The blockade at the Ambassador Bridge continued on Thursday as the supply chain reeled from the disruption not only at the busiest commercial crossing between the U.S. and Canada, but also at two other border crossings.
The bridge, which links Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, remained closed to Canada-bound traffic as about 100 vehicles continued to block an access road from the Canadian side. A trickle of traffic had been able to get from Canada to the U.S. at times, but officials continue advising drivers to use other crossings.
Trucks rerouting to the nearby Blue Water Bridge continued to face hours of delays crossing from Port Huron, Michigan, to Sarnia, Ontario. Many trucks opted to head to the Peace Bridge crossing in Buffalo, New York, potentially detouring hundreds of miles.
“Now, I’m driving five hours out of my way just to deliver this load,” said Ontario-based driver Randy James Ulch, as he headed toward the Peace Bridge with a load of frozen chicken from Alabama — after rerouting twice.
The disruption is hitting the cross-border supply chain, with some auto manufacturers slowing production. Frustration is growing in the trucking industry, as the pace of operations and volume of freight slow, while shipments pile up.
‘I just wish the government would deal with it,’ says CEO
“I just wish the government would deal with it,” said Dan Einwechter, CEO of Ontario-based Challenger Motor Freight, one of Canada’s largest trucking companies. “Let’s get back to doing the trade that we want to do. The government needs to stand up and show who is in charge.”
Adding to the strain, another protest began blocking an important border crossing linking Emerson, Manitoba, and Pembina, North Dakota, on Thursday, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said. Another blockade also continued at the border in Coutts, Alberta.
The supply chain impacts of the border blockades have far eclipsed the Freedom Convoy protest, which remains in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, Ontario. Despite threats by police to ticket and potentially arrest protesters, hundreds of trucks remain.
White House, Canadian officials sound alarm
The Ambassador Bridge protest has thrown a giant wrench into U.S.-Canada freight since the Ambassador Bridge accounts for more than 20% of the truck traffic that moves between the two countries. On Wednesday, U.S. and Canadian officials sounded the alarm about growing impacts.
The White House warned that the protest threatens to disrupt the auto industry and agricultural sector.
“The blockade poses a risk to supply chains for the auto industry because the bridge is a key conduit for motor vehicles, components and parts, and delays risk disrupting auto production,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
President Joe Biden and the White House are “watching this very closely” and working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, Canadian counterparts and auto manufacturers, Psaki said.
Canadian officials, meanwhile, have called on the protesters to leave.
“They pose serious dangers for the economy and they are breaking the law. And no one is above the law,” Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said during a news conference.
The Windsor Police Service, which has been leading the law enforcement response, has been attempting to negotiate with the protesters. But the agency is also asking for additional officers from other agencies and other support from the provincial and federal governments.
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said police were moving cautiously to avoid inflaming the situation.
“You have a number of people who are on the ground here in the protest group that have outwardly stated that this cause is so passionate for them, they feel such a passion for this particular cause that they’re willing to die for it,” he told reporters.
The blockade is part of a wave of protests against COVID-19 vaccine mandates at the border as well as other public health measures in response to the pandemic.
Ulch said he was frustrated with other truckers taking part in the protests.
“Like 90% of truckers out there have sucked it up and taken the vaccine,” Ulch said. “I fundamentally do not understand their issue.”
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