Last week thousands of commercial vehicle operators were forced to sit and wait while the United States Customs and Border Protection agency scrambled to fix a computer problem that made examining truck manifests impossible. Now, several trucking companies are discussing the cost of that frustrating delay.
The problem emerged on Tuesday, November 11, 2014, at the land border crossings linking Sarnia, Ontario, to Port Huron, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit, Michigan. The problem was most striking at the Windsor-Detroit crossing, where roughly 30 per cent of all trade between Canada and the United States flows. By late in the day trucks could be seen, completely stopped, about thirteen kilometres from the Ambassador Bridge.
Not until late in the day was the problem fixed, allowing trucks to resume their trips to the U.S. “U.S. Customs and Border Protection resumed standard processing procedures at U.S. ports of entry after information technology personnel resolved a nationwide outage of the Automated Commercial Environment, an import and export processing system,” noted Ken Hammond, Chif CBP Officer, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“CBP implemented alternative procedures at the ports of entry after the system went down around 1 a.m. Eastern Standard Time in order to continue processing cargo and worked closely with the trade community to mitigate the impact of the outage. Preliminary indications are that the outage may be related to recent upgrades to the system,” Hammond added.
The delay was both incredibly costly and frustrating for truckers stuck on Huron Church Road and Ontario’s Highway 401. Peter Plaskota, who was journeying from Toronto, Ontario, to Toledo, Ohio, said he hasn’t seen such a lengthy delay since the period following September 11, 2001.
Frank Hansaruk, general manager of Windsor-based JBJ Trucking, says the delay proved very expensive for his firm, which has a fleet of 42 vehicles. “A truck can generate anywhere from $50-$75/hr in revenue and you’re stuck at the bridge for an additional two hours,” Hansaruk said. “You’re losing about $150 per vehicle. Multiply that by 30 vehicles and the numbers get big real quick.”
Steven Kozma, Business Development Manager at Morrice Transportation, expressed similar concern about the delay. “When something like this takes place we basically lose all of our profits in one run,” Kozma said.