Border agreement may not benefit LTL trucking industry, says Manitoulin official

Tom Sasvari

The Recorder

GORE BAY—The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) is hailing the recent Canada-US border agreement by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama as an historic achievement that takes meaningful steps to bringing the Canada-US border into the 21st century. However, a Manitoulin Transport official says he’s not convinced it will be a benefit to the less than truckload (LTL) trucking industry.

“I don’t believe this will be good for the LTL trucking industry,” stated Kevin Gill of Manitoulin Transport in a recent interview with the Recorder.

Trucks are the major mode of transborder freight between the world’s largest bilateral trading partners. “This is a great day for the trucking industry and the trade community in both countries,” said David Bradley, president of the 4,500-member company CTA, in a release. “The leaders and the governments of both great nations are to be commended. The action plans effectively balance security and trade imperatives while restoring a meaningful return on investment in the trusted trader programs and creating the opportunity for a more efficient and productive border.”

Over the past several months, CTA consulted extensively with both agencies responsible for drafting the action plan, the ‘Beyond the Border Working Group’ and the Canada-US Regulatory Cooperation Council, proposing a number of ‘doable’ measures the alliance felt would improve trade facilitation and reduce unnecessary regulatory barriers.

“The announcement delivers in several tangible ways, and creates a pathway to further cooperation,” said Mr. Bradley. “Of all the announcements made today, perhaps the greatest bang for our buck in the action plan, is the harmonization between Canada and the US on the data requirements for in-transit goods movement, which temporarily travel through one of the two countries.”

Canada’s rules allow the movement of goods in transit by a US carrier. But since post September 11 security rules were implemented, the US essentially cut out the Canadian carrier’s ability to transport domestic loads through the US by requiring full customs documentation. Restoring the carrier’s ability to move in-transit means more efficient trade, lower costs and faster truck transit times for Canadian carriers moving domestic goods through the US, says the CTA.

To restore competitive balance, the US government has effectively agreed to harmonize its current rules with Canada. The alternative would have been for Canada to mirror the US policy, putting an end to the practice and effectively eliminating the efficiencies altogether.

“We’re happy to see it didn’t come to that,” said Mr. Bradley. “CTA has been seeking US harmonization with Canadian rules for years, and now the Perimeter Action Plan has delivered.”

“I don’t see it changing anything in the LTL (less than truckload) highway transportation mode,” Mr. Gill told the Recorder. “The new agreement between the Canada and US governments is a combination of traveler information and transportation,” he said. He explained trucking southbound in the US Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) has been around for the past four years, and Manitoulin Transport has been a participant in this program right from the start.

“We send customs cargo data at least an hour before our trucks arrive at the border, and provide information such as the truck trip number, driver name, tractor plate number, shipment, goods, weight and quantity. ACE helps US customs identify low risk trading partners and carriers,” he said.

“Coming north into Canada, although advance cargo data will not be mandatory until November, because Manitoulin Transport has such a sophisticated program, we are already a participant in the E-Manifest program, having been in the program three years voluntarily,” said Mr. Gill.

However, Mr. Gill pointed out, “when there are multiple shipments on a trailer, most of which are low risk, they could be delayed by a high risk shipment. Going south under the CAE if you have multiple, good, acceptable shipments and one not accepted, the whole truck could be sent back to Canada. And, currently coming north if the shipment is not released at the frontier port, it is permitted to move in bond to its destination. As of November 2012, CSA approved carries will be permitted to move in bond. CSA carriers will be forced to obtain release of all shipments prior to entering Canada.”

Mr. Gill feels with the agreement. “I suspect there will be an increase in the number of inspections and examinations causing delays and increased costs to the carrier.”

“The commitment to performance measurements and reporting publicly on progress on the Action Plan is a clear indication that this is the beginning of a process of improvements, not the end,” said Mr. Bradley. “We will continue to work closely with the officials leading Canada’s team on these outstanding initiatives. In the meantime, we are pleased to have been actively engaged throughout the process and appreciate that the decision makers on both sides of the border listened to our concerns and suggestions.”