Truck News


Fear factor The year since 9/11

REGINA, Sask. - It's almost a year after the world witnessed the new realities of global terrorism and trans-border trucking companies have been hit hard.According to a recent survey by International ...

REGINA, Sask. – It’s almost a year after the world witnessed the new realities of global terrorism and trans-border trucking companies have been hit hard.

According to a recent survey by International Road Dynamics (IRD) and KPMG LLP Canadian commercial carriers say border delays have cost their operations individually as much as $11.4 million in the wake of Sept. 11.

That’s assuming a trucker and his equipment are worth about $50/hour – for some highly-specialized fleets, this rate may as much as double.

The carriers surveyed reported, on average, southbound border delays have stretched an additional 20 per cent.

As well, northbound wait times have swollen by about 12 per cent.

These increases were despite the fact the economy has been slower resulting in a physical decrease in the volume of international truck traffic.

On the verge

While problems plague the industry, there certainly is cause for optimism as trucking has positioned itself at the cusp of a coming IT boom.

With joint Canada-U.S. programs like Free And Secure Trade (FAST) – announced in late June by Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister John Manley and U.S. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge – if there is any silver lining to the terrorist attacks, and its indeed a miniscule victory at best, it’s the fact border hiccups are finally getting the attention they deserve.

Good start

The previously mentioned FAST program establishes public-private partnerships to improve security measures throughout the entire continental supply chain.

“Companies that make the commitment to improve their supply chain security will enjoy the benefits of a ‘fast lane’ for commercial truck traffic,” Manley and Ridge insist in a joint statement. “In short, FAST will make many cross-border commercial shipments simpler, cheaper, and subject to fewer delays – all while enhancing security.”

Built on the framework of existing unilateral security protocols, Canada’s Customs Self Assessment (CSA) and Partners in Protection and the U.S. Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), FAST provides for quick clearance for low-risk truckload shipments. These being imported by pre-authorized importers and carried by pre-authorized drivers and carriers.

“Businesses will benefit from a simpler clearance process and greater efficiency in the shipment of their goods,” the two politicians add. “FAST also reduces the administrative burden on businesses by minimizing the amount of trade compliance verification that is done at the border. This allows front-line Customs officials to focus on higher-risk traffic.”

Welcomed with warnings

The announcement was great news for the trucking industry, which has long heralded the need for faster border clearance procedures given the Just-in-Time nature of today’s economy.

But FAST alone won’t be enough to solve the nagging pains involved in crossing the CanAm line, there are a host of other issues trucking is tackling in the year since 9/11.

As Canadian Trucking Alliance chief executive officer David Bradley pointed out in the August issue of Truck News, there are a couple of glitches in Manley and Ridge’s plan.

Setting aside its inability to handle less-than-truckload shipments, there are thus far, no plans to designate true “fast lanes” at the international land portals. This means carriers who’ve taken all of the necessary steps to ensure maximum security will still need to wait behind higher-risk carriers. Again the line could easily become clogged depending on who is heading to the border and when they arrive.

The second problem, which is more of a too-bad-we-didn’t-think-of-it-sooner type of complaint, is that the FAST program will require a driver ID card of some type and it’s likely going to include a fingerprint or some other biometric identifier.

There are 30,000 truckers already registered through the CSA program – all of which have, or will soon receive, ID cards. These cards don’t include a biometric component and will need to be redone. That’s going to cause headaches for a lot of folks, especially since the new cards will likely come at a cost rather than the free version issued through CSA.

Electronic eyes

But the earlier mentioned dynamic duo of Canadian acronyms – KPMG and IRD – say they have the answer.

Last November, the U.S. government put out a broad call for white papers on ways to improve the flow of goods at the border while at the same time enhancing security. One of more than 6,000 received was from Regina.

“They narrowed it down to 300 and then short listed those down again to only 30,” says Warren Smith, of KPMG. “We’re one of those, so obviously we weren’t too far off.”

The two companies are proposing a new electronic border-crossing system known as Expedited Carrier Tracking, or simply EXPECT.

Here’s how it would work…

At an in-land loading terminal, the vehicle and load would be pre-inspected before departing. The load and trailer-to-tractor connection would each be electronically sealed. As with what currently happens, the electronic manifest of the load is developed, and in addition, the electronic trip plan for this vehicle would be developed, including information on the vehicle, manifest, route and driver(s).

All of this information would be filed as a trip plan with the corresponding customs group at the predetermined border crossing and the run would commence.

The on-board vehicle computer (OBC) would begin the electronic trip logging process, all the while the status of electronic seals, driver identification, vehicle operation (speed, stops, and other information) would be recorded – as well as the global positioning system (GPS) data.

Any operation of the vehicle outside of acceptable, pre-announced parameters would be recorded in the carrier profile and impact the carrier’s pre-clearance opportunities.

“Depending on what the truck was hauling that would send up a red flag: To border personnel in the case of potentially destructive loads or only to the carrier in the case of more benign cargo,” says Smith.

As the vehicle approaches the inspection area, the summary of the trip data recorded by the OBC would be transmitted to the customs system via the dedicated short range communications (DSRC) system on the vehicle. This information would be analyzed for compliance as the vehicle approaches.

The identification of the vehicle would trigger a match to the electronic manifest previously filed and the information from the vehicle and manifest would be compared and displayed for the clearing officer. The information available to the officer could include an image of the driver and any additional information that the officer needs to make a decision.

If there are no identified problems, the officer can elect to clear the truck, driver and load without the vehicle ever stopping. It is anticipated the operation would take no more than a few seconds per vehicle, and would be done at a slow speed (no more than 30mph) through the facility. Customs officials would retain overriding authority in the system to do a random inspection of any vehicle they desire.

Strong support

The Canadian survey indicates carriers in this country would welcome a single system for crossing in both directions and 71 per cent already meet the technical IT requirements to run a program like EXPECT.

Smith adds there would likely be a cost of approximately $5 to $15 per trip – depending on the nature of the freight being hauled. As well, the survey indicates fleets peg the cost of the equipment required to run EXPECT – DSRC or automatic vehicle identification, electronic identification of the driver, electronic sealing of the load, the tractor-to-trailer connection, on-board vehicle trip recorder (including GPS integration) and on-board weighing – at about $3,000 per vehicle.

Based on these assumptions, the fleets surveyed also say it would likely take less than two years for the system to pay for itself. Of the carriers participating, 93 per cent add government should help wi
th the initial costs in terms of grants and/or credits.

“Basically, we’re just putting this out there to see what folks think of our proposal and at the same time we’re trying to arrange meetings with the various government departments involved,” says Smith. “This way, when we meet with them next, we’ll be armed with a new round of feedback to help answer and anticipate any questions.”

U.S. competitors

A similar system, designed by a Detroit firm, recently earned a US$135,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Special Programs Administration to ease the burden of development.

Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry Inc. will design a much smaller system to help prevent trucks carrying dangerous goods from illegally crossing the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

The firm will develop and test the tracking database system and document truckers’ CDL information, their cargo invoices, previous crossings and data on the truck’s registration. If the system proves successful, it could be expanded to all trucks and all 147 U.S. land-border crossings. The company expects a trial run of the system will be up and going by September.

The transport corps

But fleets won’t just be providing information to the government – they’re going to start collecting it, too. Truckers, bus drivers, railroad conductors and mail carriers are the most recent draftees into the war on terror. U.S. President George W. Bush is asking everyday working folks to call in suspicious activities and individuals they see in their travels. The new Terrorism Information and Prevention System, dubbed Operation TIPS, is part of an updated 90-page strategy for homeland security.

“Several of these industries have requested a uniform method of reporting such matters to public authorities,” says Justice Department spokeswoman Barbara Comstock. “The industries that will be involved in Operation TIPS represent workers who have regular routines that take them down roads, rivers, coastlines, public transit routes, and through neighborhoods and communities.”

The U.S. government will be setting up a toll-free telephone number and encouraging anyone in the U.S. to call in tips about potential terrorist activity.

While the program has been some time in the making, the one million volunteers recruited in 10 cities worry Muslims and civil liberties groups. They fear the war on terrorism is about to take an ominous turn and write a dark chapter in American history.

“This is bringing a bad name to this great nation,” says Syed Ahsani, chairman of the Southwest region of the American Muslim Alliance. Ahsani envisions amateur sleuths spying on innocent Americans – particularly those of Middle Eastern descent – in truck stops, along isolated rail lines and in their own neighborhoods.

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