Mark Szakonyi, June 23, 2014, Journal of Commerce
Canadian truck drivers are bristling at a U.S. proposal to more than double the fees they pay to authorities at the border.
Canadian truck drivers would see their annual transponder fees jump from $105 to $320 under a U.S. Department of Agriculture proposal to hike its Animal Plant and Health Inspection Services fees. Including the Customs and Border Protection fee, Canadian truck drivers would have to pay $420 annually to cross the border into the U.S. Trucks without a transponder would see the cost of making a trip to the U.S. rise from $10.75 to $13.50.
The fees would apply to Canadian trucks that haul agriculture and food shipments, which must be cleared by the USDA, and to those hauling non-perishables. The USDA said the increase is needed to cover the cost of operating its Agriculture Quarantine Inspection program.
The proposed fee hike is “excessive” and particularly unfair to trucking companies that haul empty trailers or loads that don’t need to be cleared by the USDA, the Canadian Trucking Alliance said in a statement. The proposed fee might be illegal under the North American Free Trade Agreement, as the 20-year-old trade pact forbids customs user fees, the group said. Additionally, fees and charges can’t “represent an indirect protection to domestic products or a taxation of imports or exports for fiscal purpose” under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, a pact that both Canada and the U.S. have signed.
“APHIS’s approach is diametrically opposed to everything we have been told over the last decade in terms of a more efficient and secure border,” CTA President David Bradley said in a statement.
CTA also takes issue with APHIS not taking a risk-assessment approach to inspections, meaning members of U.S. Customs’ trusted trader program don’t receive any benefit despite being able to show authorities that their supply chains are secure. The group also criticized APHIS for not using advance cargo information to determine whether a truck was hauling a shipment that needed to be inspected by them or whether it were something out of their regulatory purview.
“Goods that present no risk should not be subject to APHIS fees,” said CTA, which filed a comment Thursday in response to the USDA’s proposed rule-making notice.
It is also unfair for the USDA to look for money via fees when there isn’t enough pressure on APHIS to more effectively use the funding it has, the alliance said. Because the proposed fees would become immediate, trucking companies wouldn’t be able to pass the increased costs onto shipper customers, tightening motor carriers’ already slim margins further, CTA said.
“The lack of consideration to the realities of the industry is shocking,” the alliance said.