TORONTO, Ont.– Canadian government support for using the FAST card as clearance for hazmat and transportation identity cards in the U.S. appears to be gaining momentum.
The news comes courtesy of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, which is lobbying for FAST card solution — to assist Canadian carriers and drivers in meeting new U.S. security measures.
CTA is hopeful Canadian government support will make the job of convincing Washington to go along with the plan a little easier.
Of immediate concern to CTA is the ability of Canadians to comply with new U.S. hazmat requirements and to obtain a U.S. Transportation Worker Identity Card (TWIC). Under new laws, U.S. truck drivers must pass a mandatory security check before they can receive a hazmat endorsement on their commercial driver’s licences. No such endorsement mechanism exists in Canada, but Canadian drivers will ultimately have to comply somehow.
Similarly, there is presently no regulatory or legislative mechanism for Canadian truck drivers to even apply for a TWIC card which one day is expected to be carried by about 20 million U.S. transportation workers and will be required for entrance into transportation facilities. A solution to both issues, according to CTA, would be to have the driver Free & Secure Trade (FAST) card, which is jointly administered by Canadian and U.S. customs agencies and which includes a background check, be recognized as proof of security clearance for Canadian drivers. CTA has been pitching the idea to officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) including the Under-Secretary, Asa Hutchinson.
According to David Bradley, CEO of the trucking alliance, “the initial response from U.S. security officials has on balance been positive, but there is still a lot of work to do.” He adds that the American Trucking Associations also appears favourable to the idea.
However, says Bradley, “to move this issue forward we need a coordinated approach to USDHS by ourselves and the Government of Canada. We feel our chances of success are increased if we can speak with one Canadian voice.” Obtaining and coordinating that support has proved to be somewhat of a challenge. “It’s not like the U.S. where you deal with one department, albeit a new and vast one – here we have to convince at least three federal departments.
“Everyone we talked to seemed to think what we are proposing makes sense, but getting Transport Canada (which has the lead on the hazmat and TWIC issues), the CCRA (which administers the FAST program) and the Privy Council Office (which reports to Deputy Prime Minister, John Manley, on the 30-Point Smart Border Plan) all moving in the same direction has taken some time,” says Bradley, “but over the last week or so, things seem to be coming together.”
During that period, Bradley and CTA staff met with Manley and senior officials at Transport Canada and CCRA in an effort to elevate these issues at a summit between Manley and USDHD secretary, Tom Ridge, and at a meeting between the Canadian and U.S. commissioners responsible for customs — both expected to take place over the next several weeks.
According to Bradley, CCRA came on side first; and his meeting with Manley went well. The latest piece of the puzzle arrived earlier this week when Transport Canada deputy minister, Louis Ranger, wrote Bradley, saying that based on recent meetings between CTA and the department, he was able to confirm that “Transport Canada is considering the use of the FAST card as a driver (security) credential, at least as an interim solution.”
The deputy added: “To this end, we are working with Canada Customs & Revenue Agency (CCRA) to determine the FAST card’s suitability in the context of other clearance requirements and programs that may have an impact on the national transportation system. We are also reviewing U.S. security legislation requiring clearances for transportation workers as well as proposed Canadian legislation that could affect U.S. citizens using the Canadian transportation system.”
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