Undefended" it may be, but the Canada-US border is often mired in delays. No wonder. In 2004, the Canada Border Services Agency had to process more than 12 million commercial releases, including about...
Undefended” it may be, but the Canada-US border is often mired in delays. No wonder. In 2004, the Canada Border Services Agency had to process more than 12 million commercial releases, including about $355 billion worth of imports, and $412 billion in exports.
Yet some crossed the border a little faster than others.
The Free and Secure Trade (FAST) initiative – which builds on the Customs Self-Assessment (CSA) pre-approval program and the increased security measures of Partners in Protection (PIP) – helps to pre-clear drivers and their loads before they even reach the border. While the related shipments can still be subjected to compliance and enforcement checks, FAST ensures they can be cleared with less information, and importers don’t need to transmit data for each transaction. The FAST-approved drivers, meanwhile, can often enjoy access to dedicated traffic lanes at several border crossings.
“Having the drivers and the suppliers and everybody preapproved certainly makes [a crossing] a lot quicker,” agrees Brad Bebbington, director of operations at Challenger Motor Freight, which has about 750 FAST-approved drivers on staff.
Drivers can qualify for FAST approval if they are:
* citizens or permanent residents of the US or Canada
* admissible to Canada or the US under applicable immigration laws
* at least 18 years old
* have a valid driver’s licence
* and, in the eyes of the two border agencies, “are of good character”
The application process begins when a form and supporting documents are sent to a FAST processing centre in Canada, along with the $80 application fee. A copy of that information is then sent to the US, which performs its own risk assessment.
“The initial processing of your application will take approximately four to six weeks,” says Cara Prest of the Canada Border Services Agency. “However, processing time may vary depending on the volume of applications.”
The most common reasons for rejected applications involve incorrect or incomplete application forms, she says. Employment history and addresses, for example, need to be provided for the last five continuous years.
Once the paperwork is processed, drivers need to go to a FAST Enrolment Centre to be interviewed, fingerprinted and photographed.
“If the individual does not present themselves within 180 days, the individual will be required to re-apply and pay [the processing fee] again,” Prest adds.
Once a card is issued, it’s valid for five years, and drivers are able to continue using them if they leave to work for another eligible fleet. “The FAST card belongs to the driver. Not the carrier company,” she says.
If an application is not approved, or FAST status is revoked, a driver has 30 days to apply for a “redress” of the situation.
More information is available by calling 866-340-FAST (3278), or through the Internet at www.cbsa.gc.ca/fast.
The Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC) is an incorporated non-profit organization with a volunteer Board of Directors that is representative of stakeholders from the Canadian trucking industry. With the conviction that the best human resources skills and practices are essential to the attainment of excellence by the Canadian trucking industry, the mission of the Council is “to assist the Canadian trucking industry to recruit, train and retain the human resources needed to meet current and long-term requirements.” This column is provided for information purposes only, and should not be considered an alternative to professional legal advice. Further information about sound human resources practices can be found at www.cthrc.com.
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