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December’s Double Whammy

TORONTO, ONT. - It was enough to get even Santa's knickers in a twist.The last weeks of 2003 saw the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advance reporting requirements implemented as well as the Dec. 5 ...


READY OR NOT: Newly implemented FDA regulations have carriers wondering just how long U.S. bound trucks will be kept waiting.
READY OR NOT: Newly implemented FDA regulations have carriers wondering just how long U.S. bound trucks will be kept waiting.

TORONTO, ONT. – It was enough to get even Santa’s knickers in a twist.

The last weeks of 2003 saw the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advance reporting requirements implemented as well as the Dec. 5 publication of the new prenotification requirements for U.S. Customs.

While FDA “soft enforcement” of its new cargo reporting regulations (two hours in advance of arrival at U.S. Customs) went into effect Dec. 12, Homeland Security officials announced the new Customs and Border Protection (CBP) prenotification time frames (one hour for non-FAST truck shipments and 30 minutes for FAST shipments).

Carriers, for their part, questioned whether the U.S. powers that be had bitten off more than they could chew.

“I think we’re as prepared as we can be,” said Enno Jakobson, risk manager for Challenger Motor freight, in a November interview with Truck News.

“The question is whether the FDA is ready. They didn’t even have their reporting and registration site up and running last week.”

Jakobson was not alone in suspecting the FDA wasn’t nearly as prepared as it should have been, even for so-called “soft-enforcement” of the new registration and advance cargo reporting rules.

Several carriers had heard the rumour, which remains unconfirmed by the FDA, that the agency had hired only five additional employees to staff its registration and reporting help line.

“I heard that too,” said Rob Penner, vice-president of operations for Bison.

“If that’s the case it’s just laughable.”

Indeed, there seemed to be a general feeling in the trucking community that the FDA just wouldn’t be able to hold its own in the fast and furious world of trucking.

FDA officials, for their part, did not return Truck News phone calls, but one help desk employee did let it slip the agency had already decided to extend its 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST work hours.

“It’ll be 24/7 by the end of December ma’am,” said one help line employee who did not identify herself.

And Customs officials themselves publicly announced at the OTA convention in November that the FDA designated Customs inspectors to act in lieu of the FDA’s own inspectors simply because the FDA does not currently have enough inspectors to staff every border point 24/7.

Could it be that the U.S. agencies are finally beginning to realize the logistical nightmare they’ve created?

“I think so,” said Jeff Barry, vice-president of operations for Brenway Transport, a company based in Fredericton, N.B.

“They (U.S. Homeland Security) already delayed the prenotification rules they were supposed to come out with Oct. 1. I think when they figure out how much trouble this is going to cause and how much money this is going to cost they’re not going to go through with it.”

Be that as it may, U.S. Homeland Security did in fact come out with its mandatory electronic advance cargo reporting rules for non-FDA regulated shipments.

The announcement that time frames would remain as previously announced (30 minutes for FAST, one hour for non-FAST) came in late November, when U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, revealed the content of the new rules sent to the U.S Congress for approval.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance’s response was both swift and predictable.

“The trucking industry is very concerned over the cost of the measures, the ability of government to effectively manage the new system, the impact on time-sensitive shipments, and delays at the border that will result – at least in the initial stages – through a complex system of processing information from over 36,500 trucks daily,” said Alliance CEO David Bradley.

One of the hardest hit will be less-than-truckload carriers, who will have to provide individual prior notice data on each and every shipment on the truck, he said.

“It’s a bit like trying to squeeze an elephant through the eye of a needle,” Bradley said, adding the new rules “will be tantamount to economic re-regulation of the cross-border trucking industry.

“The cumulative cost of the myriad of U.S. domestic security measures is staggering and will drive smaller carriers or carriers that are not in a financially stable situation out of the marketplace.”

Not only are there concerns over costs, Bradley said, but also very real concerns over what impact these prenotification rules will have on just-in-time shipments and whether the government systems can actually manage the process. According to Bradley, the new (CBP) rules are better than earlier drafts, but still add to the increasing complexity and cost of crossing the border.

“The earlier versions of the rules would definitely have ground just-in-time shipments to a halt. The new rules may not halt J-I-T shipments, but they could disrupt them and the potential is there for mass confusion at the busiest border crossings at least in the short-term.

“What normally would take years to plan and implement is now occurring in a matter of months.”

Moreover, different U.S. government agencies are “bumping into each other trying to implement overlapping programs,” said Bradley, pointing to the FDA advance cargo reporting rules, with different time periods and systems than the Homeland Security rules.

“We have already heard from some of the major border crossings that they are concerned the FDA rules are going to create havoc and long lines of trucks trying to deliver food products to the U.S.”

In a regulatory impact assessment, Homeland Security admitted U.S. carriers would face initial costs to purchase and implement the systems necessary for electronic data interchange.

However, the department argued this will be offset by the timesavings gained by faster clearance across the border.

That might be true in the future, but faster clearance will require more than just electronic prenotification, said Bradley.

“It will require investment in border infrastructure, proper staffing levels, more shipper involvement in programs like FAST and cooperation on all the other security-related measures in the pipeline,” he said.

It is estimated there are 22,000 trucking companies delivering inbound shipments to the U.S., with most activity (97.2 per cent) at the Canada-U.S. border. Homeland Security claims 60 per cent of shipments to the U.S. by truck arrive with manually presented hard copy information.

Manifest information that will need to be transmitted to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency includes: conveyance/equipment number; carrier identification number; trip/freight bill/pro bill number; container/seal number; foreign origin location; scheduled date and time of arrival at first U.S. port of entry; numbers and quantities of cargo as contained in bills of lading; weight of the cargo; precise description of the cargo; internationally recognized hazardous material code; complete shipper and consignee name/address/identification number.

Not all border points will be ready to implement the rules at the same time. Once a location is ready and official notice given, truckers will have 90 days to comply, according to the CTA.

(The plan was to have the new rules approved by Congress and published in the federal register by Dec. 5. Implementation is normally set for 90 days after publication, but it’s expected the CBP rules will also be subject to a “soft enforcement” period for carriers.)

The final rules, barring amendments, are available at:

http://www.customs.gov/xp/cgov/import/communications_to_industry/advance_info/

In the meantime, carriers struggling with FDA compliance can call for technical assistance:

For the United States, call 800-216-7331 or 301-575-0156

From all other countries and locations, call 301-575-0156

Send a fax to 301-210-0247

Requests for assistance also may be emailed to furls@fda.gov. For assistance with ABI/ACS transmission, contact your CBP client representative. Both the CBP and FDA systems for prior notice should be available for electronic information transmission 24 hours per day, seven days per week (as of De
c. 12, 2003). If the ABI/ACS is not working, then prior notice must be submitted using the FDA PN System Interface. If the FDA PN System Interface does not appear to be working properly, the online Help Desk should be contacted first. If the system is not working, then the required prior notice information, which appears in the interim final rule and will be listed on FDA’s Web site, must be submitted by fax or email.

The fax number(s) and email address(es) where they can be sent will be posted on the FDA Web site (www.fda.gov).


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