The Canadian Trucking Alliance said it is pleased by the response it received from the US Customs & Border Protection Agency (CBP) over the potential for border disruptions starting November 15th when the new US customs advance cargo information rules come into effect.
CTA and CBP met in Washington October 22 as a follow-up to the trucking alliance CEO, David Bradley’s recent discussions with US Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge and CBP commissioner, Robert Bonner.
Of particular concern to CTA was a US Trade Act requirement first announced on August 17th, requiring all drivers who wish to continue to participate in the (BRASS) line release program to be registered for FAST by November 15th.
CTA emerged from the Washington meeting with the understanding that CBP will not start turning back trucks on November 15th, nor will it start levying fines against carriers that have not been able to get enough drivers into the system. CBP will follow a practice of "informed compliance" for a reasonable period of time. (CBP also agreed to examine whether fines should also be levied against shippers when the program becomes fully operational).
"The reality," says Bradley, "is that despite the best efforts of industry on both sides of the border, we will not have enough drivers registered for FAST by November 15th to handle the volume of BRASS shipments across the border. If CBP were to commence hard enforcement on that date; if trucks were turned around on the bridges and carriers fined, we could have chaos."
In addition, CBP committed to a roll-out of the long-awaited portable FAST enrollment centres — a joint program with the Canadian Border Services Agency — and a review of the hours of operation at the "fixed" FAST enrollment centres. A trial of the portable enrollment centres will commence soon in Sarnia/Port Huron. Once they are fully operational, carriers will be able to request that the enrollment centres visit their terminals if a sufficient number of drivers are available for registration.
It is estimated that about half of all loads crossing the Canada-US border are BRASS shipments. However, at present only 23,000 of the approximately 90,000 truck drivers engaged in cross-border trucking are registered for FAST. Another 11,000 are awaiting interviews and a further 13,000 are elsewhere in the processing system.
CTA calculates that at present rates it could take 15 weeks to eliminate the backlog of drivers who were awaiting interviews as at September 30th let alone all the new drivers who have become attracted to the FAST process following the more widespread understanding of the FAST/BRASS requirement. Moreover, CBP informed CTA that about a third of all FAST driver applications are being rejected because of administrative errors by the applicants. CTA says it will be posting a link to a CBP and CBSA on-line guide for drivers called "Tips for Completing the FAST Commercial Driver Application," that if followed should drastically reduce the administrative rejection rate.
"The informed compliance period will not be in place indefinitely; all participants in the supply-chain need to get on with it. Neither CBP, CBSA nor the carriers and drivers who have complied will tolerate "foot dragging" by other carriers and drivers for an extended period," said Bradley.
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