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Truckers don't get EPA green light on empty trailer campaign

WASHINGTON -- The EPA has declined to join Canadian and American trucking carriers in their effort to convince U.S. regulators to change archaic and redundant empty trailer movement rules affecting foreign drivers.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) and American Trucking Associations (ATA) and have been seeking a revised interpretation of current immigration rules that would allow a foreign driver to reposition an empty foreign trailer as part of regular international movements.

The groups have long argued that U.S. Custom's current policy on repositioning non-payload foreign trailers are widely inconsistent with modern logistics and lead to duplication of miles and increased outlays, resulting in wasted energy and fuel efficiency losses.

On that note, the trucking groups attempted, unsuccessfully, to recruit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to their campaign.

The EPA, which recently declared carbon dioxide to be a pollutant, decided instead to defer to the Department of Homeland Security's rules.

Currently, a Canadian driver can pick-up an empty trailer at the drop-off point of an inbound movement in the U.S. and then drive it to the dispatch point for the outbound movement back to Canada, but only if he waits for it to be loaded.  

There's no 'discernable reason'
the US' empty trailer reposition rules
haven't been changed yet, says CTA

So, the same driver, after dropping off the empty trailer, cannot leave it for another Canada-bound driver and immediately hook to another loaded trailer destined to cross the border.

David Bradley of the CTA told todaystrucking.com this morning that the trucking groups were simply "attempting to demonstrate to EPA that if the US government was serious about climate change it would review this rule which can create the situation where you have two tractors (one Canadian tractor bob-tailing and one US tractor hauling an empty Canadian trailer) traveling side by side on a repositioning move for a foreign empty trailer in the international stream of commerce."

Even without EPA by their side, CTA and ATA will continue "to make the case" that this "darn simple fix" should be made.

In fact, there's no "discernable policy reason" it hasn't yet been addressed, he adds.

Industry's proposal does not undermine cabotage rules since it does not involve the domestic pick-up or point-to-point delivery by a foreign truck and driver operating in the U.S. The Americans, though, have sometimes been overzealous in enforcing or interpreting cabotage rules.

Bradley says Canada has become officially engaged in the issue and has pledged to make the necessary changes to its own immigration rules if the U.S. were to reciprocate.

"This issue is more of an irritant or idiosyncrasy than it is a life and death trade issue," says Bradley.

"However, there is an important principle at play here -- if governments are not willing to fix something like this, how can they maintain any credibility in terms of wanting to make the North American supply chain more efficient and competitive and with a lower carbon footprint?"

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