OTTAWA, Ont. — Full enforcement of a U.S. Customs rule that would have turned BRASS drivers without FAST cards back at the border Monday has been postponed.
The news is a relief to the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), who along with its US counterpart, the American Trucking Associations, was lobbying for a review of enforcement deadlines to avoid further border disruptions. U.S. Customs has now 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.
In a statement issued today, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that it will not commence full enforcement of the U.S. Trade Act requirement. The deadline for BRASS drivers to obtain their FAST cards has been extended to May 1, 2005, and until that time drivers not in possession of a valid FAST card will receive “informed compliance notices,” in other words, warnings.
The problem, according to the CEO of the trucking alliance, 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 8 to 12 weeks for the governments to fully process an application,” said Bradley, “the potential for a serious disruption to trade was very real.”
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 enrollment centres will be provided assistance to eliminate the backlog and process the applications within 90 days.
While CTA is pleased with the CBP announcement, officials say the question of whether the May 1 deadline provides enough time for the driver applications to be processed still remains.
Moreover, CTA has also asked CBP to clarify the procedures under which it assesses $5,000 to $10,000 fines for non-compliance with advance cargo information rules, in order to ensure that only the party actually responsible for the violation – carrier, shipper or broker – receives the penalty. “
This is another important matter that we hope to have resolved soon,” said Bradley.
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