FAST lanes aren’t fast enough, trucker tells Congress

WASHINGTON — There needs to be an improvement to border infrastructure and procedures to boost security and freight transportation efficiency across borders, one of America’s most prominent crosss-border truckers told Congress.

Stephen Russell, chairman and CEO of fully fledged NAFTA carrier Celadon Group of Indianapolis, called for more funds for infrastructure, more enforcement of trade security program rules, and an increased role in coordinating federal efforts to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency.

Speaking on behalf of the American Trucking Associations, he told the House Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism that "closer cooperation and understanding between industry and government will yield an even higher degree of security at our nation’s borders and will improve cross-border operations and the international supply chain."

While he applauded such programs as Free and Secure Trade (FAST) and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program (C-TPAT), he, like many other truckers, shippers, and stakeholders, bemoaned the lack of investment in infrastructure and resources needed to make the program truly successful for a wider group of businesses.

The end goals of border security and NAFTA efficiency
are not mutually exclusive, Celadon’s Russell told lawmakers

"The biggest challenge trucking companies continue to face with the C-TPAT/FAST program is the lack of ‘true’ FAST lanes," said Russell. "This results in low-risk C-TPAT carriers being stuck in the same traffic as non-C-TPAT certified carriers."

"The end goals of security and efficiency are not mutually exclusive," he continued. "Though it is impossible to achieve absolute security without bringing trade to a standstill, we can greatly reduce the potential of being targeted by our enemies by managing risk, increasing security awareness among company personnel, and implementing simple cost-effective security measures."

Russell also reiterated some notorious concerns from truckers regarding, as some have called, "draconian" policies used to enforce C-TPAT on otherwise good carriers and their customers.)

If a carrier has a single security incident, its C-TPAT status is immediately taken away, even before an investigation takes place. If an inspection finds contraband on a C-TPAT carrier’s truck, the carrier can be suspended from the program without knowing if the contraband was placed on the truck during loading of freight or at another point in the supply chain, Russell noted.

He suggested that the carrier get an investigation first, instead of being suspended immediately. Even if found not at fault, the company could be put on probation.

Russell also voiced his support of the development of the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) for submitting e-manifests.

"The trucking industry encourages the U.S. government, in cooperation with both Canada and Mexico, to improve and to facilitate the capture and exchange of information on goods and people crossing our land borders," Russell said.

ATA recommends that the U.S. government quickly implement the Smart Border Accord between the U.S. and Canada, the 22 Point Plan between the U.S. and Mexico, and recommendations of the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership.

— with files from

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