With carriers already coping with ACE and a truckload of other so-called US security measures and fees one might be justified in asking: “Is this it?”
Unfortunately, it does not appear that the political appetite for even more border controls has been satiated.
We recently learned that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is integrating its systems with ACE.
While it is unclear at this point what this means for border or on-road inspection, it is something to watch.
The latest legislative initiative – a bill recently introduced in the US House of Representatives by a Democratic Congressman from Michigan, who also chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce – if passed would limit food imports into the US to a handful of ports situated within close proximity to one of only five FDA inspection laboratories.
The 12 ports within the US authorized to process food imports would be limited to: Denver; Detroit; Kansas City; Philadelphia; San Francisco; Winchester; Atlanta; Cincinnati; Jefferson; Los Angeles; New York; and Seattle.
Talk about a funnel effect. Just to add to the concern, the bill would also impose fees on food and drug imports that some say would total about a half billion dollars per year.
Over at the US Department of Homeland Security it also appears to be business as usual. In the Oct. 3 entry on the DHS blog, the Leadership Journal, an article entitled “Worth the Wait” written by the Commissioner of US Border Protection, W. Ralph Basham appears. In it, the commissioner explains what he calls the “balancing act between two ideals: vigilance and convenience” and the difficulties in attaining this balance, especially at the land borders.
While he acknowledges that “there is no denying (the additional security at our borders since 2001) has contributed to added wait times,” he lays much of the blame on infrastructure concerns and says “while we regret the inconvenience, we cannot apologize for doing our jobs.”
He argues “additional security is not the only cause of wait times at the border, and it shouldn’t become the scapegoat.”
In addition to a lack of infrastructure “border wait times are further affected by everything from Mexican holidays to the relative strength of the Canadian dollar” and “those who are serious about solutions need to start thinking of the wait times issue much more as a transportation, infrastructure, and volume problem than a “security” problem.”
Clearly, the situation and the problems at Canada-US border crossings are complex and can be attributed at various times to a host of factors.
There were problems at the border prior to 9/11.
So to blame all the problems, all of the time, on US security measures would be unfair.
However – and while there is no doubt that infrastructure or the lack thereof is an important factor at a number of key border crossings – it would be equally wrong to try and downplay the impact all the new US security measures has had on border delays and costs.
Even though transborder truck traffic is down, carriers and truck drivers will tell you that the lineups were more frequent and lasted longer at a number of crossings in recent months – even where infrastructure is not a concern.
This is borne out by the results of some recent work by Transport Canada and an OTA survey of carriers.
Things got so bad this past summer at least at one Ontario-Michigan crossing that portable toilets had to be brought in to accommodate for the long delays on the Canadian side.
There is still a lot of work to do to ensure that many of the new security measures are properly designed, tested and implemented – and that CBP officers are properly trained and exercise appropriate discretion.
The Commissioner’s job is to implement measures that put into effect the laws the politicians pass. That is a huge undertaking and the trucking associations are willing to work with him.
We do not question the security imperative, but at some point people in the US need to ask what the cost-benefit of a thickening border is or it appears we will continue to see more ideas for more costly measures. Somewhere along the line the principles of risk assessment and the precept that 99.9% of all shipments are lawful has been lost.
– David Bradley is president of the Ontario Trucking Association and chief executive officer of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.
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