CTA boss warns against complacency on border issues

TORONTO — The pictures of truck lineups at Canada-U.S. border crossings in the days after Sept. 11 may no longer be broadcasted on the nightly news, but “no one should have the illusion that all is well at the border.”

Those are the words of Canadian Trucking Alliance CEO David Bradley in a recent guest column published in the National Post.

“As difficult as it was,” Bradley writes in regards to the miles truck delays after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., “everyone knew that the border backlogs would eventually be cleared.”

Bradley says there’s no end in sight
to costly border protocols

These days, lineups are much shorter, and to a great extent, the current situation reflects the fact that Canadian exports of manufactured goods to the U.S. are softer. “The reality is that the border continues to thicken and this is a threat to our economic well-being,” Bradley writes.

“Despite the lofty intentions of the two governments, the border is increasingly bogged down in a seemingly endless stream of costly and often redundant so-called security measures and fees.”

No doubt, points out Bradley that the border is becoming more automated, and eventually, eliminating paper and reducing the need for constant physical inspection should help to speed things.

However, cross-border truckers over the past five years have had to respond to at least a dozen major costly, sometimes redundant, U.S. security initiatives. “Many of the more recent measures move border management further away from risk assessment and towards a regime that appears to want to check everything, everyone, all the time,” he continues.

CTA has estimated that the cost to the trucking industry alone from all these programs — “which inevitably end up being passed on” — is about a half a billion dollars per year.

And there seems to be no end in sight. This spring, single crossing U.S. customs fees are being increased and truckers will have to fork over fees for agricultural inspections regardless of what they are hauling. Only 10 to 15 percent of Canadian trucks that cross into the U.S. carry agri-related goods officials want checked.

“The Government of Canada is also in on the act. It is threatening the efficiency of cross-border operations by slapping tariffs on certain trailer sharing arrangements involving Canadian carriers and their NAFTA partners. It collects millions of dollars each year in administrative monetary penalties, and charges the trucking company when it off-loads freight from trailers — even when such action is precipitated by concerns about the client for which they haul, not the trucking companies themselves.”

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