Cross-border operations get a little leniency

OTTAWA — Two recent, and unrelated, developments in agriculture labeling and trailer usage will offer cross-border carriers a bit of breathing room on ever-tightening regulations.

Part of the federal Budget Implementation Act, which passed last night, contained a measure, which will increase flexibility in the use of foreign trucking equipment by Canadian carriers.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance has been seeking for the past few years to change the provision of the Customs Tariff (section 9801.10) which prevented Canadian carriers from using containers — including trailers — on cross border moves into Canada if the equipment is owned or controlled outside of the country.

This denied Canadian carriers the flexibility to use foreign trailers on cross border moves when required, something the comparable U.S. rules allow. The provision has been on the books for a number of years, and in response to lobbying by CTA, the federal government agreed in 2007 to suspend enforcement of the section.

With passage of the budget, the provisions, which technically required Canadian carriers to pay duty and taxes on U.S. trailers used in cross-border moves, have now been expunged from the law.

“This particular measure was buried deep in the budget’s Notice of Ways & Means and the wording was so subtle, we were not sure if it was what we thought it was. We have now confirmed with the Department of Finance that indeed it is what we have been seeking,” noted David Bradley, CEO of the CTA. “This has been an irritant for some time; in some cases Canadian carriers were forced to turn over business to American counterparts.”

CTA is awaiting promised public consultations on other aspects of the Customs Tariff, such as the length of time foreign equipment can remain in Canada, which could begin as early as this month. The lobby group cautions that the changes have nothing to do with the use of foreign trucking equipment in domestic operations, which is referred to as cabotage.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is changing a new requirement for customs brokers and importers to declare the genus, species and country of origin for all goods entering the U.S. containing plant or wood products.

As originally written, the declaration would become an admissibility requirement, which was passed by the U.S. Congress in October 2008 as an add-on to a major farm bill (known as the Lacey Act amendment). The requirement would have prevented trucks from entering the U.S. until after the broker had correctly filed the necessary paperwork.

The paper declaration would have to include everything including the boxes the goods are shipped in and the paper bags containing the driver’s lunch.

In its written comment on the October 8th Federal Register notice announcing the new requirements, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (who worked with the American Trucking Associations and a coalition of other interested groups) called for an easing in the obligations that were proposed to be placed on the carrier.

Specifically, CTA requested: The ability to move freight that is not accompanied by a declaration inland and away from the border; exceptions for goods moving under bond; and consideration for goods accompanying commercial drivers as personal effects as well as the prioritization for an electronic submission as opposed to paper declaration.

The revised Federal Register notice incorporates all of CTA’s recommendations indicating a clear understanding from USDA of the potential disruption to legitimate trade that otherwise could have occurred.

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