ATA urges improvement in border infrastructure

Improving security and efficiency of freight transportation across borders will require more funds for infrastructure, more reasonable enforcement of trade security program rules, and giving the lead role in coordinating federal efforts to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, Celadon Group Inc Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Stephen Russell told a congressional panel.

Speaking for the American Trucking Associations (ATA), Russell told the House Subcommittee on Border, Maritime, and Global Counterterrorism, House Homeland Security Committee that “closer cooperation and understanding between industry and government will yield an even higher degree of security at our nation’s borders and will improve cross-border operations and the international supply chain.”

The head of the Indianapolis IN-based company praised development of low-risk and trusted-traveler programs such as Free and Secure Trade (FAST) and the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program (C-TPAT). To participate in FAST, motor carriers must become C-TPAT-certified and their drivers must undergo a background check. Carriers benefit by expedited clearance of equipment, driver, and cargo—as long as it belongs to a C-TPAT importer—as well as getting access to a lane dedicated for FAST participants.

But today, “the biggest challenge trucking companies continue to face with the C-TPAT/FAST program is the lack of ‘true’ FAST lanes,” said Russell. “This results in low-risk C-TPAT carriers being stuck in the same traffic as non-C-TPAT-certified carriers.”

“The end goals of security and efficiency are not mutually exclusive. Though it is impossible to achieve absolute security without bringing trade to a standstill, we can greatly reduce the potential of being targeted by our enemies by managing risk, increasing security awareness among company personnel, and implementing simple cost-effective security measures,” Russell said.

Russell said another problem with the C-TPAT program is that a single security incident can result in the immediate revocation of a carriers’ C-TPAT status, even before an investigation. If an inspection finds contraband on a C-TPAT carrier’s truck, the carrier can be suspended from the program without knowing if the contraband was placed on the truck during loading of freight or at another point in the supply chain.

ATA has proposed that if a C-TPAT carrier security incident is the company’s first, then CBP should consider investigating first, instead of immediately suspending the carrier. If the investigation shows the carrier was not at fault, it would be put on probation. If the investigation shows a carrier willfully disregarded C-TPAT Minimum Security Criteria, CBP could suspend the carrier and require it to reapply and undergo again a full validation of program requirements.

Russell praised development of Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), an electronic manifest system that captures trade data, clears cargo entering the United States, and provides CBP an improved system for targeting, risk analysis, and release of cargo.

ATA recommends that the US government quickly implement the Smart Border Accord between the United States and Canada, the 22 Point Plan between the United States and Mexico, and recommendations of the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership.

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