Canadian Trucking Alliance to keep close watch on US cabotage enforcement

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OTTAWA, Ont. — The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) is keeping a close watch on a renewed effort by the US Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA) to enlist state troopers, local police forces and other US law enforcement agencies to pay increased attention to the enforcement of truck cabotage rules. Cabotage is the term used to describe point-to-point movements of foreign drivers and equipment within the US. FMCSA is providing training to state law enforcement agencies across the US. John H. Hill, FMCSA administrator, was recently quoted in a major US transportation and logistics publication as saying, This is not just training people about Mexican cabotage. This is training all enforcement officers about issues involving both northern and southern borders.

The cabotage regimes in the US and Canada are similar. In the late 1990s customs rules governing the permissible use of trucking equipment in international commerce were liberalized and harmonized in both Canada and the US. These rule changes applied only to trucks and trailers, and the prohibitions against drivers operating in the domestic market of either country remain unchanged to this day.

However, the view of Canadian truckers has been that the enforcement of the rules has always been much stronger in the US than Canada, according to the CTA. Any mention of even tougher enforcement of the rules in the United States has the Canadian trucking industry worried that Canadian trucking companies may be placed at a competitive disadvantage in doing business across the border, CTA officials said in a release.

For many years, Canadian cross-border carriers have had to deal with enforcement of immigration cabotage rules, but this has typically been by way of inspections at the border when their drivers are entering the US and US drivers entering this country are similarly subject to questions from Canadian border officials on possible cabotage activity, said David Bradley, president of the CTA. We question the need for a nationwide policing effort away from the border, and wonder whether Canadian carriers and drivers will be sideswiped as a result of concern in some quarters in the US over the possible opening of the southern border.

Bradley points to the increasing costs and complexities encountered by Canadian carriers doing business in the US in the post-9/11 era as a source of real concern and one that the Alliance is constantly attempting to mitigate with government officials on both sides of the border. US security concerns are well understood by carriers involved in cross-border transportation, and while our industry has been struggling to cope with the attendant cost pressures, we accept the security imperative. This, however, is a different kettle of fish. Now, a truck could be detained and delayed at roadside as a local state trooper or local constable who has read a pamphlet tries to determine whether a truck and its driver are in compliance with the arcane, antiquated and complex rules governing cabotage.

The Alliance will be monitoring the US enforcement situation closely in the coming weeks to see whether there is a need to call on governments and on-road enforcement agencies in Canada to follow the US example. Canadian carriers simply will not accept a competitive playing field that is out of kilter. If need be, we will urge government to take action to ensure there is an appropriate level of cabotage enforcement in this country, says Bradley.

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