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Truckers still face lengthy border delays
Parts shortages shut down auto plants Cal Millar and Steven Theobald STAFF REPORTERS
BUFFALO - Despite heightened security, car travellers no longer face major waits at border crossings along the Niagara frontier, although truckers are still suffering lengthy delays.
At the Peace Bridge yesterday, it took less than three minutes for motorists to pass through customs and immigration checkpoints on the Canadian side of the border.
On the American side, armed U.S. Customs agents stood observing motorists entering and leaving the country.
Guards demanded travellers' photo identification, searched trunks and checked under hoods before allowing vehicles into the U.S.
Trucks entering the U.S., however, were still subject to major delays. The Ontario Provincial Police have set up roadblocks at the Thompson Rd. exit on the Queen Elizabeth Way and are diverting commercial vehicles to a compound where they can be searched before leaving the country.
On the U.S. side, the trucks are searched again before being given permission to enter the country.
Commercial truck drivers face delays of up to 10 hours at peak periods, officials said.
In a bid to ease border congestion, the province has added a new section to the solicitor-general's main Web site (http://www.solicitorgeneral.msg.gov.on.ca) with up-to-date information on border crossings. As well, the transportation ministry has added representatives to its MTO INFO hotline (1-800-268-4686 or 416-235-4686).
As a snarled transportation network wreaks havoc on North America's economy, trade groups hope Tuesday's terrorist attacks will prompt Canada and the United States to spend money on their neglected borders.
Two-way trade in goods between the countries has exploded in the past decade, jumping to $627 billion last year compared with$198 billion in 1988.
Meantime, staffing levels haven't kept up, said David Bradley, chief executive officer of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, which represents 4,500 trucking companies.
In fact, since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. has shifted resources away from the Canadian border to the Mexican border, Bradley said.
``I am hopeful they arrive at solutions and the appropriate investments will be made,'' he said, adding border delays are costing Canada's truckers $1 million an hour in fuel and lost productivity.
``We have to find a way for customs services on both sides of the border to work closer together.''
Ontario's reliance on the free flow of goods is apparent in the province's vital auto sector.
Assembly plants, which use just-in-time inventory systems, have been slashing production because clogged borders have meant parts shortages.
Ford Motor Co. is shutting five North American plants this week, including one in Canada. Roughly 2,400 of the 2,800 workers at the St. Thomas, Ont., plant will be sent home for the week, said John Arnone, spokesperson for Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd.
``The closures have been announced to address tremendous transportation challenges in our North American system.''
Arnone said the company expects enough parts to keep the other five Ontario plants operating next week.
Delays at the border are also starting to create problems at the the Toyota assembly plant in Cambridge, the Kitchener-Waterloo Record reports. The company cancelled an overtime shift yesterday because it anticipates it may run short of parts.
While more customs officers are needed at border points, automation is the key to the future, said Robert Keyes, international vice-president with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), September 16, 2001
With all these delays, snafus, and resultant production snarls, there are still a bunch of economic analysts on the tube today saying, oh, all of this is transient, and will cause no precipitant harm to our economy.
Oh, yeah, sure. Some are trying to convince us that the world is flat, it seems, but I, for one, still believe it is round.
-- Chance (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 16, 2001.