Customs broker system outage delays truckers at border

Commercial truck drivers faced long wait times and delays at U.S.-Canada border crossings in Ontario after Customs broker Livingston International experienced a system outage.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) confirmed that Livingston International experienced a system outage that was preventing it from providing critical advanced information required by the CBSA for the purpose of clearing commercial imports.

A CBSA spokeswoman told the outage has been resolved and “we are working with our partners at the U.S. CBP, bridge commission, the trucking community and the client to clear the resulting backlog of trucks seeking entry into Canada.”

Canada-U.S. border
(File photo: iStock)

Beverley Hudd from Fairway Transport based in Ancaster, Ont., said her drivers informed her hundreds of trucks were parked at ports of entry into Canada. “You can phone the [Livingston’s] contact center, you don’t get anything, they are frazzled,” she said, adding that the problem began over the [July 30-31] weekend.

Livingston International did not respond to requests for comment.

Fairway’s flatbed haulers Norm Carrey and Keith Donner experienced lengthy wait times at the border this week.

On Aug. 4, Carrey arrived on the U.S. side of the Fort Erie border crossing at 8 a.m. An employee at the Livingston office told him to put his phone number on the paperwork and wait in his truck.

There were about 50 drivers waiting for their paperwork, he says. The parking lot was full and the overflow compound three-quarters full. Carrey said some truckers told him they were waiting from the night before.

11-hour wait

He received a call at 6:30 p.m. to pick up the documents, and after clearing Customs crossed the border. The whole process took 11 hours.

“It was too late to deliver my load in Toronto, so I stayed at a truck stop for the night and delivered the freight the next morning. I lost a whole day’s work and my next load,” Carrey said.

Fairway driver Donner, who was bringing a load from Baltimore, Md., into Canada, had to wait at the Queenston-Lewiston crossing for eight hours on Aug. 3. There were about 40 big rigs parked, with drivers awaiting paperwork.

He said the Livingston office was busy with drivers looking for their documents, with some truckers telling him they had been waiting up to 37 hours for clearance. Harold Varbeff, who was hauling a load of batteries into Canada was held up at the Port Huron-Sarnia border crossing for 13 hours on Aug. 3.

He said there were at least 200 trucks waiting, with some drivers saying they had been delayed for 40 hours.

Costs add up

A large carrier’s Customs official who spoke to on condition of anonymity, said the company deals with Livingston frequently, and the outage has been quite the disruption.

The company had to place loads in bond and pay storage fees as well. Customers were upset as their shipments were delayed and they had to bear additional costs.

The system outage created a lot of extra stress and pressure on multiple departments. Staff had to email updates to customers, add extra miles on freight and the company lost trailer space that would have been occupied with other loads.

A spokeswoman from another large carrier that hauls refrigerated freight across the border said operations have been severely affected by the system outage.

A dispatcher at an Ontario-based carrier said it was taking drivers two to three hours just to get through the border because of this one broker. “It’s been horrible this week,” he said.

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