Don’t get left behind

by Lou Smyrlis

Our cover story this month points out that the date for Canada Border Service Agency’s Advanced Commercial Information (ACI) e-manifest requirements to go into effect  is fast approaching and questions whether motor carriers are ready to comply.

Judging by the fact there is about six weeks left to go till CBSA’s Nov. 1 deadline (as of press time) – yet fewer than 1,000 carriers have signed up for the  new e-manifest portal – it would seem the deadline may catch many unprepared. With the implementation of e-manifest, highway carriers transporting goods into Canada are required to transmit cargo and conveyance data electronically to the CBSA prior to arrival. The cargo and conveyance data must be received and validated by the CBSA a minimum of one hour before the shipment arrives at the border.

Motor carriers may have delayed jumping on board because the CBSA itself has played pretty loose with deadlines over the past few years. The program was initially set to be rolled out in June 2010, then in September of that year, and then it was pushed back to Oct. 31, 2010 before being suspended indefinitely. Key to the delay was creating an acceptable online portal which carriers could use to file their Customs documentation. But that finally came online last August and so CBSA is stressing the latest deadline is for real.

Not all carriers may choose to use the CBSA portal to send their shipment information. Large fleets may opt to build their own electronic data interchange (EDI) approach; others may choose to rely on third-party service providers. But the purpose of the CBSA-portal, as our cover story indicates, was to provide a user-friendly, cost-effective (it’s free to use) way to transmit data for small and mid-sized fleets. Unfortunately, the number of those signing up so far has been less than impressive.

Carriers who did not take a test drive of the portal over the past year, missed out on an opportunity. Early adopters have more time to adjust to the process and address any problems they encounter before they start affecting their crossborder shipments.

It’s also too bad more carriers have not been early adopters, because apparently the experience with ACI is pretty good. The Canadian Trucking Alliance has surveyed its members to gauge experience with ACI so far and reported that while there are issues to address, implementation of ACI is going well.

Where problems do exist is at the port of entry and with US clients. Respondents to CTA’s survey said that further education is needed to clarify the process at the border. As well, CTA members reported that many of their US customers are not prepared for ACI. But those kinds of issues, and the education required to remedy them, require time to communicate.

As with all border legislation, there will be a period of “informed compliance” before fines are assessed. There is no better time than now then to get familiar with the new requirements and CBSA’s e-manifest portal.

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