ACE benefits mixed

Trucking companies using the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) e-manifest system report that although border crossings are smoother, workload and costs have increased

Trucking companies using the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) e-manifest system report that although border crossings are smoother, workload and costs have increased.

The lion's share of the benefits reaped from the ACE program went to large- and medium-sized carriers, according to a report published by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) that details how the e-manifest system impacts the productivity and efficiency of trucking companies. This is because larger fleets are more likely to have volumes high enough to offset the substantial initial investment to comply, according to ATRI, which is the research arm of the American Trucking Assns.

“For some small carriers, the new technology may be the impetus to cease border crossing operations,” the ATRI summary states.

ATRI also reports that the ACE program appears to be successfully targeting vehicles needing inspections. While secondary inspections have dropped 50% under ACE, those vehicles that undergo a second check are more likely to be inspected a third time than was the case prior to the ACE program. ATRI believes this confirms that ACE has improved the process of vetting vehicles for targeted inspections.

Crossing experiences were reportedly very different along the Canadian and Mexican borders. Carriers crossing the northern border say paperwork and communication with brokers are the key challenges, whereas inspection and processing times are top issues in the south.

However, carriers say that both borders share the program's largest problem — “limited physical infrastructure.” Carriers also cite a need for consistent processes and paperwork requirements at all border crossings.

Based on its findings, ATRI recommends that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) fine tune the ACE program by:

  • Improving the functionality and usability of the ACE web portal;

  • Developing XML data transfer mechanisms to augment EDI transactions;

  • Continuing to improve training for CBP officers;

  • Standardizing the processing requirements across all border crossing points;

  • Providing motor carriers with additional ACE e-manifest training opportunities; and

  • Developing training and educational materials for brokers and shippers to increase familiarity with ACE requirements.

A report summary, as well as order information for the full report is available at atri-online.org.

Customs offers ACE conferences

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will be holding two upcoming ACE Exchange Conferences, one May 21-23 at the La Posada in Laredo, TX, and the other June 4-6 at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo (NY).

The programs are designed to familiarize attendees with the benefits of ACE, which will eventually replace the Automated Commercial System as the cargo processing system of record for CBP. The conferences will also provide information about ACE's impact on business operations and legal policy changes underway, such as the new mandatory electronic manifest policy.

The first day of each conference includes registration along with one-on-one appointments with a CBP representative from the ACE Accounts Services Desk. The second day focuses on issues relevant to importers and brokers. The third covers topics important to truck carriers, such as paying duties and fees, as well as using available reporting tools with compliance and financial data. CBP says it will offer one-on-one appointments for account set-up assistance or e-manifest and reports training during all three days of each conference.

Registration for an ACE Exchange Conference is free, although space is limited and registration is on a first-come, first-served basis, according to CBP. Conference registration and agendas are available at www.cbp.gov/modernization.

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