According to figures compiled by the Bridge and Tunnel Operator’s Association in Ontario, the number of truck trips between Ontario and the U.S. fell for the third straight year, and has reached its lowest number since 1998.
The report states there were only 8,049,136 truck trips between Ontario and the U.S. in 2007, down from 8,267,931 in 2006, a 2.6% decrease, and 72,000 below the number of trips in 2001, despite the 9/11 attacks.
The figures show "clear and unequivocal evidence of the extent to which Ontario's export based economy has been battered by the combination of a high dollar, high fuel costs, the ever-increasing thickening of the border, and slackening U.S. demand,” said David Bradley, president of the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA).
"The costs and difficulties of crossing the border are seriously undermining Ontario's ability to trade in the U.S. market,” Bradley added. "Despite the investment of millions of dollars by the trucking industry in new security measures supposedly designed to facilitate legitimate trade, wait times at the border have not come down, and in many cases we are still subject to frequent, long delays.
"We need better infrastructure and we need governments on both sides of the border to get serious about coordinating, harmonizing and improving the delivery of border security programs so that both security and trade facilitation goals are met," Bradley added.
Security has tightened significantly, leading to a ‘thickening of the border.’ “All of the programs and security at the border have made things more difficult,” Doug Switzer, manager of government relations for OTA, told Fleet Owner. “In the view of shippers prior to 9/11, the borders were seen as a truckers problem,” he added. “It was like the border didn’t exist. Now, security has become more of a concern.”
Switzer said that it is a common misconception that almost all the trucks cross the border solely for transporting goods, but that isn’t necessarily the case. “A lot of the goods that go over the border are parts and integrated manufacturing. It’s not just about shipping.” Having operations in both countries makes it easier on many large companies, he pointed out.
“Manufacturing in both countries takes advantage of the strengths of both countries,” Switzer said, with the auto sector playing a major part. Of the 8 million truck trips, more than 40%, or about 3.4 million, travel over the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, ON and Detroit. Another 1.6 million travel over the nearby Blue Water Bridge between Sarnia, ON and Port Huron, MI.
The traffic between Ontario and New York is also substantial. It includes about 1. 3 million trucks traveling over the Peace Bridge from Fort Erie, ON to Buffalo, and nearly 1 million over the Niagara Falls Bridge between Queenston, ON and Lewiston, NY.
However, economic troubles have also led to the drop in truck traffic. Switzer noted that fleet owners must be aware of market conditions. They must be smarter and increase productivity to fight for a higher market share. “The high price of the dollar is affecting both sides of the border,” he said. “Trucking is a leading predictor of the economy, and this is a bad indicator for both countries.”