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Trucking gets last minute FAST reprieve

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Canadian BRASS drivers without FAST cards breathed a sigh of relief in late January when they learned U.S. Customs had agreed to push back to May 1 enforcement of a rule that would...


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Canadian BRASS drivers without FAST cards breathed a sigh of relief in late January when they learned U.S. Customs had agreed to push back to May 1 enforcement of a rule that would have turned them back at the border starting Jan. 31.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) along with its U.S. counterpart, the American Trucking Associations, had been lobbying furiously for a review of enforcement deadlines to avoid further border disruptions.

The problem, according to CTA CEO David Bradley, was relatively simple: “Not enough drivers with FAST cards to move the volume of trade moving by BRASS. We want to comply, but there is still a lot of work to do by everyone.”

CTA estimates that around 70,000 of the 87,000 or so drivers involved in cross-border trucking have applied for FAST registration, but less than 30,000 of those drivers have completed the process, leaving more than 40,000 drivers at various stages of processing.

“Since it is presently taking eight to 12 weeks for the governments to fully process an application, the potential for a serious disruption to trade was very real,” said Bradley.

But trucking industry insiders got what they wanted when U.S. Customs announced it had decided to allow government agencies more time to process a huge backlog in driver security screening applications, which was preventing many BRASS drivers from obtaining their FAST (Free and Secure Trade) cards.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) pushed back the deadline for BRASS drivers to obtain their FAST cards to May 1, 2005, until which time drivers not in possession of a valid FAST card will receive “informed compliance notices,” in other words, warnings, at the border.

In its statement, CBP states that “Since (it) published its enforcement schedule in October 2004 the number of FAST driver applications has increased dramatically.

“This surge in applications has exceeded the capacity of the FAST processing centre to process the applications leading to delays and backlogs in the application process. In addition, there are approximately 15,000 conditionally approved drivers that have not completed the interview process to receive their cards. Based on the size of the backlog of applications CBP will delay the enforcement of this requirement.”

CBP also said that the FAST Processing Centre and enrolment centres will be provided assistance to eliminate the backlog and process the applications within 90 days.

But the question of whether the May 1 deadline provides enough time for the driver applications to be processed still remains, say CTA officials.

Meanwhile, carriers are just happy they won’t have to deal with one more Department of Homeland Security-related border delay.

“We are one of those carriers that was well-prepared,” said Dan Einwechter, president of Challenger Motor Freight.

“But we’re still glad we won’t have to deal with the back up caused by those who aren’t.”


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