OTTAWA, Ont. — In response to complaints from the national trucking associations on both sides of the Canada-US border, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published a document which clearly lays out the measures it will take to address security breaches involving motor carriers – the most important of these being that suspension or removal from the program will not be immediate and not without following this newly published process.
Since the inception of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, motor carriers on both sides of the border have been concerned about the lack of transparency and due process when a security incident triggers a suspension or removal from the so-called trusted trader program.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), the federation of provincial trucking associations representing over 4,500 trucking companies, says the DHS document is a significant step forward. The alliance has long been concerned about situations where carriers with otherwise diligent security processes in place can be immediately suspended from C-TPAT for what are relatively minor or infrequent incidents (such as failure to properly seal a trailer) sometimes with little or no communication or the opportunity to implement corrective action, pending an investigation.
“The presumption that one is innocent until proven guilty was a major concern to us,” says David Bradley, president and CEO of the alliance. “We’re not talking about situations involving serious security breaches, or protecting companies that are not living up to their security commitments, but the kinds of things that happen on any given day to any good company.”
Immediate removal from the program can have devastating financial consequences for a trucking company. “All your customers know is that your C-TPAT privileges have been suspended,” he says. “By the time the Department of Homeland Security conducts their investigation and even if the company is reinstated, the customer is already lost.”
Following meetings this spring involving CTA, the US Embassy in Ottawa, the American Trucking Association and DHS, a commitment was made to ensure all processes are followed rigorously when a security incident comes to the attention of C-TPAT staff. DHS also agreed to provide industry partners with detailed information on their legal rights and obligations following a security incident. In the document published this week, DHS makes a strong commitment to “not arbitrarily suspend or remove a partner from the program [and] make every effort to work with the partner to achieve required levels of compliance.” Of particular note:
- Partners will not be immediately suspended if they identify a security breach and report it to DHS. The Agency notes that self-reporting “…demonstrates that the partner’s security procedures are functioning.”
- While DHS reserves the right to impose an immediate suspension, “the program will not automatically suspend a partner if a breach occurs” and a review will be conducted to determine the cause of a security breach prior to any decision to suspend.
- In the event a partner is suspended, “the suspension letter will clearly articulate the reasons for the suspension and include requirements the partner must meet to be reinstated.”
“Canadian carriers have embraced the C-TPAT program from the beginning and make no mistake, carriers’ security obligations have not been weakened and those who breach their obligations will have to account to DHS,” says Bradley. “But at the same time, the document demonstrates a clear commitment to partnership – the foundation on which the program is built – which sometimes seemed to be lacking in the past.”
Furthermore, DHS has provided CTA a list of ten questions C-TPAT program members can use to help determine why a membership that would normally be in good standing could be placed in jeopardy. (Click here for the list).
A full copy of the DHS document, “Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism – Suspension, Removal, Appeals and Reinstatement Processes” can be found here.
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