‘Real reciprocity’ is what Canadian trucking execs want from NAFTA talks

by Sonia Straface

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – Reciprocity is what most are looking for on this side of the U.S.-Canada border when it comes to NAFTA discussions.

That’s according to some of the trucking industry’s most prominent players who gathered at special Canada-based Truckload Carriers’ Association (TCA) event called ‘Bridging Border Barriers.’ to talk about their opinions on the NAFTA negotiations and what they believe the ideal outcome would be.

“These are difficult times,” said David Bradley, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA). “What we’re looking for in NAFTA is things that would improve the efficiency and the productivity of trade across the Canada-U.S. border. So. things like enshrining the current in-transit pilot, and making it an actual program. Because a pilot can be taken away quite easily.”

Bradley also said it would be nice if borders were properly resourced.

“We are also looking for…making sure that we have real reciprocity when it comes to the security programs, many of which have been introduced in the last couple of years. For example, making sure you only have to apply for a FAST card in one country and it’s recognized in the other…those sorts of things,” Bradley said. “Do I think that NAFTA is going to deal with these issues? I think it’s difficult, because they’re not top of mind/front page type of things. But what I’m hoping is, at least in NAFTA we will establish some new processes for dealing with these sorts of issues that make an agreement work better.”

Ultimately though, Bradley said he hopes these NAFTA negotiations result in anything but the agreement dissolving entirely.

“If we can maintain the agreement that we’ve got now, that would be better than the alternative, which is to get rid of it,” he said.

According to John Lybolt, the TCA president, the association wants free trade and wants NAFTA to continue.

“The bottom line is we want free trade,” Lybolt said of the TCA. “Since 1993, when NAFTA was first brought into play, we’ve realized a gain in freight movement and profit…so the true success of the trade agreement according to the TCA, is making certain we have harmonization within the trade agreement…The transportation of goods internationally is in all of our best interests.”

On the carrier side, Geoff Topping, v.p. of human resources at Challenger Motor Freight says that his hope is that with an already thick border to get through, that these negotiations don’t confuse things at the border even more.

“We need the border to be a faster, more efficient process for the driver, for the carrier, and ultimately for the exporter or importer,” he said. “There’s too many delays…and in order to have good trade amongst our countries we need that border to run smooth.”

Echoing Topping’s remarks, Bison Transport president Rob Penner said: “We want as few transactions at the border as possible…The equipment’s pre-cleared, the driver’s pre-cleared, we don’t understand how these shipments need to be physically cleared at the border any more.”

Wendell Erb, president of Erb Group of Companies, said he is also hoping for some reciprocity to help ease the painful process of going through the border as well.

“As truckers, we are punching bags for whatever regulations come down the line,” he said. “Honestly I think there’s a completely lack of trust and you see what we go through for inspections, and when it’s crossing the border, it’s the same inspection. You would think there could be some reciprocity, where what’s good in Canada is good for the U.S.”

Bradley said an added bonus of  these NAFTA trade talks is that they could provide an opportunity for Ottawa to start talking about the second crossing at the Windsor/Detroit border again.

“The completion date is 2022, but we haven’t seen a shovel in the ground yet,” he said. “One has to think if NAFTA is terminated, it raises the question as to will we need that bridge? Having said that, the Ambassador Bridge is falling down…they need to build a new stand on that bridge. I’ve always said, it’s not either/or, we need whatever capacity we can get…because if NAFTA is terminated one would think down the road, we would hope to see a normal trade relationship again and then we’d need that bridge.”

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.