TORONTO, Ont. – The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) has let the US government know it isn’t happy with plans to raise border-crossing fees on trucks.
Recently, the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed in increase in the amount it charges at border crossings. The fees are supposed to help the agency recoup the costs of conducting agricultural quarantine inspections (AQI) at US ports of entry. According to the Department of Agriculture, AQI activities can include “inspections conducted by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) of conveyances, cargo and passenger baggage entering the country as well as APHIS’ analytical and scientific work to track pests overseas, focus inspections at ports of entry, and develop the import regulations that protect US animal and plant health from foreign pests.”
APHIS fees are applied not just to vehicles carrying plants or livestock, but to every person or vehicle that crosses into the US. In its proposal, APHIS isn’t raising all of its fees—a few are being lowered, including the air passenger fee dropping from US$5 to US$4 and the railroad car fee going from US$7.75 to US$2 per car—but the rest of the fees are going up: commercial aircraft fee will go from US$70.75 to US$225 and maritime cargo vessels will pay US$825 instead of $496. APHIS is also proposing a “US$375 fee to recover the costs of APHIS services for monitoring the application of or providing treatments to imported cargo to minimize pest risks.”
Trucks are currently separated into two fee categories: trucks with transponders and trucks without. Those carrying transponders are currently charged US$105. APHIS intends to raise that to US$320. (The CTA says in reality, after including the US$100 CBP portion, the total cost paid at the border would be $420 per truck.) Trucks without a transponder will pay US$8. Currently, they are assessed a fee of US$5.25.
As a result of the APHIS proposal, the CTA has submitted a formal response to the USDA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)—the process under which the fee increased is being presented.
In its submission the CTA wrote it acknowledges, “the Government of the United States of America has every right to protect its food supply and agricultural industries and communities from insects and pests imported with food shipments,” but “strongly objects to the way in which the APHIS program is administered, applied and funded.”
The alliance objects to non-agricultural shipments and empty trailers being subjected to the fee. It also feels APHIS’ failure to use a standard risk assessment methodology “erodes the return on investment carriers have made to comply with bi-national trusted trader programs.”
Besides questioning the amount and the application of the fees, the CTA takes issue with who will be responsible for paying the fees. It feels that because the carriers aren’t the owners of the cargo, they shouldn’t be the ones charged. The alliance says the fees are imposed on carriers simply because it’s easier to go after the truck and its owner than the person who owns the product.
“That is not a credible premise for imposing the APHIS fees on the trucking industry,” says the CTA submission. “Commodities that present risk are the responsibility of the importer and the application of fees should be strategically allocated to importers based on the level of risk the goods present.”
“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,” says CTA president David Bradley. “Whether they’ll listen, remains to be seen.”