CBP still delaying enforcement of empty tank policy

The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will continue its policy of not enforcing a requirement that tank trailers and tank cars may not classify equipment containing residue as “empty” until further notice, according to Todd Owen from Department of Homeland Security/Customs and Border Protection. CBP continues to consider comments from National Tank Truck Carriers, American Trucking Associations, and other groups on the disruptive impact such enforcement would have on bulk loads coming into the United States from Canada and Mexico.

Speaking at a Chemical Sector Security Summit July 8 in Baltimore MD, Owen said that CBP understands industry’s concerns, but also feels that it is required by law to require identification and manifesting of a bulk container that is not completely empty. There are no de minimis provisions for either amount or monetary value in the law, he said.

“How do we quantify what is left, and how do we manifest it?” he asked.

CBP’s concerns about the amount of residue left in rail tankcars returning from Mexico is what prompted its concerns about classifying bulk containers with residue as “empty.” Owen said. Some tankcars were as much as one-third full of product.

See Bulk Transporter's 2010 Tank Cleaning Directory

CBP protection issued a letter to one company in 1994 that allowed it to classify containers with residue as “empty.” The intent was that only that company (DOW Corning) would use the exception, but it soon became a common practice throughout for carriers importing products. Owen said it would likely require legislative action, not just a regulatory change, to allow some de minimis product to remain.

Once CBP decides to begin enforcement, there will be notice to industry, Owen said. Some form of radiation will be used to scan tank trailers and tankcars. “We are not looking for scrapings,” he said. “If we can see it, there is a problem. CBP will continue to communicate with industry on this issue.”

On another issue, Owen said approximately 62,000 truck, rail, and ocean containers cross into the United States each day. Border officers make 107 arrests and take 2,100 enforcement actions a day.

Owen said that one program that has been successful in facilitating cross border shipments is Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) in which there are now 9,830 certified partners. These include many tank truck carriers. (See the C-TPAT website for details.)

So far, there have been 1,394 removals or suspensions of carriers for infractions of the program. When asked what was the major cause for removal of 661 highway carriers, Owen said trucks found bringing drugs across the border with Mexico was by far the main reason.

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