US-Canada Border Agreement

A new U.S.-Canadian border plan is expected to boost trade, streamline regulatory standards and enhance border security. While some of the measures may help trucking companies, it does not go far enough in alleviating truckers' main concerns about mandatory speed-limit laws in Ontario and Quebec.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduced the “Beyond The Board Action Plan” on Dec. 7, 2011, at a news conference in Washington, D.C. Harper said the pact will reduce the regulatory barriers to trade “by streamlining and aligning standards where it makes sense to do so.”

Under the agreement, trucking companies, trains and other businesses are expected to experience less red tape when crossing the border. For instance, the new plan will allow trucks carrying carrying fresh meat to be issued advance border clearance.

The plan does not address speed of a different kind for truckers. Truckers who enter and exit the borders of Ontario and Quebec every day must use speed-limiters, which caps a truck's speed at 65 mph. In addition to lowering the speed, transportation officials in the two provinces say the electronic devices also reduces the amount of fuel consumption which helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Speed limiters have been a contentious issue among truckers since the requirement was enacted in Jan. 1, 2009, by Ontario, which borders the state of Michigan and Quebec, which borders the state of New York. Truck drivers have protested the law but to no avail.

U.S. and Canadian officials said the new border agreement will create new jobs. Whether it will create new truck driving jobs remains to be seen, particularly among Americans who do not agree with the mandatory speed limiter laws.

Speed limiters are one of the main reasons why American trucking companies are reluctant to haul loads across the Canadian border, according to a survey released in October 2010. Of the 2,100 truck drivers who responded to the survey conducted by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, 25 percent said speed limiters deterred them from crossing the Canadian border. Nearly all of the survey respondents were American. The speed limiters did not cause them to give up their truck driving jobs, but 83.5 percent of the survey respondents said that they no longer engaged in cross-border trucking.

While the speed limiters law remains an obstacle for truckers, the new border agreement calls for streamlining cargo screening and reducing border congestion which truck drivers may find beneficial.

The trucking industry is not the only group that has concerns with the new border pact. Some Canadian government leaders and civil liberties groups do not agree that Canadian law enforcement officers should collect travellers' personal information and pass it along to American law enforcement officers. The cooperative agreement also calls for American law enforcement officials to work on Canadian soil with Canada's border security personnel.

The U.S. Homeland Security said in a written statement that the border enforcement teams will identify and investigate “people, organizations and goods that threaten the national security of one or both countries or that are involved in organized criminal activity.”

Canadian and American government officials said trade between the two countries is estimated at $1 trillion a year. It was also estimated that about $1.8 billion worth of goods and services are carried across the border each day. Many of the goods are hauled by trucks.

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