The Canadian Trucking Alliance and the American Trucking Associations teamed up today to support a pre-clearance pilot project at Peace Bridge.
The project at the third busiest U.S./Canada border crossing was jointly announced last month by Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister, Anne McLellan.
The project could see the relocation of all U.S. border functions for both commercial and passenger traffic from Buffalo, N.Y. to Fort Erie, Ont.
In a joint statement and appearance before the Undersecretary of Border & Transportation Security at the Department of Homeland Security, Asa Hutchinson, and Canada’s National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister, Rob Wright, the two national trucking organizations said they “are eager to examine alternative clearance options that could facilitate the flow of commercial traffic by reducing both significant traffic disruptions and processing delays given the sheer traffic volumes in order to enhance highway safety, reduce emissions in border areas, increase security and facilitate cross-border trade.”
“When talking about border crossings, balancing these objectives is a challenge,” said CTA CEO David Bradley. “We are confident that the Peace Bridge pilot will demonstrate the benefits of pre-clearance.”
The ultimate outcome for both CTA and ATA (American Trucking Associations) is full pre-clearance of U.S.-bound commercial traffic in Canada. Both organizations are wary of a second element of the pilot – supposedly favoured by some U.S. customs officials – that would limit U.S. functions in Canada to pre-screening (e.g., VACIS (x-ray) scans, radiation monitoring, physical examination of cargo) only.
The ATA-CTA joint statement says: “We could not support an effort to “pre-screen” US-bound commercial vehicles on the Canadian side if it leads to a “thickening” of the border rather than a more efficient and effective security control process.”
“It is far too early in the game to know exactly how the pilot will unfold, and whether the results may have relevance for other border crossings,” commented Bradley. “But we owe it to our members, to the shippers whose goods we carry, and to the people of both countries to constantly strive for improvements, and I’m hopeful this pilot will help us to learn how to do things better.”
It is also essential, the two organizations say, for the benefits enjoyed by FAST/C-TPAT carriers and drivers to be protected and enhanced. In addition, they call for special consideration for FAST-registered carriers and drivers who by nature of their business carry mixed loads of FAST and non-FAST freight.
ATA and CTA are insisting that they both be full participants in a pilot project steering committee which will be tasked with reviewing and providing input at each stage of the project.
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