Live Updates: Canada Trucker Protest News

Despite a mass of protesters demanding an end to Canada’s vaccination mandates and coronavirus restrictions, polls have shown a majority of Canadians support pandemic health measures.CreditCredit…Elaine Cromie for The New York Times

Blockages at the U.S.-Canada border hampered the flow of essential supplies for the fourth day on Friday, leaving businesses scrambling for materials and closing major auto plants from Ontario to Alabama.

The partial closure of the Ambassador Bridge, the busiest land crossing point between countries and a vital conduit for the auto industry, has impacted North American supply chains. Business groups have called on officials to forcibly remove protesters blocking the bridge.

Some companies have tried to redistribute essential parts between their factories and have looked for other ways to move products.

But others seemed resigned to the closures, saying bypassing the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor, Ont., was too costly or difficult.

Toyota said the disruptions have led to “periodic shutdowns” at its engine plants in West Virginia and Alabama, as well as plants in Canada and Kentucky, and the outages are likely to continue through the weekend. end. Ford cut capacity at two plants in Windsor and Oakville, also in Ontario, and closed its Ohio assembly plant.

The disruptions threatened to persist as truckers and members of far-right groups protested vaccination mandates and other pandemic restrictions in Canada and called for the resignation of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Every hour it continues, the costs go up,” said Brian Kingston, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, whose members include Ford, GM and Stellantis, which owns Jeep, Ram and other brands. “They need to uphold the law and remove protesters from the road leading to the bridge.”

The production shutdowns will worsen a shortage of new vehicles, which has already driven up prices, IHS Markit, a research firm, warned on Friday.

The Canadian and American governments were trying to help get auto parts, fresh fruits and vegetables, and other products across the border.

Canadian authorities allowed certain companies to send goods through other ports of entry without having to resubmit documents. US customs officers were assisting this effort by adding personnel and controlling lines at these alternate crossing points.

Manufacturers and logistics companies sometimes routed trucks hundreds of miles to still-open bridges and border checkpoints, but alternatives to the Ambassador Bridge are limited, Toyota spokeswoman Kelly Stefanich said.

Sending shipments through Buffalo and Mackinaw, Michigan, for example, requires more drivers and trucks, which were already in short supply.

Some companies were paying extra to reroute freight through Buffalo, where the crossing remained open, said Jennifer Frigger-Latham, vice president of sales and marketing at EMO Trans, a logistics company.

But finding alternate routes hasn’t always been easy, said Linda Dynes, executive vice president of Canadian operations at Farrow, a century-old customs broker.

“It seems like every time you find an alternate path, it’s blocked, either by a farm vehicle or a truck,” she said.

Domestic spot prices for shipping have tripled in some cases, forcing many businesses to suspend shipments, she added.

Many trucks are trying to cross a bridge that connects Port Huron, Michigan, to the Canadian city of Sarnia, north of Detroit. But traffic is so heavy that trucks often have to wait hours to cross, Kingston said, adding he’s heard of waits of up to eight hours.

Some manufacturers have moved parts by air freight or even by helicopter. But “air freight isn’t as efficient for large, bulky components,” Kingston said.

He noted that the Ambassador Bridge was designed to accommodate a large number of heavy trucks. Some hazardous materials or other specialized loads cannot otherwise cross.

Automakers and suppliers are also splitting shipments and placing them in smaller trucks and vans, which can pass through a tunnel that remains open between Detroit and Windsor.

But such measures are costly palliatives, and many companies are simply slowing down production until the blockade ends. “The hope is that it will end soon,” said Dan Hearsch, chief executive of AlixPartners, a consultancy that helps automakers navigate the turmoil.

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