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Insights on border legislation from our Shipper-Carrier Rountable

After more than five years of stricter and more expensive border legislation, have we finally reached the end goal ...

After more than five years of stricter and more expensive border legislation, have we finally reached the end goal of a more secure and efficient border? <br>
Border security was one of the hot issues discussed by the shipper and motor carrier executives participating in our first annual Issues Roundtable, sponsored by Shaw Tracking. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing their views on this and other issues.<br>
Participating in the Issues Roundtable were Serge Gagnon; President, XTL Group of Companies; Rob Penner, Vice President, Operations, Bison Transport; Dan Einwechter, President, Challenger Motor Freight; Julie Tanguay; President, L.E. Walker Transport; Neil McKenna Director, Transportation Operations, Canadian Tire Retail; and Bob Ballantyne, President, Canadian Industrial Transportation Association. Lou Smyrlis, Editorial Director of BIG Transportation Media, moderated the roundtable.<br>
In this installment of the Shipper-Carrier Roundtable we look at our panelists’ views on the challenge of transborder hauls. <br>

Smyrlis: There have been several security initiatives put in place since 9/11, at considerable cost to both carriers and shippers. Are we meeting the Canadian and US governments stated dual goals of security and efficiency?

Penner: We are not optimistic that we have seen the end of it because as a user of these so-called highly secured processes we understand they act more as barriers to trade than boosts to security. Where both sides of the border have done a horrible job is in not placing an equal amount of responsibility on the importers and exporters for being accountable for security. It is absolutely ridiculous that the carriers are the ones that are pushing the security programs such as FAST and C-TPAT. When you think of the number of companies importing and exporting its laughable how few shippers are involved with these programs. There are really no efforts or responsibilities on the side of shippers and the programs dont really create secure border crossings. We also have conflicting policies such as load securement and load security. Load securement will trump load security because the driver will put on a security seal 15 minutes before he gets to the border and rip it off 15 minutes after he gets past the border. If the customer doesnt seal the trailer and you have to in order to get it across the border, the security onus falls squarely on our shoulders and the load is not really secure.

Smyrlis: Are you saying we may end with more security legislation in the future simply to fix the mistakes with the current security legislation?

Penner: At the bare minimum, if not go back to the drawing board and start again. There really is no security there. Weve had our drivers become FAST certified yet some of them still get dragged in by Immigration every single time they cross the border so the program is losing a lot of credibility with drivers. Visible minorities remain a target at the border, thats plain and simple.

Smyrlis: When it comes down to it, are we any more secure than we were before we started implementing these expensive programs?

Tanguay: I think it goes back to, morally and ethically, how do you run your company? For the carriers that have taken programs such as C-TPAT very seriously, it hasnt just been an application we mailed in. Weve done everything requested. But then you know some of your competitors arent doing that and they are stealing freight out of the back of your van. Weve had big name shippers say we need you to get on board and weve built the infrastructure and then they bring in a 3PL to manage their business and the 3PL bids the freight and youve got small carriers that have no security infrastructure taking the freight out of the backs of our vans. I find it frustrating. You cross over Windsor and there is a drop yard there and you go look and theres all your big American carriers parking their trailers not secured, and with no cameras. So how do they enforce C-TPAT? Or drive around the countryside on a Saturday how many owner/operators have a loaded trailer sitting in their driveway or behind a Wal-Mart? I love the thought behind C-TPAT but it isnt working. I honestly thought it would eliminate some of the fly-by-night carriers but I dont know that it has. The enforcement isnt there to protect those of us who are bearing the cost.

Smyrlis: How can government get it so wrong with border legislation?

Ballantyne: I think they were well-intentioned on both sides of the border and it is truly a balancing act on both sides of the border. How do you improve security on the one hand without choking trade on the other? It is difficult and governments being what they are, they are always looking at how to balance off the various special interests. Legislators make laws and think that theyve solved the problem, whereas making the law may be only the first step in solving the problem. Im not really sure they quite understand the nature of the business they are legislating in terms of how things move across the border.

Smyrlis: A major issue is that not enough shippers have become involved in the border security programs. Whats holding shippers back? Im sure they understand the concern about security as well as anybody else.

McKenna: They are involved. I think shortly after 9/11 when the American Department of Homeland Security told us that security trumps trade, that told us right there and then that it didnt matter where you stood philosophically about how effective the process was or what the costs would be. They were going to dictate how things moved into their country. And thats going to continue. As carriers and shippers we should be concerned. Rob and Julie are absolutely right in their comments, but in order for us to be security compliant as shippers it is actually more involved than is the case with carriers. We have to extend the security of our supply chain to our vendors and manufacturers and coordinate the movement of product. It all has to be tied in but in many cases we may be dealing with legacy systems that work very well on their own but are hard to integrate. We are a CSA-approved shipper. The tendency now, will be to drive towards C-TPAT/FAST approved carriers. Because if we get to the point where, God forbid, we end up having another terrorist incident, it will be those carriers and those shippers who are certified that will be the only ones wholl be able to move their goods.

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