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February 28, 2011 8:00 AM, EST

Letters: Border Negotiations; Wrong Again, FMCSA

These Letters to the Editor appear in the Feb. 28 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Border Negotiations

No one knows the Canada-U.S. border and the difficulties even the most trusted individuals and companies have had crossing it in the “security trumps trade” post-9/11 world than truckers. It’s not surprising, then, that truckers welcome the announcement from U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper that the two countries are embarking upon negotiations aimed at improved cooperation and coordination at the border.

Canada and the United States, alone or in partnership, cannot hope to compete with the emerging economies and/or other trading blocs unless we have a predictable, reliable and efficient supply chain. The current state of the border is not conducive to that.

We have been calling upon the governments on both sides of the border to pursue a new shared/smart border agreement for some time and are hopeful this new process will lead to a better balance between security and trade imperatives, restore a risk-management approach to the border and generate a meaningful return on investment in the trusted trader programs.

Truckers and the trade community at large have been promised these things before, only to be disappointed with the results. We hope the outcome will be different this time. It will be essential for the governments to consult with the businesses that are living the border problems every day. The problems cannot be dealt with at the 120,000-foot level; the solutions will need to come from where the rubber meets the road.

Moreover, it is unrealistic, in our view, to expect a dismantling of the plethora of measures introduced in the name of security over the past number of years. It is probably a misnomer to characterize the negotiations as being about a perimeter security agreement. We have not detected any lessening of U.S. concerns and expect the border will continue to be viewed as the first line of defense.

Nonetheless, progress can be made in terms of better coordination and cooperation not only between the two country’s customs agencies, but also between government departments on the same side of the border — the so-called single window concept — and in terms of mutual recognition of security programs for identifying trusted traders that are essentially the same in both countries. Canada also needs to look at some of its own border security programs to ensure that they are not even more burdensome than similar programs in the United States or that they unnecessarily impede legitimate trade from taking advantage, for example, of the special lanes designed to expedite trade into Canada by trusted traders.

There are those who will decry the negotiations as a threat to Canadian sovereignty. Joint decision-making, better coordination and cooperation in terms of managing our shared border, and synchronized infrastructure investment and construction, leading to a stronger economy, enhances our sovereignty. We believe most Canadians get it.

David Bradley

President and Chief Executive Officer

Canadian Trucking Alliance

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Wrong Again, FMCSA

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has it wrong — again.

I am writing in regard to two safety issues: (1) FMCSA’s misguided new hours-of-service regulations, which supposedly address the dreaded driver fatigue problem, and (2) the problem of CO2 emissions in the truck cab.

Let me address the HOS matter from the perspective of a very experienced driver: The current regulations are fantastic. Keep them the way they are, with the 34-hour reset and the 11/10 driving rule, but get rid of the 14-hour rule.

That change would allow professional drivers (especially teams) and transportation companies to regain their 24/7 flexibility and also would allow a driver who has been detained for longer than 10 hours at a customer’s dock to leave when he has loaded or off-loaded his truck without being in violation of the 14-hour rule.

There have been many times when I couldn’t drive down the highway because the 14-hour rule prevented me, even though I was well-rested and energized to go.

The only change in this whole controversy would center on the 14-hour rule, so let’s delete this part and see what happens then.

The other concern I’d like to see addressed (also from the University of Soot ’n’ Ashes and Sleepless Nights) is carbon monoxide emissions coming into the cab or sleeper-berth areas while a driver is driving or parked at a truck stop or warehouse.

I believe the proposed new driver fitness standards do not even come close to addressing the real problem of driver fatigue. Having a “hang belly” or a “large neck size” or “high body mass index” is not the real reason for driver fatigue: It’s carbon monoxide poisoning. I know because I’ve been there and done that and it’s no fun.

Think about how many times a driver will park next to two idling trucks with his sleeper vents open or windows down. And how many fleet mechanics adequately inspect the exhaust systems on their fleet of trucks for exhaust leaks?

If a set of three flimsy plastic triangles and a Class C fire extinguisher are onboard equipment required by the FMCSA, why isn’t a good combination smoke-and-CO2 detector in the sleeper required? I keep one in my truck and it has on a number of occasions gone off and saved me from being dead — or at least not having a migraine headache.

I hope this letter will be read by those in a position to do something constructive about these issues instead of stereotyping (i.e., blaming) professional drivers as overweight.

David Ritter

Owner-Operator

Semper-Fi Transport

Klamath Falls, Ore.