Shipper help needed with HOS, FAST program

Shippers need to become more involved in helping carriers meet the challenges of cross-border shipments in North America. This was the consensus of the fleet representatives attending TMW Systems’ 2003 User Group meeting November 10-12 in Cleveland OH. Without greater shipper involvement, delays could become a serious issue. Several fleet representatives called for new accessorial charges to cover lost productivity in trans-border operations.

Border delays already are a problem, but they could worsen after the first of the year. That’s when the new hours-of-service regulations take effect and the FAST program should be operational at all US-Canada border-crossing points. FAST also will be in place at key US-Mexico border crossings.

FAST stands for Free and Secure Trade and is a harmonized process for shipments of known compliant importers that allows for expedited clearance of trans-border shipments, reduced customs information requirements, and fewer physical inspections of cargo. Any truck using FAST lane processing must be a Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT)-approved carrier, hauling qualifying product from a C-TPAT-approved manufacturer or importer. In addition, the driver must possess a valid FAST Commercial Driver Card.

The greatest initial impact will be felt at the US-Canada border, according to carrier officials, due to the sheer volume of truck traffic between the two countries. While FAST is designed to expedite border crossings, shipments can be halted or face lengthy delays if any element of the program is missing. Shippers should be handling pre-notification, and carriers warn that four to five-hour delays are likely if paperwork isn’t in order. Bonded loads require a 2-D barcode that must be printed with a laser printer.

The new hours-of-service rules that take effect January 4, 2004 will be an aggravating factor. If a shipment is delayed at the border too long, drivers could run out of hours, and there is little or no flexibility in the new rules. After 14 hours of driving/on-duty time, the driver has to shut down for 10 hours. There is no way around it, short of breaking the law.

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