Trucking Chief Ponders the Good, Bad and the Ugly of Canada-US Border


Canadian Trucking Alliance CEO David Bradley evoked a spaghetti western theme in a speech to the Canadian-American Border Trade Alliance this week by describing the “good, bad and the ugly” of Canada-US border and trade issues.

The good, according to Bradley: The Free & Secure Trade (FAST) program and the e-Manifest programs in both countries, the soon to be commenced in-transit pilot program in the U.S., progress on the Gordie Howe International Bridge and continuing work towards a ‘single window’ concept.

However, Bradley lamented the fact that “security still trumps trade and there is no denying the so-called security measures that have been introduced over the past 15 years have reduced efficiency and productivity at the border.”

Even though the line-ups and delays at the border are no longer measured in days as they were in the years immediately following 9/11, trucks are still subject to extended backups on any given day and the unpredictability with regard to wait times impairs the reliability of the North American supply chain, which impacts both Canada and the United States, he said. He also decried the introduction of measures by non-customs departments that have no element of risk management and fees – in particular citing the US Agricultural Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) fees introduced by the US Department of Agriculture, which he characterized as being illegal under NAFTA and GATT by contradicting the spirit of initiatives such as the Beyond the Borders action plan.

As well he argued there are still several inconsistencies between how Canada approaches the trusted-traders and e-Manifest programs compared to how the US does. In order to access the FAST lane to the U.S., for example,  trusted carriers and importers must have Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) certification whereas a trusted trader needs to be both Partners-In-Protection (PIP) and Customs Self-Assessment (CSA) approved to enter Canada, even though the latter has nothing to do with security.

He said the lack of real progress on true pre-clearance versus pre-inspection – which he says requires two stops where currently there is one – and Canada’s decision not to equip any commercial lanes with radio frequency identification (RFID) is “if not ugly, then at least underwhelming.” That’s also how he described the US response so far to a “broadly-supported and common sense” proposal from industry on both sides of the border to allow foreign drivers to reposition foreign empty trailers.

Describing what he called the five pillars of an ideal future, Bradley called on both governments to:

  1. Introduce true reciprocity between the PIP and C-TPAT programs and elimination by Canada of the CSA program for carriers;
  2. Adopt a one-card system for drivers built around the FAST card, which he said could be tiered to reflect different security levels and the elimination of the CDRP card in Canada and the transportation worker identification card (TWIC) in the United States.
  3. Equip all commercial lanes into Canada with RFID, replacing the requirement for transponders by using the FAST card which is already RFID-ready as the means of transmission, standardizing the advance notice for e-Manifest for trusted traders to 30 minutes in both countries and making e-Manifest for empties mandatory.
  4. Consistent with real perimeter security and a beyond the border focus, introduce true pre-clearance in the form of “Green Lanes” where trusted traders and shipments will obtain advance clearance electronically at approved facilities and proceed to and cross the border without having to stop at all.
  5. Ensure regulations (e.g., labour mobility for truck drivers) reflect modern logistics practices and seek true North American standards where possible.

“I know there are many challenges and obstacles that need to be overcome to make this a reality,” Bradley said. “However, if we have the vision there are enough smart, hard-working people in government and industry on both sides of the border to make it happen.”

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