Truck News


It’s a good time to evaluate border crossing procedures

WINDSOR, Ont. - For the first time since 9/11, there has been a 'leveling off' of new security programs at the border, presenting carriers with a good opportunity to evaluate and improve their border ...

WINDSOR, Ont. – For the first time since 9/11, there has been a ‘leveling off’ of new security programs at the border, presenting carriers with a good opportunity to evaluate and improve their border crossing procedures, according to Debbie Dent director of compliance and Customs with the Panalpina Group.

She made the remarks during the second stop of the Driving for Profit seminar series, hosted by NAL Insurance and KRTS Transportation Specialists and sponsored by SelecTrucks.

“We are in a holding pattern,” Dent said, of the seemingly constant influx of new border security programs that have been put in place since 9/11. “This is a prime time to look at how you’re doing business and how you should be doing business (at the border). It’s time to start taking challenges and turning them into opportunities.”

For starters, Dent said carriers that are FAST-approved should be pressuring their customers to take part in the program.

While driver and carrier involvement in FAST has been high, there’s still a reluctance among shippers to become FASTapproved, she noted.

“If one of those elements (driver/carrier/freight) is not there, you can’t take advantage of that dedicated lane,” she pointed out.

Dent also suggested carriers encourage their drivers to become FAST-approved, even if they themselves are not a FAST carrier.

“Having a FAST card should be as important as having a clean CDL,” said Dent. “Insist on a driver being FAST-approved even if your carrier is not.”

Dent pointed out that the FAST approval process is likely to unearth any skeletons a driver may be hiding in the closet.

Carriers must also develop contingency plans for drivers that lose their FAST card, Dent suggested. She recalled the story of one driver who ‘forgot’ to declare several bottles of booze he purchased at duty-free. That’s an automatic three-year suspension of FAST privileges, she said.

“That’s huge. Now you’ve got to find a way to defer that driver.”

Dent also offered carriers some tips on how to survive a Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) audit. She suggested pulling 10 random files and conducting a self-audit to get an idea of whether or not your fleet is in compliance.

“Every day, we see and hear of carriers that have issues with their business records,” said Dent.

She suggested checking to ensure: Bills of Lading have been signed; Customs cargo documentation has been stamped; lists of drivers and equipment are up to date; and that all items acquired outside Canada have been declared – including truck repairs.

Dent said one carrier incurred $88,000 in fines because its drivers didn’t know to declare tire purchases and emergency repairs conducted in the US.

There’s a $100 penalty for each repair or purchase that wasn’t declared at the border, she pointed out. Carriers that uncover problems with their record-keeping processes may be able to file a “voluntary disclosure” with CBSA to buy themselves some more time to get their house in order.

Looking ahead, Dent said carriers should prepare for the roll-out of the Advanced Commercial Information (ACI) program – Canada’s version of ACE.

The electronic pre-clearance program is already deployed in marine and air modes, and road transport is next, Dent said. It’s expected ACI will be rolled out next summer and phased-in gradually right up until 2012.

Under the program e-Manifests will have to be submitted one hour before a Canadian-bound load arrives at the border. Only carriers presenting under the Customs Self Assessment (CSA) release option will be exempted from the program.

Like ACE, the Canadian program will feature a Web portal – but it will not be the same portal used by ACE. Dent said carriers should embrace the new program.

“It’s going to happen, we might as well accept it,” she said, adding there’s still time for fleets to offer feedback and suggestions.

To make the transition to ACI easier, she suggested companies submit their load information before they arrive within an hour of the border.

“Carriers have to start from the time they leave the shipper’s location. Don’t wait until they’re one hour from the border,” she advised.

She also urged them to accurately declare their arrival time. “Brokers use that information to manage their time. When I see a fax coming in from California that says it’s going to be here in an hour, that doesn’t help us.”

Outside the implementation of ACI and changes to Partners in Protection (PIP) (see pg. 11), Dent said cross-border carriers can take some solace in the fact we appear to be in a holding pattern when it comes to new border security initiatives.

“Whatever they change now will be to improve efficiency and tweak systems,” she predicted.

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