Canada Live Updates: Police Set to Move In on Truckers Blocking Ontario Bridge


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

Blockades at the U.S.-Canada border stymied flows of critical supplies for the fourth day on Friday, leaving companies scrambling for materials and shutting down major auto factories from Ontario to Alabama.

The partial closing of the Ambassador Bridge, the busiest land crossing between the countries and a vital conduit for the auto industry, sent ripples through North American supply chains. Business groups called on officials to forcibly remove protesters blocking the bridge.

Some companies tried to redistribute key parts among their factories and looked for other ways to move products.

But others appeared resigned to shutdowns, saying that bypassing the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, was too expensive or difficult.

Toyota said that the disruptions had led to “periodic downtime” at its engine plants in West Virginia and Alabama, as well as factories in Canada and Kentucky, and that interruptions were likely to continue through the weekend. Ford curtailed capacity at two plants in Windsor and Oakville, which is also in Ontario, and shut down its Ohio assembly plant.

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

“Every hour this persists the costs rack up,” said Brian Kingston, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, whose members include Ford, G.M. and Stellantis, which owns Jeep, Ram and other brands. “They need to enforce the law and remove the protesters from the road leading to the bridge.”

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

Both the Canadian and American governments were trying to help get auto parts, fresh fruit and vegetables, and other products through the border.

Canadian officials were allowing some companies to send goods through other ports of entry without having to refile documents. U.S. customs officials were assisting that effort by adding personnel and screening lines at those alternate crossings.

Manufacturers and logistics companies were sometimes routing trucks hundreds of miles out of their way to bridges and border checkpoints that were still open, but alternatives to the Ambassador Bridge are limited, said Kelly Stefanich, a Toyota spokeswoman.

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

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

But finding alternate routes was not always easy, said Linda Dynes, the executive vice president of Canadian operations for Farrow, a 100-year-old customs broker.

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

Domestic spot prices for shipping had tripled in some cases, causing many companies to suspend shipments, she added.

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

Some carmakers have moved parts by airfreight or even helicopter. But “air cargo is not as efficient for large and bulky components,” Mr. Kingston said.

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

Carmakers and suppliers are also breaking up shipments and putting them in smaller trucks and vans, which can pass through a tunnel that remains open between Detroit and Windsor.

But such measures are expensive stopgaps, and many companies are simply slowing down production until the blockade ends. “The hope is that this will be over shortly,” said Dan Hearsch, a managing director at AlixPartners, a consulting firm that has been helping auto companies cope with the turmoil.

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