How much do Canadian government officials understand the daily realities of cross-border trucking?
If you were among the carriers who attended the recent consultative session for importers, carriers and brokers, held by the people in charge of Customs Self-Assessment and the Free and Secure Trade program in Ottawa, you might have come away with the impression they don’t understand much.
Not to say that these government officials aren’t experts in their fields, or unwilling to learn. To the contrary, they are intelligent, qualified people who know a thing or two about how to develop systems that work – on paper. But one can’t help hoping that one of them will one day stumble across a busy border crossing, just in time to see what happens when what looks good on paper goes horribly wrong.
Take for example the recent implementation of the new U.S. pre-reporting requirements at land borders.
Just weeks after the U.S. started enforcing its pre-arrival reporting rules (one hour for non-FAST, a half-hour for FAST) Canadian carriers were already racking up the fines at US$5,000 to US$10,000 a pop, even if they weren’t responsible for the failure to transmit the information about their arrival and their loads within the time frame.
In fact so many Canadian carriers racked up fines that the CTA launched a survey to confirm what they’d already predicted would happen – carriers were being fined for not only their own mistakes, but for the failure of other members of the supply chain, e.g. importers, freight forwarders, brokers etc. to submit accurate information in a timely fashion.
And because it is difficult, if not sometimes impossible, for carriers and/or drivers to actually check and see if the correct information has been furnished prior to their arrival at the border, they have no choice but to make their way there and risk getting stuck for hours, turned back or fined, even if they themselves have done their part of the reporting.
In other words, the carriers and even the drivers themselves are bearing the weight of responsibility for the security of the nation’s entire supply chain.
This scapegoat effect is something the trucking industry on both sides of the border has been trying to communicate to government officials ever since the prospect of pre-arrival notification reared its head, but to no avail.
And while the U.S. prior notice system is already proving carriers right, the Canadians developing our own systems for enforcement of the new prior-notice rules have yet to smell the goat poo.
Here’s hoping they don’t step in it. Let’s hope that the people developing the automated system for enforcing Canada’s land border pre-notification rules (due out in 2006) take the U.S example into account.
Let them develop a parallel system for pre-notifying carriers about whether their load information has been submitted on time and accurately to the right place by all parties concerned.
The result will be fewer border back ups at the border, fewer fines and much better industry participation.