Logistics, Transportation and Cross-Border Resources 
 and Meetings 


Meeting Minutes from LTCB Committee - April 1 (DOWNLOAD)
- full details below

April 1, 2020

Logistics, Transportation & Cross-Border Issues

In the Windsor-Essex Region, the Logistics, Transportation & Cross-Border sector is an essential sector and plays an important role. The Transportation & Warehousing Sector is made up of 2,600 businesses employing over 10,000 workers in Windsor-Essex.

This document is designed to provide an overview of information that is of greatest relevant to the Logistics, Transportation & Cross-Border Issues Committee.

Legislative/Policy Changes to Support the Sector

The Emergencies Act

The Emergencies Act (formerly the War Measures Act) is an act of the Parliament of Canada to authorize the taking of special temporary measures to ensure safety and security during national emergencies. To qualify as a national emergency, a situation must “exceed the capacity or the authority … (of provinces) … to deal with.” While it affords extraordinary power to the federal government, it can only be invoked if an emergency extends beyond the control of provinces. For now, the current COVID-19 pandemic has not reached the level of a national public health emergency and so far provinces have mostly responded in co-ordination with the federal government.

Essential Workplaces

As governments across North America declare states of emergency and order all non-essential workplaces to close, there are groups of workplaces and employees that are considered critical infrastructure or essential.  Both Canada and the USA have identified the following areas as essential:  health care services, pharmaceutical and food supply, and transportation and logistics.[1]  These are the men and women who are on the frontlines of this battle against COVID-19.

On March 28, 2020, the U.S. President issued updated Coronavirus Guidance for America that highlighted the importance of the critical infrastructure workforce. https://www.cisa.gov/publication/guidance-essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce#download

On April 1, 2020, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, released new guidance designed to assist various jurisdictions and businesses in their decision-making around the types of employees considered essential in order to maintain the health, safety, security and economic well-being of Canadians throughout this health crisis.

The guidance document provides a list of services and functions across Canada’s 10 critical infrastructure sectors: Energy and Utilities, Information and Communication Technologies, Finance, Health, Food, Water, Transportation, Safety, Government and Manufacturing.

As part of the transportation sector, workers include drivers, dispatchers, maintenance and repair technicians, warehouse workers, truck stop and commercial vehicle inspection station workers, rest area workers, amongst other occupations within trucking and other support sectors that are referenced. A complete list can be found here. (https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/crtcl-nfrstrctr/esf-sfe-en.aspx)

Hours of Service

USA:  On March 13, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a national emergency declaration to provide hours-of-service (HOS) relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting necessary goods in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. These goods include food, raw materials, medical supplies, paper products and the supplies/equipment necessary for sanitization and community safety—including those items that have been in the highest demand around the country such as water and hand sanitizer.

The declaration was updated on March 18 to include fuel haulers, and an expanded declaration on March 21 states that any “motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance in support of relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks are granted emergency relief.”

According to the FMCSA, none of the HOS regulations apply “while the driver is engaged with providing direct assistance under the emergency relief exemption.” This means that drivers are not required to take 30-minute breaks and the regular 34-hour restart is not required. To help ensure safety, “once a driver has completed his or her delivery, the driver must receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty if transporting property, and 8 hours if transporting passengers.” Read more about the options provided by FMCSA on ELD devices.

Canada: On March 24, 2020, Canada introduced an Essential Freight Transport Exemption for federally regulated carriers and drivers who are moving essential Covid-19 supplies and equipment as part of the emergency relief effort.

Canada’s exemption applies to:

  • medical supplies and equipment related to testing, diagnosis and treatment;
  • supplies and equipment necessary for community safety and sanitation, such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants;
  • food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of warehouses/stores;
  • raw materials, such as paper, plastic or alcohol, required for the manufacture of medical supplies, sanitation items and safe distribution of groceries;
  • fuel;
  • equipment, supplies and people to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities;
  • people designated by Federal, Provincial/Territorial or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes; and
  • people needed to provide other medical or emergency services.

Mixed loads of essential goods and non-essential goods are not be exempt from the Provincial Hours of Service regulations. Carriers wanting to switch from transporting essential goods and supplies to non-essential goods and supplies will be required to take a minimum of 8 consecutive hours of rest and follow the provincial regulations as normal.

As you are aware, Ontario declared a state of emergency on March 17, 2020 which has enacted emergency provisions of the Highway Traffic Act including exemptions for commercial drivers related to trip inspection, hours of service and speed limiters when responding to or in support of a declared emergency. These provisions are automatically triggered when a state of emergency is declared in Ontario, however it is up to individual carriers to decide if they choose to use the exemptions – it is not a requirement they be used.

Noise By-Laws

On March 19, 2020, Ontario announced changes to the Municipal Emergency Act, 2020 to ensure that for the near future, the delivery of goods to Ontario's businesses and consumers is not impacted by municipal noise by-laws that may unintentionally be impeding such deliveries when they are most urgently needed.

Michigan Stay-at-Home Executive Order

Effective March 24, 2020 at 12:01 am, and continuing through to April 13, 2020 at 11:59 pm, all individuals currently living within the State of Michigan are ordered to stay at home or at their place of residence. Critical infrastructure workers (as identified earlier) are exempt, including those employed in the logistics and transportation sector as well as employees and/or sub-contracted employees involved in the construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge.

 Border Issues

With respect to the US-Canada Border, the two federal governments made a rare decision to ban non-essential travel between the two countries.  As of March 21, 2020, a temporary 30-day restriction on all non-essential travel at the Canada-U.S. border has been implemented.

This restriction covers all travel of an optional or discretionary nature. Both Canada and the U.S. recognize how closely the two economies are integrated, and it is essential that trade continue during this pandemic.  The order ensures that economic supply chains remain open to facilitate the continued access to goods and services, uninterrupted.  Again, the message that the logistics, transportation and the border are critical infrastructure and must be exempt from any temporary closures.

On March 18, 2020, the Government of Canada announced the following restrictions on travellers entering Canada, pursuant to its powers under the Quarantine Act and the Aeronautics Act. On March 25, 2020, Canada ordered the mandatory isolation of all travellers returning to Canada for a period of 14 days, with exception to those identified as essential. Some travellers, such as truck drivers, firefighters and nurses, cross the border every day to work or study. They are not impacted by these border measures.

To date, there are no travel restrictions within Canada, other than no one can board a flight or train if they exhibit any COVID-19 symptom.  Prime Minister Trudeau indicated in a press conference on March 18, 2020, that travel restrictions within Canada may be introduced in the future “as they become necessary”. The federal government has the power to restrict domestic air travel under the Aeronautics Act. To restrict all domestic travel, the federal government will need to invoke its emergency powers under the Emergencies Act.

Gordie Howe International Bridge

Given the importance of the Gordie Howe International Bridge to the Windsor-Essex Region, it has been deemed by all relevant governments as a critical infrastructure and thus exempt from “stay-at-home” orders, closures of non-essential workplace and/or cross-border travel bans. To ensure the facilitation of movement of people working on the Gordie Howe International Bridge, the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority has prepared letters of explanation for law enforcement agencies, such as CBP, CBSA, and Michigan police.  This is a best practice that others in te logistics and transportation sector may consider adopting.

Safety Matters

On April 2, 2020, Transport Canada issued COVID-19 best practices guidance for drivers and carriers was developed in consultation with the Public Health Agency of Canada.  The guidance provides general best practices and recommendations for trucks drivers and carriers with respect to commercial operations during the pandemic.

In addition, it provides recommendations on precautionary measures that can be taken by both fleets and drivers, before, during and after trips on cleaning surfaces in vehicles as well as appropriate social distancing and sanitary practices. (See: https://www.trucknews.com/transportation/transport-canada-releases-covid-19-guidelines-for-fleets-and-drivers/1003139012/)

Economic impact

The economic impact to the logistics and transportation sector is difficult to quantify because the sector is not homogeneous.  Shipments of items such as electronics and health and beauty products are being delayed as retailers make more room in distribution centers and stores for food, paper products and diapers.  The panic buying has led to trucking capacity getting tighter as demand surges from retailers and manufacturers hustling to replenish stores and distribution centers. Supply chain disruptions and nationwide emergency delivery needs are causing fleet managers, dispatchers and drivers to work longer hours, while hauling in other areas, such as restaurant supply and equipment for live events, has ceased. 

Given the strength of the automotive sector in the region, the announcement of March 18, 2020 by Ford, General Motors and FCA to close their plants to halt the spread of COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact to the local logistics and transportation sector (see data below). Initially, OEMs had hoped to have their plants back up and running by the end of March 2020 but each has extended shutdown periods. Each automaker plans to re-evaluate the situation regularly, but recent announcements are aiming to keep plants shut until April 14.  As such, the automotive shut-downs will continue to have a serious impact locally within the logistics and transportation sector.  For example, some local trucking companies have seen their economic activity reduced by 90%.

There is some hope that the local transportation sector might be called to help move medical equipment now being produced by the automotive sector.  The amount of health supplies will not match the volume of car parts and cars shipped prior to COVID-19.  This coupled with truckers and other workers in the logistics and transportation sector refusing to work because of health safety concerns is greatly impacting the ability to move goods.

The lack of workers, due to self-isolation requirements or refusal to work because of safety concerns is also impacting construction at the Gordie Howe International Bridge.  At this point, these slowdowns are not a concern but it will be important to monitor should this pattern begin to seriously impact the overall project.

The logistics and transportation industry in the Windsor-Essex Region is facing extreme challenges. 

Cross-Border Traffic Data

Using the traffic data from the Miovision traffic equipment on Huron Church Road, traffic crossing the Ambassador Bridge is dramatically down.  The number of vehicles is down 52% between February 25, 2020 (last Tuesday of the month) and March 31, 2020 (last Tuesday of the month.  Truck traffic, despite being deemed is essential, is also down by 43%.  The main reason for this drop is because of the closure of the OEM automotive facilities. 

While border authority processes may have increased slightly due to the travel ban decisions, in general, the travel time has not changed much mainly due to the lower volume of vehicles crossing.

[1] On March 23, 2020, the Province of Ontario issued an order requiring the closure of all non-essential workplaces.  Businesses that supply other essential businesses or essential services with the support, supplies, systems or services, including processing, packaging, distribution, delivery and maintenance necessary to operate as well as all businesses linked to transportation were deemed to be essential (https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/03/list-of-essential-workplaces-2.html)