Study on ACE e-manifests reveals carriers’ concerns

ATRI says officials should expedite standardized
requirements across all land ports to improve ACE

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Truckers using ACE e-manifests to cross the Canada-U.S. border cited limited physical infrastructure, as well as paperwork and communication problems with brokers, as key challenges with the program, a new study finds.

The study by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) also notes the need to have consistent processes and paperwork requirements at all border crossings.

ACE is the commercial trade processing system mandated under the Trade Act. It streamlines release systems for transmission of electronic manifest data the ACE Portal or electronic data interchange (EDI) messaging.

Truckers arriving at a US port of entry where the customs broker has not transmitted advance e-manifest cargo info to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) one hour (half an hour for FAST trucks) prior to the time of arrival are not permitted to enter at major border crossings. Other ports have deployed ACE, but are still operating under a soft enforcement period for the next few months.

CBP commissioned ATRI in 2006 to conduct an analytical assessment of the ACE system, with specific focus on identifying productivity and efficiency impacts from the user perspective. ATRI researched literature; conducted a survey of motor carriers involved in cross-border activity; completed in-depth case studies and interviews with motor carriers; and then analyzed GPS truck position data to determine the effect of ACE on overall border crossing times.

Respondents confirm the performance measurement
under ACE is cross border processing time

The survey responses, which exceeded 800, confirm that the performance measurement supported by most motor carriers is border-crossing time, as labor costs represent the largest cost center.

Overall satisfaction with the system is generally mixed, according to the report. Carriers responded that workload and costs have increased but that the border crossing process is smoother.

The number of trips in which a driver is directed to secondary inspection has decreased by 50 percent, but the number of actual post-secondary inspections has increased by approximately 42 percent. “This appears to confirm that the ACE system improves targeting of vehicles needing inspection,” states the report.

The case studies also reveal that although initial start-up costs are considerable for many carriers, ACE will potentially provide net operational benefits for medium and large carriers. This experience may differ for small carriers or carriers that do not cross the border frequently, primarily due to the substantial initial investment necessary and the lack of returns to scale. For some small carriers, the new technology may be the impetus to cease border-crossing operations.

Based on the findings, ATRI urges officials to improve the functionality and usability of the ACE web portal; develop XML data transfer mechanisms to augment EDI transactions; standardize processing requirements across border crossing points; provide motor carriers, shippers, and brokers with additional ACE training opportunities; and better train CBP officers on the system.

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