Bus freight changes have small impact here But may be harbinger of route cuts

Recent changes in the route for sending freight between Rainy River District and Winnipeg via Greyhound/Grey Goose Bus Lines appear to be having little impact on local businesses so far.
As of Jan. 1, Greyhound has been shipping the freight through Thunder Bay due to new regulations brought in by U.S. Customs, adding about 24 hours to the delivery time.
“It’s not a big effect on us. We’re kind of rolling with it,” said Jim Hudson, owner of Northland Basics on Scott Street.
“We use [Grey Goose] for some things,” he noted. “If we have to get something shipped overnight to Winnipeg, it can be a problem. But we use other couriers and our suppliers use other couriers.”
Safeway here also encountered some difficulties with its shipment of The Globe and Mail, which used to come in the same day via Greyhound from Winnipeg.
Safeway manager Dave McBride said they have found an alternative to Greyhound, so the paper still arrives on the day is it published four times a week.
The exceptions are Wednesday’s paper, which arrives Thursday, and Saturday’s paper, which arrives Sunday.
“We’ve managed to recover,” McBride noted, adding while some customers are still unhappy with the arrangement, he said there is little Safeway can do.
Paul Bock, owner of North Air Services here, said the Globe is now coming on the bus from Kenora. “They’re actually getting here faster than they were before,” he noted.
The store’s internal mail is sent by bus, and now runs behind, he remarked, adding this has no effect on the customer. “There’s very little that’s not electronic nowadays,” he added.
Lynn Pahler, owner of Auto Parts International on King’s Highway, said she’s not very concerned about the changes. “So far we haven’t had a problem. That’s not to say we won’t,” she noted.
Pahler said she has used Greyhound/Grey Goose to ship car parts on occasion, but uses other couriers more frequently.
As noted, Greyhound changed the route for freight as a result of changes in regulations at the U.S border.
The passenger route from Fort Frances to Winnipeg crosses into the U.S. at Baudette, Mn., then comes back into Canada via Sprague, Man. The total time the bus spends in the States is roughly 45 minutes, with no stops.
Prior to Jan. 1, Greyhound would seal the compartments containing freight to meet U.S. security regulations, but this was no longer sufficient as of the new year.
“U.S. Customs has moved from a paper to an electronic registration,” said Brad Shephard, a spokesperson for Greyhound.
They now want advanced electronic registration of the contents of all freight travelling through the U.S, he explained. The new process is called the Customs Automated Forms Entry System (CAFES).
While Greyhound follows this procedure for packages destined for the U.S., it is not prepared to go through the same procedure for packages travelling through the U.S. whose point of departure and final destination are in Canada.
As a result, Greyhound is shipping the freight via Thunder Bay. “We’re working on a resolution,” Shephard noted.
For now, packages will continue to travel via Thunder Bay, but the company may consider working with Excel Coach Lines Ltd. that runs between Kenora and Fort Frances to help reduce the travel time.
“That might be a solution,” Shephard said. “We will keep the freight moving one way or another.”
Bock said the changes haven’t hurt his business yet, either.
“As far as dollars and cents go, it’s not a major factor because most of the freight is still coming around the long-distance way from Thunder Bay and takes an extra half-day to get here.
“Unless it’s extremely urgent parcel-wise, it’s still pretty much business as usual,” he said.
But he noted the long-term effects of the change could be much worse.
Greyhound is looking into reducing its service in Northwestern Ontario and Manitoba, and the fact freight is now being shipped through Thunder Bay may have an impact on what routes are cut.
“I’m wondering how long that run from Winnipeg is going to continue if there’s no freight to help with the revenue. It’s going to be tough to make that run viable,” Bock warned.
“I think it remains to be seen what happens in the long run.”
Greyhound said revisions of bus routes is a normal part of operations.
“We, as part of our regular business, look at our schedules and our corridors four times a year,” Shephard explained.
He said Greyhound has applied to the Manitoba Motor Transport Board to make changes on its run between Winnipeg and Fort Frances, as well as several other routes in Manitoba.
There currently are three routes between Fort Frances and Winnipeg. One runs every day, another runs Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, while the third runs every day except Wednesdays, Saturdays, and holidays.
Shephard said Greyhound is applying to reduce that service to once a day.
On the Fort Frances-Thunder Bay route, there currently is only once-a-day service, but Bock said it’s possible Greyhound may consider reducing that service to a few days a week.
“There’s all sorts of speculation,” he noted.
While Greyhound must apply for permission from the Manitoba Motor Transport Board to make route changes in that province, the company only needs to send a letter of notification to the Highway Traffic Board in Ontario, Shephard said.
“For Manitoba, there’s a set procedure we go through where they take in public input on the changes and might even hold public hearings,” he explained.
“On the Ontario side of things, [the public] can write to the Highway Traffic Board [about] their concerns, but there’s no set process that we go through.
“We provide notification and as long as we’re within a certain percentage of our normal operation, there’s no real process.”
Monday was the deadline for public input to the Manitoba Motor Transport Board. Shephard said it’s likely the board will hold public hearings to gather further information about the effect the many proposed changes will have on people there.
While Greyhound can change the routes in Ontario at any time, Shephard said the company likely would wait to hear the results from the Manitoba side before deciding what to do with the Fort Frances-Thunder Bay route.
“We treat that corridor as one corridor,” he said.
(Fort Frances Times)