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Battling Prenote Times: Light at the End of the Tunnel?

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Customs is in negotiations with the Food and Drug Administration to harmonize the prenotification time frames of both agencies.


HOPE IN SIGHT: US Customs is making nice with the FDA.
HOPE IN SIGHT: US Customs is making nice with the FDA.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Customs is in negotiations with the Food and Drug Administration to harmonize the prenotification time frames of both agencies.

Truck News learned as much in an exclusive interview with U.S. Customs and Border Protection attach Eric Couture.

“We’re working on it, but it’s not a done deal,” said Couture.

“We haven’t had a commitment yet from the FDA, but we haven’t had a negative reaction either, so we’re taking that as a positive, although there’s nothing in writing.”

Differing time frames for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prenotification requirements for U.S. imports were the subject of much criticism as 2003 drew to a close.

While CBP was finalizing its plans to require mandatory electronic reporting of goods one hour (for non-FAST shipments) and 30 minutes (for FAST shipments) in advance of arrival at the border, the FDA implemented its own time frames for reporting, requiring two hours advance notice before arrival at the border as of Dec. 12 last year.

Carriers, especially those specializing in LTL and mixed loads, were and remain to this day worried about having to coordinate arrival times so everything in their loads would make it to and across the border on time.

All agreed that having to comply with one time frame for goods moving across the border was more than enough, and that having to comply with two differing times frames would be difficult.

Now comes news there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Customs is hoping to take over the administration of the FDA prenotification requirements once its own electronic reporting system is up and running at the borders, said Couture.

But that could be more than a year from now, he added. (In the meantime, the FDA plans to have its own reporting requirements fully phased in and implemented by August of this year.)

“It’s definitely going to take us some time to get the (CBP) electronic reporting system up and running,” he said. “We don’t even have it working in Buffalo yet.”

Couture said it will take even longer to get the new reporting system in place at border crossings at more remote crossings, in the Midwest for example.

The reporting system will come into effect on a port-by-port basis, or possibly in groups of ports, said Couture.

“An announcement will be made in the federal register when a port or a group of ports are ready to start processing prenotification electronically,” said Couture.

Carriers will then have 90 days to comply.

The bottom line is that there may still be a substantial period of time during which carriers will be required to calculate their arrival times at border crossings according to two different sets of time frames. Which goes a long way towards explaining why Canadian Trucking Alliance CEO David Bradley didn’t jump for joy when informed of CBP’s plans to harmonize FDA time frames with its own.

“Good, get on with it,” was Bradley’s short but succinct comment.


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