FAST program expediting border traffic

THE FREE and Secure Trade (FAST) program is underway and expediting border crossing between the United States and Canada, said Marcel Pouliot, Trimac Transportation Services Inc. The FAST program went into effect this year and includes Mexico as well as Canada. Pouliot focused on the US/Canadian perspective.

To qualify for the FAST designation, carriers fill out questionnaires that include corporate information, a security profile, number of drivers and owner-operators, and how often the border will be crossed. Two applications are submitted, one to Canadian authorities and one to US officials.

“Eventually you sign a carrier agreement,” he said. “Then there is a risk assessment and your company is in good standing.”

He pointed out that the vehicle registration applies to tractors, not to trailers. “It is truck specific. You will have to determine which tractors will be crossing the border before you decide to apply.”

Drivers also submit FAST applications. Customs and immigrations services in both countries will investigate applicants. Drivers identified as low risk will report to an enrollment center where they will be interviewed, have their original identification and citizenship documents reviewed, and be fingerprinted and photographed. Those that meet the qualifications will be issued a FAST commercial driver card.

He noted that carriers should begin instructing drivers on how to handle the FAST application. About 150,000 drivers are expected to be eventually registered with FAST.

The program is a bilateral initiative between the United States and Canada designed to enhance security and safety while at the same time not interfering with transportation schedules.

Any truck using FAST lane processing must be a Customers-Trade partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT)-approved carrier hauling goods from a C-TPAT-approved importer. For the United States, a FAST-approved carrier will have met all aspects of C-TPAT through the FAST registration process.

“Canada and the United States are trading information,” said Pouliot. “That's the kind of cooperation that's never been seen before.”

The FAST certification can be read by customs officials automatically at the border as the truck approaches without the driver having to stop. “Customs will know immediately that it is a FAST-certified carrier, tractor, and driver,” he said. “It should take 30 seconds, if the driver is not pulled over.”

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