Don’t Be Fooled: New Pre-Clearance Rules Will Be Costly

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The irony that April Fools’ Day was the first day that truckers were obligated to pre-clear their loads at the Ambassador Bridge entering Canada was not lost on the industry.

Fortunately, it was a slow Sunday, and the change-over, a joint initiative of the Canada Border Services Agency and the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor aimed at enhancing security controls (read making sure that CBSA gets its import revenue) and expediting the processing of commercial trucks (read reducing bridge backups), went off without much of a hitch.

But those in the know weren’t fooled. What truckers had and have to look forward to in the wake of the change-over is no laughing matter. And already, by Apr. 2, truckers were beginning to realize the joke’s on them.

But first, let’s backtrack a little. As of Apr. 1, all commercial importations entering Canada at the Ambassador Bridge (the most commercially busy bridge in all of Canada) were obliged to receive clearance for their loads at least 30 minutes prior to arriving at the border.

This meant drivers, already dealing with Hours-of-Service change-overs (from US to Canada), wait times, etc. had to get confirmation of their approval long distance, via an ever-reliable cell phone perhaps, from their carriers or from their Customs brokers well before arriving back at the border.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Not when you think about everything that could go wrong.

For example, what if your driver doesn’t speak English very well, or has trouble getting hold of the Customs broker on time?

What if the Customs broker, for his or her part, hasn’t processed the information yet, and/or doesn’t get the information back to the driver on time?

Even worse, what if you’re an O/O and it’s a live load you’re picking up 15 minutes inside Detroit and you don’t even have the option of calling ahead to get the other end to send the broker the information on the load prior to you even arriving to pick it up?

And what about cell phone costs for those truckers who don’t have the kind of boss who takes care of the brokers for them? Or those truckers who can’t afford to lose any more loads per week, thanks to the delays already caused by new HoS rules, never mind those caused by this new system?

It’s not pretty and you’d be a fool to see it any other way.

Mexican standoff

Someone pass the matches, this whole Mexican/US pilot project thing is about as flammable and stinky as a paper bag of poop on the neighbour’s front porch.

The stink is rising next door thanks to the Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association and CRASH, the weirdest bedfellows since Sonny and Cher. The gruesome twosome has ganged up, with the Teamsters along for the ride, to literally “crash” the US Department of Transportation’s plan to start making NAFTA actually happen by letting Mexican carriers operate in the US and vice-versa.

But CRASH and OOIDA are having none of it, and they’d like you to believe it’s for the same reason: safety.

According to both groups, Mexican trucks just aren’t safe enough to run in the US, even though US DoT has made it clear that any Mexican truck cleared to run in the States must first be inspected and passed by US DoT inspectors, the very same guys who inspect OOIDA members’ trucks. So, by the logic of OOIDA, if US DoT inspectors aren’t qualified to do their job, then neither are OOIDA members.

OOIDA – haven’t you ever heard the saying, if you lie down with dogs you get fleas? I think the real reason for OOIDA’s self-damaging safety argument is that independent owner/operators are afraid of cost undercutting from Mexican drivers who’ll run dirt-cheap.

My answer to that concern is two-fold:

1) By the time Mexican carrier get all their ducks in a row to get CVSA certified (some of these guys have 20-year-old trucks), their services will necessarily cost more;

2) When Mexican O/Os find out what US truckers are making they’ll charge more.

Imagine the scene: Mexican trucker walks in to US diner, sits down orders a burger and ends up chatting with Roscoe, who has been running down to the border for years.

“You make what?” says Mexican truck driver, who’s already seen his operating costs increase overnight, thanks to coming up north.

The next thing you know, he’s got dollar signs in his eyes.

And seeing as there’s no way OOIDA, CRASH, the Teamsters or the saintly ghost of Mother Teresa is going to be able to stop NAFTA trucking provisions from eventually being implemented, OOIDA ends up with nothing but fleas.

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Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.

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