Too few FAST drivers to justify enforcing rules; penalty system unfair, says CTA

Feb. 1, 2005
The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) is calling upon the United States Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) to re-examine the deadlines for driver

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) is calling upon the United States Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) to re-examine the deadlines for driver security screening, and the procedures it uses for the issuance of monetary fines, as it proceeds with implementation of the US Trade Act's (USTA) advance cargo information requirements.

Truck drivers using the BRASS line release program face the prospect of being denied entry to the United States at some border crossings if they have not been security screened and registered under the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program. While CTA is a proponent of using the FAST program as a platform for a host of new US security measures and accepts the necessity of compliance deadlines, the system has been flooded with applications. CTA says there is no realistic way that enough drivers will be ready to handle the volume of freight moving by BRASS.

“It is our understanding that around 70,000 of the 87,000 or so drivers involved in cross-border trucking have applied for FAST registration, indicating that the trucking industry is making an honest and concerted attempt to comply,” said David Bradley, CTA chief executive officer. “But to date, less than 30,000 of those drivers have completed the process, leaving more than 40,000 drivers at various stages of processing. Since it is presently taking eight to 12 weeks for the governments to fully process an application, the potential for a serious disruption to trade is very real.” CTA says US and Canadian security officials need to extend the timeline for full enforcement, speed up the implementation process for portable enrollment centers, and review the staffing and hours of service at permanent enrollment centres.

CTA is also calling upon CBP to examine procedures under which it assesses monetary penalties for non-compliance with advance cargo information rules. According to CTA, carriers cannot always verify shipment data that has been submitted to CBP in a timely fashion by customs brokers. Carriers can then be fined over something they can't control, and if they choose to try to get the fines dropped, they end up in a lengthy penalty mitigation process.

“There have to be sanctions in place to ensure compliance,” said Bradley, “but carriers should not have to bear the cost of other parties' mistakes. A better mechanism is needed to allow carriers to know when customs entries have been filed by brokers, and who is responsible for violations. This should be worked out before CBP issues further penalties.” Bradley says he raised this matter with the outgoing US homeland security secretary in December and received a “favorable reception.”

“Let there be no misunderstanding: CTA is not seeking to duck its responsibilities. All we are asking is that CBP take a hard look at some of the practical problems with implementation of the US Trade Act and make the necessary changes so that trade can flow in a secure and efficient manner.” CTA will continue to work with CBP to resolve these and other security-related issues on a priority basis.