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Cablegate: Canadian Truckers Squeezed by Higher Costs and Slowing

VZCZCXRO7145
PP RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHQU RUEHVC
DE RUEHON #0073/01 0771637
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 171637Z MAR 08
FM AMCONSUL TORONTO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2389
INFO RUCNCAN/ALCAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 0139
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHDC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TORONTO 000073

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB ETRD PGOV PBTS CVIS CA
SUBJECT: Canadian Truckers Squeezed By Higher Costs and Slowing
Trade


Sensitive But Unclassified - protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Canadian truck transportation services employ
close to 400,000 people and generate over C$60 billion in revenues
annually. The Canadian trucking industry is being squeezed by
slowing export volumes (due to the appreciation of the Canadian
dollar and the slowing of the U.S. economy), the rising price of
fuel, and increasing insurance premiums. Canadian truckers also
complain that post-9/11 border security programs and a severe labor
shortage are making their companies less profitable. We need to
continue our efforts to effectively demonstrate and communicate the
real value of the C-TPAT, FAST, and PAPS programs to the companies
that have invested significant resources to participate in them.
END SUMMARY.

-------------------------------------------
Trucks are Vital Links in Canada-U.S. Trade
-------------------------------------------

2. (U) Over 82% of Canada's exports go to the U.S., and trucks haul
70% of that trade (57% of exports, 80% of imports). 14 million
trucks crossed the border in 2007, roughly one every 1.5 seconds,
and more than two-thirds (68%) of those crossings were by
Canadian-owned trucks.

3. (U) More than 40% of Ontario's GDP depends on trade and 90% of
its exports are destined for the United States. At least 80% of the
value of that Ontario-U.S. trade (75% exports, 83% imports) crosses
the border by truck. Trucks transport about 60% of Ontario's trade
in motor vehicles and parts, 80% of its trade in machinery and
equipment, 35% in forest products, and 72% in petroleum products.
Trucks haul more high value-added manufactured goods and finished
products than other freight transportation modes. Since 1991,
trans-border truck movements have been growing at 9% per year. The
commercial trucking industry in Ontario employs over 200,000 people
directly and is indirectly responsible for another 15,000 jobs in
related businesses.

-----------------------
Export Volume Decreases
-----------------------

4. (U) Reduced export volumes (not necessarily reduced total value)
cut profits for the Canadian trucking industry. In early 2008
Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) Vice President, Graham Cooper,
complained to a federal Commons Standing Committee on Industry,
Science, and Technology that Canada's total exports to the U.S.
declined by 3.8% and imports by 1.9% from November 2006 to November
2007. However, U.S. Bureau of Transportation statistics show that
Canada surface transportation trade (truck, rail, and pipeline)
totaled US$511 billion in 2007, up 4.6% compared to 2006. The value
of imports carried by truck was 0.4% higher in 2007 than 2006 while
the value of exports carried by truck was 6.1% higher. The value of
goods transported by trucks may be up but the number of cross-border
truck trips between Ontario and the U.S. fell for the third straight
year in 2007 to 8,049,136, its lowest point since 1998, according to
the Ontario Bridge and Tunnel Operator's Association (OBTOA).

------------------------
Operating Costs Increase
------------------------

5. (SBU) Diesel fuel represents the second largest component of the
trucking industry's cost base, next to labor. The average retail
price of diesel fuel in Canada has risen from 76 cents per liter in
2004 to $1.20 on March 10, 2008, severely cutting into industry
profit margins. CTA VP Cooper told Parliament, "While motor
carriers have been able to pass some of this increase on to their
customers through fuel surcharges, current business conditions in
the industry make this increasingly difficult to accomplish." Since
the mid-1980s Canada's federal government has collected a 4 cent
excise tax on the 16 billion liters consumed annually in Canada for
road use. The CTA is lobbying the federal government to abolish the
excise tax surcharge on diesel fuel, but prospects for this seem
slim.

6. (U) Insurance premiums also have risen sharply since 2001, in
part because fewer companies are offering truck insurance. Insurers
have justified significant premium price hikes by citing increased
environmental and counterterrorism concerns though trucking
companies counter that they have made significant investments in
security, training, and safety to protect their people and assets.


--------------------------------------------- ----------
Canadian Trucking Industry Facing Labor Shortage Crisis
--------------------------------------------- ----------


TORONTO 00000073 002 OF 003


7. (U) Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC) studies
identify a growing shortage of qualified commercial truck drivers
across Canada. The studies indicate that Canadian fleets lose 22.1%
of their drivers each year. In recent years, trucking companies
have been unable to fill about 12% (about 12,000 drivers) of the
industry's job openings. Almost half of the fleet operators that
answered the 2006 CTHRC survey admitted they had idled equipment due
to a shortage of personnel in the previous six months.

8. (U) The labor shortage that is plaguing the Canadian trucking
industry is exacerbated by the aging of its workforce. According to
Statistics Canada, in 2004, the average age of wage-earning truckers
was 42; their self-employed counterparts were on average 45 years
old. Over the past decade, some transport fleets have started
actively recruiting immigrants to replace their aging truck drivers.
The Statistics Canada 2001 census showed that about 33% of truck
drivers had resided in Canada for less than 10 years in 2001,
compared with 19% in 1991. It is not easy for many of these "new
Canadians" to comply with the strict requirements of the post-9/11
U.S. border security programs (i.e. FAST).

9. (SBU) ConGen Toronto issued approximately 1,000 B1/B2 visas to
such truck drivers from March 1, 2007 to March 1, 2008. India was
the country of origin for nearly half the drivers, and a large
proportion of these Indian drivers were Sikh. Toronto also issued a
significant number of visas to Eastern European drivers,
particularly immigrants from Romania, Ukraine, Poland, and Russia.
In addition, Toronto issued visas to a number of drivers from
Pakistan, Colombia, and China. We have observed that many of
Ontario's immigrant truck drivers actually have advanced degrees
from their home countries, but have been unable to secure the
accreditation needed for them to work in their professions.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
Truckers Claim Border Security Programs Increase Costs
--------------------------------------------- ---------

10. (U) Canadian and U.S. truckers participate in several U.S.
government "trusted shipper" programs that are designed to
facilitate and speed cross-border trade from well-known and trusted
shippers while improving U.S. border security. CTA representatives
claim that post-9/11 land transportation security programs are
significantly increasing costs for the trucking industry.

11. (U) The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) is
the largest government-private sector partnership to emerge after
the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. C-TPAT builds cooperative
relationships with the owners of the supply chain: importers,
carriers, brokers, warehouse operators, and manufacturers. The
program was launched in November 2001 with just seven companies, but
now boasts 1,622 C-TPAT certified Canadian truck companies.

12. (U) C-TPAT is a fundamental pre-requisite for participation in
the FAST (Free and Secure Trade) program for trusted drivers,
carriers, and importers. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP)
operates the program for truck companies transporting North American
trade between the three NAFTA countries through land ports of entry.
Participants in FAST have access to dedicated lanes at border
crossings as well as less lengthy inspection clearance times at
ports of entry. As of September 2007, more than 87,000 North
American truck drivers are enrolled in the program. Truckers
enrolled in the FAST program are supposed to be sped through
crossings, however, Ken Oplinger, president of the
Bellingham-Whatcom Chamber of Commerce in Washington state,
complained last fall that 12% are facing secondary screenings.

13. (U) The Advanced Electronic Presentation of Cargo Information
(e-manifest) requires trucks to provide manifest information at
least one hour before they arrive at the U.S. border except for some
very specific cargo release processes. Through the PAPS
(Selectivity Pre-Arrival Processing System), U.S. CBP utilizes
barcode technology to expedite the release of trusted commercial
shipments. Importers or shippers electronically transmit entry
summary data to CBP, directly or via customs brokers. Truckers note
that customs brokers can face delays of one to two hours to process
the invoice with CBP, and that many trucks must delay proceeding to
the border until the drivers receive notice from the broker or truck
dispatcher that CBP has received the invoice information and that
the load is in compliance. In a statement released in November of
2007, OTA President David Bradley estimated that border delays are
costing the Canadian trucking industry C$500 million to C$1 billion
per year.

14. (U) The Public Health Security and Bio-Terrorism Preparedness
and Response Act of 2002 (Bio-Terrorism Act) requires that the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) receive two hours prior notice
for food imported or offered for import into the United States. In
addition, in 2007, CBP began inspecting all food shipments entering

TORONTO 00000073 003 OF 003


the U.S. from Canada and began charging every truck entering the
U.S. a cost-recovery fee.

15. (U) Trucking companies note a number of increased operating
costs, including the cost to obtain a FAST card, the cost of
training drivers about border procedures, and bonuses to induce
drivers to cross the border. Trucking companies have purchased new
security systems such as closed circuit cameras, fencing, gates,
lighting, and employee identification cards in order to become
C-TPAT compliant and then FAST approved. Carriers have also
invested in programming and hardware to comply with the PAPS
program. Trucking companies complain that border security programs,
particularly PAPS, also have raised administrative costs by
increasing clerical workload, increasing the time needed to work
with customs brokers, increasing the idle time for drivers,
requiring companies to acquire a Standard Alpha Carrier Code (SCAC)
(a unique two-to-four-letter code used to identify transportation
companies), requiring companies to develop PAPS barcodes for their
shipments, and requiring the purchase of additional office equipment
to comply with the new programs.

--------------------------------------------- --
Canadian Trucking Companies Are Less Profitable
--------------------------------------------- --

16. (U) The stock prices of Canada's top publicly traded
transportation companies reflect the challenges facing the Canadian
trucking industry. The stock price of TransForce, one of Canada's
foremost trucking firms, plummeted 65% between April 2006 (C$19.00)
and early March 2008 (C$6.61). The stock value of Contrans, another
publicly traded income fund, and one of Canada's largest trucking
companies, hovered around C$12.00 in April 2006, but declined 25% to
C$8.85 as of March 10, 2008.

17. (U) In contrast, the Canadian rail industry is profitable
because rail is on average three or more times more fuel efficient
than trucks, and demand is booming for heavier commodities which are
generally shipped by rail rather than truck. In addition, we have
heard that some companies have begun shipping more goods via rail
and fewer by truck in recent years. The Canadian Pacific Railway's
(CPR) stock value has increased 14% from April 2006 (C$60.00) to
March 6, 2008 (C$68.63).

18. (SBU) COMMENT: We can do little but sympathize with these
manifestations of economic reality, while noting that border
infrastructure operators and the managers of U.S. ports of entry
work hard to ensure that these voluntary programs facilitate trade
while allowing CBP officers to more effectively target their
inspection efforts to improve border security. We need to
effectively demonstrate and communicate the real value of the
C-TPAT, FAST, and PAPS programs to the companies that have invested
significant resources to participate in them. In our dialogue with
Canadian exporters and shippers, we will continue to urge them to
offer specific suggestions about how we could improve these trusted
shipper programs. END COMMENT.

NAY


6

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