ACE In the Hole: CBP agrees to delay enforcement

OTTAWA — US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has until further notice postponed so-called Phase 4 enforcement for trucks under the Trade Act.

In its push to get more carriers to use the electronic truck manifest component of the Automated Customs Environment (ACE), CBP had planned to step up enforcement of the US Trade Act’s advance cargo requirements Feb. 28. That would have meant that carriers not participating in the truck manifest component of ACE would have been denied entry to the U.S. if required cargo data was not successfully sent to CBP in advance of arrival at the border.

Truckers have some relief from ACE for now, but
carriers should be ready soon says CTA

The policy was to take affect at ports where ACE is currently available, including busy crossings such as Detroit, Port Huron and Blaine. But thanks to lobbying by the Canadian Trucking Alliance and the American Trucking Associations, CBP has agreed to back off — for a bit, anyway.

A particular difficulty for non-ACE carriers, notes CTA, is that their cargo data is typically conveyed to CBP by a third party such as a customs broker and carriers are not always in a position to know if the transmission was successful.

“While we fully support the objectives of ACE, I think it is fair to say that neither the trucking industry nor ACE is completely ready at this time,” said CEO of the CTA David Bradley in a press release.

Since the plan to move to Phase 4 enforcement was announced in late January, carriers have been raising concerns about the amount of time required to become ACE ready, uncertainty over the need to obtain ACE accounts, and various technical issues surrounding system functionality, CTA says.

It is expected that the truck manifest component of ACE will become mandatory at some point in 2006, though CBP has not yet announced a firm date.

“The postponement in enforcement is not only a huge relief for the trucking industry in Canada, it is also the prudent thing to do,” said Bradley. “As long as carriers have sufficient time to put in place the changes necessary to comply with mandatory truck manifest requirements, and CBP continues to work with carriers to address and resolve outstanding issues, the transition need not be difficult.”

Many carriers have been getting ready for ACE for some time now and are finding it to be a lengthy and challenging process. CTA and the provincial trucking associations have been actively promoting the need to prepare for ACE for over a year and have been holding information sessions for carriers.

“We have bought some time, but carriers who are just beginning to think about this had better get moving,” Bradley cautioned. “Make no mistake, ACE is coming and carriers should be seriously considering their options.”

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