BUFFALO, N.Y. — As the U.S. government continues to put security ahead of commerce, getting goods across the U.S.-Canadian border will remain difficult and will probably get more expensive, according to a panel of business experts at a logistics conference in Buffalo, N.Y. this week.
Speakers at a conference sponsored by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara, and the Council for Supply Chain Professionals, agreed that economic recovery is threatened by increasing costs for shippers as a result of recent terror concerns.
Panel moderator Jack Ampuja, a consultant and teacher of supply chain management at Niagara University, said rising costs related to border crossings between the U.S. and Canada could hinder trade between New York and Toronto, the two nations’ largest commercial centers.
According to the Buffalo News, Ampuja and three panelists who work in the shipping business agreed that the added costs of moving goods around will pose a major economic hurdle for shippers and their transport providers.
"Be prepared for some sticker shock," agreed Mike Diati, vice president of Speed Global Services, a Buffalo-based logistics firm that arranges shipping and customs processing for businesses moving their products around the world.
As truck capacity starts to tighten again, the trucks that remain, the panelists agreed, will have to be driven, owned and hired by people who pay attention to detail and allow the time and money necessary to comply with all regulations — however maddening that might be.
"If you are inefficient, you are going to pay for it," Ampuja warned manufacturers who ship their goods across the border. "The carrier isn’t."
Another hurdle to cross-border commerce remains the continuing, and often conflicting, efforts of the U. S. and Canadian governments to beef up security.
The two sides apparently fail to agree even on what to call their efforts, much less on how they should be carried out, leading some shippers to tear out their hair.
"The left hand doesn’t seem to know what the right hand is doing," said Robert Rich, president of Buffalo-based ROAR Logistics. "How are we supposed to defend our borders if we can’t get our computers to speak to each other?"
Larry Fontaine, owner of Fontaine Transport, a trucking company from Port Colborne, Ont., explained how going to the trouble of getting his drivers certified with security protocols, like FAST and C-TPAT, doesn’t help if either the shipper or the consignee have not fulfilled all their responsibilities.
Ampuja emphasized that Buffalo needs a companion span to the Peace Bridge to be built as soon as possible.
"We need that new bridge," he said. "We should be supporting that every which way possible."
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