U.S. in-transit shipments are almost back

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WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) agency is moving forward on a pilot program aiming to simplify Canadian shipments in-transit through the United States. That is, loads originating in Canada and ending in Canada but travelling via the U.S. en route.

In fact, CBP’s In-Transit Manifest Pilot Program will work to restore the once common in-transit practice that was curtailed by post-9/11 changes to U.S. border security procedures. Nine Canadian carriers involved in the program will be able to use a limited set of data when crossing the border, easing the administrative burden significantly.

According to a notice published in the U.S. Federal Register yesterday, “Test participants will submit electronically an in-transit manifest with a relaxed validation for the value data element and they will not have to provide the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) number.”

See the full notice here

The notice explains that the test will run for approximately six months, starting on or after May 27 at the following ports: Port Huron, Michigan; Pembina, North Dakota; and Blaine, Washington. .

The nine Canadian carriers, not so far identified, were selected by CBP in consultation with the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA). Each one is a bonded carrier and a certified member of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT). Each carrier must use drivers cleared under the FAST program. No passengers are permitted, with the exception of additional drivers also cleared by FAST.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) is pleased, not surprisingly, noting its 15 years of high level negotiations between the trucking industry and border officials from both Canada and the U.S.

The CTA calls “the long-awaited in-transit pilot program a key plank in the Canada-U.S. Beyond the Border (BTB) Action Plan.”

“Ever since 9/11 we have been working to restore in-transit shipments,” said CTA president David Bradley. “We stuck with it and today we were rewarded for all the hard work.”

He also credits the support received from Canadian BTB officials, the American Trucking Associations, and in recent years from U.S. officials in the White House and CBP for bringing about the change.

It was once routine for Canadian carriers moving loads across Canada to use U.S. routes in-transit, the CTA explains. Since the goods were not entering the U.S. for consumption nor being offloaded or stored, they were considered domestic Canadian loads and could therefore enter with minimal documentation. However, after 9/11 in-transit shipments were treated as international loads by CBP, subject to full documentation.

Meanwhile, Canada did not mirror the change, which allowed in-transit moves through Canada by U.S. carriers to continue, creating an uneven playing field for Canadians wanting to move in-transit shipments south of the border.

If successful, the six-month pilot program will likely be expanded to include additional carriers at some point, says CTA.

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Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to Trucknews.com.

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