Truckers Hail Decision to Temporarily Relax U.S. In-Transit Rules

In the wake of the partial closure of the Nipigon River Bridge and the resulting traffic and trade delays, the Canadian Trucking Alliance and the Ontario Trucking Association are hailing a decision by US Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) to allow commercial vehicles to ship Canadian domestic goods in-transit through the U.S. using a limited data set at select ports of entry.  The decision reflects industry discussions involving USCBP, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Public Safety Canada.

USCBP has agreed to a temporary emergency contingency plan, which allows highway carriers to enter the United States between at Port Huron, Detroit or Sault Ste. Marie, MI; International Falls or Grand Portage, MN (between 8 am and 4 pm); and Pembina, ND. To address the value of the shipment issue, the carrier will provide its bond value or a default value of $2.00/pound.

“We are extremely pleased by and appreciative of this outcome and the swiftness with which our concerns were responded to,” says David Bradley, president and CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance and the Ontario Trucking Association. “This will assist many truckers who are currently being impacted by the bridge problem on the Trans-Canada Highway at Nipigon, ON.”

While it has been technically legal for Canadian carriers to move Canadian goods in-transit through the United States, the move by USCBP post 9/11 to treat such shipments as international in nature effectively choked off the ability to move freight with an origin and destination in Canada via the southern route through the United States. In order to conduct in-transit shipments through the United States, a trucking company would have to provide eManifest data to USCBP prior to arrival at the border, including the value for each shipment on board — a major obstacle since such data is not generally available from shippers for what is really a domestic shipment. The problem is particularly acute for less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers who consolidate the goods of many customers for shipment.

The Nipigon River Bridge is currently operating with one lane open, alternating between eastbound and westbound traffic.Delays in Nipigon are reportedly averaging one hour as each truck is individually escorted across. Given that the infrastructure integrity is still being assessed, it is possible there could be changes to traffic flows at any time. Carriers are encouraged to examine options prior to determining the best route for trucks normally transiting that part of the province.

Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca was in Nipigon today to assess the situation. There were reports there would be some general indication how long the closure would last, but there were no specific details available at this time.

In addition, while this temporary in-transit solution will provide some relief, all current regulatory requirements with respect to entering the US remain intact. In other words, if the driver has never crossed the border before, carriers may wish to seriously consider whether this is really the best time to start. Those unfamiliar with border crossing procedures could face increased delays when they arrive.It should be noted that all driver and shipment requirements will remain consistent with admissibility, meaning drivers will need WHTI compliant documents, carriers will have to supply advance manifest information, and goods regulated by other government agencies such as FDA, APHIS, EPA or TDG must meet the requirements of the respective department.

The accepted bond value or $2.00/pound default value is the result of successful discussions between CTA and USCBP to identify means to reinstate the Canadian carriers’ ability to transit through the US with Canadian domestic goods – a commitment under the 2011 bi-national Beyond the Border Action Plan. A pilot to test the data and compliance is slated to start early in 2016, but with the Nipigon bridge scenario, USCBP has opted to provide highway carriers the opportunity to take advantage of a version of the program now.

USCBP has made it clear this is only a temporarily contingency solution in response to the bridge closure. Once the bridge has been repaired and is functioning per usual, the in-transits using the limited value data will not be allowed to proceed. Once the pilot is launched, in transits using the limited value data will be restricted only to known pilot participants. Additional parameters of the upcoming pilot, including the designated participating ports of entry, have not yet been determined.

For those carriers wishing to take advantage of transiting through the US as opposed to crossing the single lane at Nipigon, please click the following link for a document outlining procedures and resources: Nipigon Contingency In Transit Information_public

Oversize/Overweight Update

In related news, MTO is now accepting permit applications that require oversize/overweight travel crossing the Nipigon River Bridge (Hwy 11/17) with restrictions.

At the moment, applications are being accepted for a maximum width of 4.99 metres, length 25 metres and weight maximum of 63,500kgs, height currently not affected. A diagram must accompany the application which includes the overall width and height measurements.  The application must also include the measurement from the ground up where the over width begins.

In the permitting process, each application will be assessed by the North West Region, only if approved will the permit be issued. In the case that an application is denied, the permit advisor will inform the carrier of the decision.

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