2014 US Trucking News – New Truck Inspection Program Aspires to Decongest Cross Border Blockage
US Customs officers started to inspect cargo trucks bound for the US to Canada, under a pilot program which is intended to get rid of congestion at one of their border’s busiest commercial crossings.
Authorities will also get to watch and see whether pre-inspecting trucks on the roomier Canadian side of the Peace Bridge will lessen the amount of waiting as well as pollution-causing delay in the 86-year old span between Fort Erie, Ontario, and Buffalo.
The Peace Bridge is an international bridge found between Canada and the United Sates, at the east end of Lake Erie at the source of the Niagara River, around 20 kilometers upriver of Niagara Falls. This bridge connects the city of Buffalo, New York, in the United States, to the town of Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada. It is operated and maintained by the binational Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority.
There are also plazas for customs found at both ends of the bridge. The Canadian plaza is the bigger and newer one of the two. The inbound customs plaza in the US has seven lanes for trucks, and nine lanes for cars. Pedestrians and cyclists are processed to the left of the inspection area for trucks.
Once vehicles leave the customs plaza in Canada, vehicles approach a smaller toll plaza to pay their toll for using the Peace Bridge. These payments can either come in cash (both US and Canadian dollars are accepted), EZPass, or even old Peace Bridge tokens. There are no toll booths on the side of the US, as well as no tools for pedestrians or cyclists.
This bridge handled 1.2 million trips made by trucks and more than $40-billion in trade last year. This makes it the third busiest truck crossing on the US-Canada border. The three-lane span also saw more than 4.7 million passenger cars, which is more than any other point of entry.
With America’s side of the bridge lacking space in order to increase capacity, lawmakers have, for several years now, wanted to shift some of their inspections to Canada. But they faced a whole amount of jurisdictional as well as other difficult encounters, which included objections to armed American officers who currently have jobs in Canada, which only recently armed their border officers.
In October 2012, it was announced by the DHS and Public Safety Canada that a pilot program, which took years to create, to pre-clear all the truck traffic from Fort Erie into Buffalo would be commenced. The pilot would start in late December 2012, and would run for 18 months, after which the benefits for the economy would be inspected as well as its possibility to make permanent would then be suggested to both the Parliament, and the Congress.
This program is the second part of a pilot that was called for in the Beyond in the Border Action Plan. This was signed by US President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper back in December 2011. The first phase got under way in June at the Pacific Highway Crossing in Blaine, Washington, to test the viability of specific technological procedures. Phase 2 will test the result on wait time and the congestion of the border.
Under the voluntary program, trucks which have been equipped with transponders are given an inspection while they are in Canada. Once they arrive in the United States, these pre-inspected vehicles are directed into an enforcement booth where drivers can see either a green light, which signals that they are cleared, or a red light, which means that they need to stop for a secondary inspection. Under the system, which keeps enforcement on the US side, drivers do not know until they get to the light whether they have been flagged.
Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democrat from New York, said that relieving this congestion on the Peace Bridge would also improve the quality of air in the neighborhoods of Buffalo, where there have been documented cases of childhood asthma.
Truck drivers hoped that by taking the time to stop before crossing the bridge will pay off once they get to the other side. But they have also noted that the program does not address the need for more capacity on the aging span, and are worried that traffic backups will continue to persist.
David Bradley, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, says that they want this to work, but it’s important that this is just a pilot. Bradley says that what the people are talking about one should argue, is two stops when there is only just one. Bradley needs to make sure that this works, that the guard and the other side are both moving the traffic quickly enough so that this flows through easily.
Ken Staub, a driver for Riverside Service Corp in Buffalo, said that federal rules limit the number of driving hours to 11. With the assumed hourly cost of operating a truck at $100 dollars each hour, lengthy delays are costly on numerous levels. Staub says that sometimes, when drivers get in line, it could last for up to two hours, which amounts to $200 dollars. It can also prevent these drivers from making their deliveries.
On Beyond the Border Action Plans
Last February 2011, President Obama and Prime Minister Harper both issued Beyond the Border – A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness. This declaration built a brand new long-term affiliation which was built upon a perimeter approach to security and economic competitiveness. This means forming a partnership and working together, not just at the border, but even beyond it to enhance their security quicken the legitimate flow of people, goods, and services. Leaders who were called for the development of a joint action plan to realize this goal, which is personified in this document.
This action plan also sets out joint priorities for achieving that vision within the four areas of cooperation, identified in the Beyond the Border Declaration. Addressing threats early on, trade facilitation, growth of the economy and jobs, cross-border law-enforcement, as well as critical infrastructure and cyber-security. Nothing in this action plan has any intention to give rise to laws or requirements under both international and domestic law. This action plan also has no intentions of constituting an international treaty under international law.