent. More than 25% of drivers are not FAST/EXPRES-accredited, but most of these are from carriers who do only light business to the US. The bigger fleets and those who do more business have more FAST-accredited drivers. About the same numbers of drivers use passports as FAST cards.

On average, respondents reported taking about 35 minutes to get into the US at Quebec crossings but 31% of them reported taking 45 minutes or more. Not surprisingly, the longest waits in Quebec are at Lacolle, the province’s busiest border crossing. When asked about border problems, 43% of respondents identified a lack of booths (ie., lanes, and Customs officers); 34% mentioned a lack of coordination with brokers; 24% cited the wealth of documents necessary; and 22% beefed about the requirement to forward documents to the border an hour in advance.

Additionally, 38% of respondents identified waiting lines as a problem, 38% the lack of harmonization of requirements between the two countries; 30% the quantity of documents that must be transmitted; and 21% reported that the attitude of border officers, including excessive zeal, was a problem.

Jolicoeur & Associes asked respondents to propose solutions as well, which will hopefully be put to practice.


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