Yet again, truckers are being asked to stretch their already tight budgets and resources to remain in compliance with an ever-multiplying plethora of security related rules.
This time it’s putting money and time aside so they can start to file e-manifests, basically the electronic version of what truckers have been asked to provide to U.S. Customs all along. (The start date has yet to be announced for the northern border – although it was supposed to be this fall. Be that as it may, the goal is for them to become mandatory and soon.)
The electronic version, of course, will involve investing a lot of money in costly programming and equipment, or spending money as you go by using a service provider, who will be more than happy to do the e-manifest submission work for you, for a fee.
So what’s in it for you, you may well ask?
Well, first and foremost, you don’t have a choice. If you don’t file your e-manifest (via the Web) you won’t get into the States.
Secondly, filing an e-manifest actually may make for fewer non-compliance fines for you.
Here’s the scenario: You submit your e-manifest via the Web ahead of time (as per the prenotification rules you should already be following), your customs broker submits your entry info within the same time frame and they get matched up at the border. Ideally, both bits of info arrive at U.S. Customs on time, the entry and your e-manifest match up, and U.S. Customs lets you through at primary, simple as that.
It’s fast and it’s easy. Or not. Your customs broker may forget to file the entry on time, or claim he or she never got it. But you’ve got proof you did your part, which means you won’t get fined by U.S. Customs, which is what the customs people did when they first brought in the new prenotification rules.
And last, but certainly not least, it will be easier to pin the blame for screw-ups on those responsible for them.
Customs (and you) will have a record of the manifest you filed and the time you filed it. You can even download a copy of it to your customs broker directly, using the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) portal available free courtesy of Customs. That way you have proof you sent the appropriate documents to the right person at the right time. This sort of proof comes in handy when you’re having an argument about who pays for border wait times or turn-arounds with your broker or shipper.
The moral of the story is this – you can make lemonade out of this new lemon. It won’t keep you from waiting if your customs broker is late with the required info, but it will give you something to discourage him or her from being late again.