Did you think that last year’s Perimeter Vision Action Plan agreed to by the United States and Canada might signal an end to the nickel and diming of cross-­‐border commerce between the world’s two major bilateral trade partners? Think again, says the Canadian Trucking Alliance, a federation of the provincial trucking associations representing over 4,500 trucking companies.

While there have been many measures introduced in the name of increased security over the last decade that have added to the cost of moving goods across the Canada-­‐U.S. border, perhaps none has been more objectionable than the inspection fees charged by the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Currently a fee of $5.25 is charged to every truck, every time it crosses the border (or $105.00 per year per truck if it is equipped with a transponder) whether the truck is carrying agricultural product or not. It is likely, therefore, that auto parts haulers, for example, could be the largest trucking contributors to funding the APHIS Agricultural Quarantine Inspection (AQI) mandate.

If that weren’t bad enough, there is a very real chance APHIS fees will be going up. A study completed by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in March suggested APHIS does not collect enough fee revenue to carry out its border inspection responsibilities. It found that AQI fees raise about $534 million per year, whereas the cost of the inspections exceeds $861 million. Moreover, it said there is currently some cross-­‐subsidization among the transport modes. For example, AQI revenues collected from air passengers exceeds program costs by over $155 million, whereas commercial vessels pay about $75 million less than that mode’s AQI costs.

Trucking companies already pay more for their annual decal to APHIS than they do to the United States Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP), which has the prime responsibility for security at the border. “The APHIS fees are particularly galling to truckers,” says the CTA’s president and CEO, David Bradley. “There is no trusted trader component to the program, which means no risk assessment and no onus to be efficient about who is being inspected.”

“Motor carriers don’t even own the goods that APHIS is targeting for inspection, yet they are the ones who receive the bill.” “One can always argue that carriers can simply pass on these costs to their customers, and some no doubt are fairly successful at doing so,” says Bradley. “But one can’t help but be struck by the fact that at the same time the governments of Canada and the U.S. are trying to find ways to make the border more efficient and less costly through the Beyond the Border initiative, individual agencies are contemplating ways to drive the costs of trade up again.”