A progress report on facilitating cross-border business travel released yesterday by Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney, public safety minister Vic Toews and US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, signals a willingness to consider long overdue changes to the way the two countries deal with the repositioning moves of foreign empty trailers, according to the Canadian Trucking Alliance.
In addition to providing a progress report made on the commitments to facilitate the conduct of cross-border business under the Beyond the Border Action Plan, Canada and the United States also committed to “review policies related to the movement and treatment of foreign drivers and related equipment to ensure maximum legally permissible alignment of policy with evolution in the cross-border trucking industry.”
CTA and the American Trucking Associations have been seeking for several years the ability for foreign drivers to reposition foreign empty trailers in both countries. Currently, the only way this is permissible is if the trailer is the same one that enters or leaves the other country. According to the two associations, the rules are a throwback to a time before modern logistics practices, larger trailer pools and the rise of distribution centers.
The government of Canada is prepared to make the change to allow US drivers to reposition empty US trailers in Canada, so long as the United States reciprocates.
Minister Kenney re-confirmed this position in a recent letter to CTA wherein he stated, “I would like to reiterate and emphasize our continued support for the Canadian Trucking Alliance's position on this issue. I can confirm, once again, that if U.S. immigration law is amended to lift current restrictions which have a negative effect on Canadian drivers, Canada is prepared to provide reciprocal treatment to American drivers.”
However, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been unwilling or unable to do so – at least, it now appears, until very recently.
CTA’s CEO David Bradley welcomes the joint announcement and the review to come. “If we want an efficient and competitive supply chain in North America, then these are precisely the sort of legacy, out-of-date rules that need to be changed,” he said.
Bradley points out such movements are not cabotage, which is a much more politically charged issue. “We’re not talking about the point-to-point movement of goods, but simply the repositioning of empty foreign trailers involved in the international stream of commerce,” he said. “It’s taken a while for that to be understood.”
A commitment to review the rules does not necessarily mean change is guaranteed. There is also some debate over whether the United States would need to pass legislation to make the change or whether a change in interpretation would do the job. That is up to the United States to determine, says Bradley, but he is hopeful.
He says the current rules are based on regulations created in the 19th century to protect the marine industry at the time. “The rules simply don’t make sense in the 21st century. The way the economy works has obviously changed,” he said.
“Canada has put its cards on the table. Now we’ll really see whether the United States is prepared to reciprocate. But the fact the two governments are prepared to review the situation is a positive sign.”
CTA and ATA have received letters of support from the two countries’ chambers of commerce and manufacturing associations, as well as the Canadian American Business Council.
“Business on both sides of the border is in favour of allowing these movements,” says Bradley. “Now we need governments to act.”