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US-to-Canada trucker border crossings fall nearly 10% in a single week

Continued drop in cross-border truck traffic mirrors broad decline in Canadian freight as COVID-19 crushes demand for nonessential goods.

A truck prepares to enter Canada from the U.S. via the Peace Bridge linking New York and Ontario. (Image: Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority)

The number of truck drivers crossing from the U.S. to Canada plunged last week in a sign of how COVID-19 continues to hit the freight markets in both countries.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) reported Tuesday that nearly 10% fewer truckers entered Canada from the United States from March 30-April 5 compared to the previous week. The 79,616 truck driver crossings represent a nearly 29% drop from a year earlier.

The Outbound Tender Volume Index – Canada on FreightWaves’ SONAR platform declined by nearly 10% in the week ending April 5, reflecting a drop in cross-border Canada-U.S. and domestic Canadian freight.

The decline in crossings came as volumes of freight continue to plunge in Canada. A key measure of the volume of freight moving on Canada’s trucks, the Outbound Tender Volume Index – Canada (OTVI.CAN) on FreightWaves’ SONAR platform, also declined by nearly 10% last week.

“Across the board, products that aren’t considered essential aren’t shipping,” Dave Cox, president of Canadian cross-border less-than-truckload carrier Polaris Transportation Group, told FreightWaves.

Cox estimated that COVID-19 has led to a 20% drop in typical volumes for this time of year. Nevertheless, Polaris continues to see demand for essential goods like food and medical supplies in both directions.

“They’re steady,” Cox said.

Polaris also has not changed what Cox calls the carrier’s “Greyhound bus schedule” of truck departures to key U.S. markets despite the decline in overall volumes. The carrier would consider cutbacks if routes stopped generating profits, he said.

“Across the board, products that aren’t considered essential aren’t shipping.”

— Dave Cox, president of Polaris Transporation Group

The ability of essential goods to keep moving across the border has come into question after recent disruptions of Canada-bound shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) from the U.S. Most recently, U.S. authorities halted a shipment of 3 million of 3M’s N95 masks ordered by the Ontario government at the U.S.-Canada border on Sunday.

On Monday, the Trump administration announced it would allow 3M to continue exporting N95 masks to Canada after discussions with the company’s CEO and Canadian officials.

‘We’re moving PPE products — masks and gloves — in both directions’

Polaris Transporation Group specializes in less-than-truck transportation between Canada and the U.S. (Image: Polaris Transporation Group)

Despite those disruptions, the CBSA reported it has no indication of issues with supply chains for essential goods coming to Canada, including food and medical supplies.

Polaris also has not had any issues moving essential goods, including PPE vital to health workers in both countries as they face growing volumes of COVID-19 patients.

“We haven’t seen any delays,” Cox said. “We’re moving PPE products — masks and gloves — in both directions.”

Cox wouldn’t detail the specific medical products that Polaris’s trucks but said the overall volume was balanced between the U.S. and Canada.

While Canada does not produce N95 masks yet, the country is a key supplier of an array of medical products, including PPE, medications — and some COVID-19 tests.

Despite the Trump administration’s targeting of N95 exports, Cox said he doubts there will be any significant disruption to cross-border trade in essential goods. 

“There’s so much interdependency between the U.S. and Canada. So I think generally both sides are committed to allowing essential goods to move freely,” he said.


  1. Best Coffee on the Highway, Eh!

    Some Canadian truckers threaten US Truckers saying Canada freight is for Canada trucks. You got Aids now after they grab and rub your hand. Your messing up Canada . Africans and some Chinese talk about stabbing you because your an American. That’s what I experienced delivering to Brampton Ontario and stops around Toronto airport in 2016 twice a week. It’s like they have that Husky around 15 miles north of Buffalo NY steaked out checking for US Trucks. I would sleep at the Dixie road exit Husky after my 3 stops around the west side of Toronto Ontario airport .

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Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at [email protected]