The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) have teamed up to support a pre-clearance Peace Bridge pilot project at the third-busiest United States-Canada border crossing announced in November by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan. This project could see the relocation of all US border functions for both commercial and passenger traffic from Buffal, NY to Fort Erie, Ontario.
The two national trucking organizations said they “are eager to examine alternative clearance options that could facilitate the flow of commercial traffic by reducing both significant traffic disruptions and processing delays given the sheer traffic volumes in order to enhance highway safety, reduce emissions in border areas, increase security, and facilitate cross-border trade.”
“When talking about border crossings, balancing these objectives is a challenge,” said David Bradley, CTA chief executive officer. “We are confident that the Peace Bridge pilot will demonstrate the benefits of pre-clearance.”
The ultimate outcome for both CTA and ATA is full pre-clearance of US-bound commercial traffic in Canada. Both organizations are wary of a second element of the pilot — supposedly favored by some US customs officials — that would limit US functions in Canada to pre-screening (eg, VACIS (X-ray) scans, radiation monitoring, and physical examination of cargo) only. The ATA-CTA joint statement says: “We could not support an effort to “pre-screen” US-bound commercial vehicles on the Canadian side if it leads to a “thickening” of the border rather than a more efficient and effective security control process.”
“It is far too early in the game to know exactly how the pilot will unfold, and whether the results may have relevance for other border crossings,” said Bradley. “But we owe it to our members, to the shippers whose goods we carry, and to the people of both countries to constantly strive for improvements, and I'm hopeful this pilot will help us to learn how to do things better.”
It is also essential, the two organizations say, for the benefits enjoyed by FAST/C-TPAT carriers and drivers to be protected and enhanced. In addition, they call for special consideration for FAST-registered carriers and drivers who by nature of their business carry mixed loads of FAST and non-FAST freight.
ATA and CTA are insisting that they both be full participants in a pilot project steering committee that will be tasked with reviewing and providing input at each stage of the project.