OTTAWA -- The cost of crossing the border for Canadian truckers is about to go up once again.
Despite the best efforts of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, it now appears certain that the controversial new border-crossing fee by the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will kick-in this weekend.
Starting June 1, an additional levy of $5.25 (US) per truck, per crossing, will be charged to all southbound trucks, confirms the CTA.
In other words, trucks that currently pay a single crossing fee of $5.50 to US Customs and Border Protection will now have to fork over $10.75. Or carriers can pay an additional $105, per truck, for an annual border-crossing transponder, now at a total cost of $205. Carriers that have already purchased a 2007 user fee transponder will not be impacted this year, however.
Border crossings will likely be more congested than usual as
truckers will be asked to fork over more loonies to head south.
Although the levy is designed to fund additional agricultural quarantine inspections at the border (Canada's long standing exemption from US Agricultural Quarantine Inspection (AQI) fees was removed), all truck operators -- regardless of whether they're hauling broccoli or ball bearings -- will have to pay up.
Intense lobbying by the CTA since last fall convinced U.S. regulators to postpone the fee on two occasions. While there was some speculation that CTA—flanked by a handful of Canadian and U.S. politicians— would be able to get the Americans to scrap the program permanently, USDA is apparently holding firm.
"We had remained hopeful up to now that the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) would further delay land border implementation in light of ongoing discussions with the Canadian government, and a wide range of U.S. and Canadian interest groups, on alternative means to reduce threats to U.S. agriculture from foreign pests," said CTA CEO David Bradley.
"But discussions CTA has had with US and Canadian officials over the past week have indicated that no further delay will take place, and individual ports have begun to issue notices warning of higher fees. It’s frustrating, but carriers and their drivers who pay on a single crossing basis should get prepared."
In total, the U.S. government expects to raise $15 million in agricultural quarantine inspection fees from the trucking industry in 2007, and $78 million from the transportation industry as a whole.
"… Once more governments are looking to the trucking industry to foot the bill," Bradley continued. "Carriers are frustrated because there seems to be no end in sight to rising border costs...whether it be for APHIS, for compliance with security programs such as C-TPAT or for new electronic manifest requirements, charges in Canada to offload goods for customs inspections, Canada’s Administrative Monetary Penalty System -- even CBP has jumped in the act by raising its per crossing fee earlier this year."
Carriers have been attempting, with varying degrees of success, to pass these fees along to their customers, explains Bradley.
"But regardless of who pays, it is getting more expensive to move goods across the border with our largest trading partner. This can't be allowed to continue if Canada is to remain competitive in the U.S. market with goods from China, India, and other developing economic powerhouses."
In speaking with Today's Trucking earlier this year, Canadian Food Exporters Association President Susan Powell said she fears the levy will have to be absorbed by her members, who, because of the impact of the Canadian dollar on exports, are already coping with thinner margins.
It's expected that Canada-U.S. border crossings will be backed up this coming weekend, as truckers unaware (or forgetful) of the new costs will be asked to dig into their pockets for an extra five bucks and a quarter.
At least one U.S. lawmaker, Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), Chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, is vocally against the APHIS fees for this and other reasons. "It is a heavy-handed response to a narrow problem, and would increase congestion at the Peace Bridge and Lewiston Bridge," she said recently. By Today's Trucking