Canadian truckers have concerns with NAFTA

( Photo: Shutterstock )

About a week ago, it was reported how “unsafe” trucks from Mexico bore the brunt of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations. Canada was mentioned but only because North America consists of Mexico, the United States and Canada. But this time, Canadian truckers have told Truck News what they want on their end – “real reciprocity.”

Some of the most prominent stakeholders have voiced their concerns at an event organized by the Truckload Carriers’ Association (TCA) entitled “Bridging Border Barriers.” Held in Canada, it served as an opportunity for these stakeholders to express what they perceive to be the ideal outcome.

TCA president, John Lybolt, spoke of how the association wants free trade. TCA noted how beneficial NAFTA has been.

“Since 1993, when NAFTA was first brought into play, we’ve realized a gain in freight movement and profit,” he said. “The transportation of goods is in all of our best interests.”

While Lybolt viewed NAFTA favorably, Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) president, David Bradley, thought that the NAFTA is not doing enough for the Canadian side of the trucking industry.

“What we’re looking for in NAFTA is things would improve the efficiency and productivity of trade across the Canada-US border,” he said.

There was no direct criticism of the U.S.-Mexico Cross-Border Trucking Program, but Bradley noted how it tilted trade presumably with Canada on the wrong side of the tipping scale “because a pilot can be taken away quite easily.”

Another issue that Bradley raised about NAFTA was how the resources are not properly utilized. “For example, making sure you only have to apply for a FAST card in one country and it’s recognized in the other,” he noted. “Do I think that NAFTA is going to deal with these issues? I think it’s difficult, because they’re not top of mind/front page type of things.”

Several things not going well the way Bradley viewed it. But eliminating NAFTA overall is not part of the game plan either. “If we can maintain the agreement that we’ve got now, that would be better than the alternative, which is to get rid of it,” he said.

Some carriers also commented on NAFTA affects their business. A complicated border system has resulted in delays, based on the viewpoint described by Geoff Topping, vp of human resources of Challenger Motor Freight. “There’s too many delays,” Topping said. “We need the border to be a faster, more efficient process for the driver, the carrier, and ultimately for the exporter or importer.” He further reiterated that “to have good trade amongst our countries we need that border to run smooth.”

The Erb Group of Companies had its president, Wendell Erb, speak about the need for reciprocity in trade. “As truckers, we are punching bags for whatever regulation comes down the line,” he shared. “Honestly, I think there’s a complete lack of trust and you see what we go through for inspections, and when it’s crossing the border, it’s the same inspection.”

So Topping’s comments and Erb’s comments end up complementing the insights given by Rob Penner, president of the Bison Transport. According to Penner, “The equipment’s pre-cleared, the driver’s pre-cleared, we don’t understand how these shipments need to be physically cleared at the border anymore.”

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