OTTAWA — The Canadian Trucking Alliance says it’s struck a deal with U.S. Customs that would avoid any major border delays caused by carriers trying to renew transponder technology used to pay for US border crossing fees.
The contingency plan appears workable, but needs to be monitored closely, notes, CTA, since for now it’s only in effect from January 1st to January 31st, 2009.
The new system, called the Decal and Transponder Online Procurement System (DTOPS), was to have been introduced in September 2008. However, implementation was delayed twice due to problems uncovered during testing and was not introduced until November 17th — a mere seven weeks before the Jan. 1, 2008 renewal deadline.
Compounding the problem, the DTOPS office has a staff of only 30 people to handle the processing of electronic applications and the backlog of applications.
Generally, it takes anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks for the application and renewal process to be completed, says CTA.
But after meeting with CTA and American Trucking Associations officials last week, CBP confirmed that a contingency plan has been put in place to deal with the situation.
For one thing, 2008 transponders will remain active, meaning CBP will exempt a truck with a 2008 transponder, but no 2009 transponder, from having to pay at the border.
A truck without a 2008 transponder, but with proof of application/payment for 2009 will not have to pay the per-crossing fee. "Proof," explains CTA is a DTOPS receipt or a National Finance Centre receipt for paper applications. If the DTOPS receipt function is not working, other messages sent by the system will be accepted, such as "application pending."
A truck without a 2008 transponder or proof of purchase of a 2009 device will have to pay the per-crossing $10.75 USD.
"We are pleased that CBP has introduced a contingency plan to give themselves and the industry some time to ensure the smooth implementation of the new system and most importantly to avoid tie-ups at the border that we are sure would have started on January 1st unless something was done," says CTA’s CEO David Bradley.
Bradley said that CBP has agreed that the plan could be extended beyond the end of January if required.
"It’s unfortunate that it always seems that these things have to be resolved at the 11th hour, but better that the outcome be positive than no contingency plan at all," said Bradley.
CTA is recommending that carriers advise drivers to ensure receipts of application for the 2009 transponder are kept with them when crossing. Drivers with paperwork that is not accepted will be sent to secondary where they should request to see a supervisor.
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