One of the thorniest problems facing truck fleets and other freight transport firms and government agencies alike is maintaining a smooth flow of international trade alongside today’s need for enhanced security – especially regarding cross-border traffic at the U.S- Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders.
For that reason, government agencies such as the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as well as the Canada Border Services Agency (CSBA) are seeking to forge more in-depth partnerships with freight transportation providers.
“It’s really all about improving the ability to share information between the government and the freight transport sector,” Bill Anderson, group director of global security for Ryder Systems, told Fleet Owner. “It’s also become more about protecting shipment information as well. In the end, sharing ideas and needs between freight transporters and government security agencies gives us all a better picture of where the threats are and how we [should] deal with them.”
Ryder hosted a North American Border Security Conference last month at its Novi, MI, operations management center. The purpose was to share security information and “best practices” among its customers and business partners with government security agencies and vice versa.
Anderson said that, for the time being, airports and the aviation industry remain the “top focus” of government security efforts. “They said at the meeting that our enemies still seemed to be fixated on aircraft and airports, so that’s where their primary focus will remain,” he explained.
That being said, government security personnel are still well aware of the danger posed by trucks, whether used to transport illicit cargo or deployed as weapons themselves.
“They said that, as it gets harder to operate through the aviation system, terrorists and other dangerous groups will start to look at working through other components of the supply chain,” Anderson said. He noted that right now government security efforts focus first on airports, then on sea ports, and finally on so-called “land ports” where commercial trucks operate.
Trying to grapple with the demands of trade and greater security is not an easy task, government officials readily admit. CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin addressed this very topic in remarks to the Western Cargo Conference held in San Diego this fall. He noted that his agency is embracing a new “3Rs”strategy to “refocus, rethink, and reassess” security threats.
“One of my top priorities is refocusing CBP on the crucial role the flow of trade plays in maintaining our global competitiveness,” Bersin explained. “We import $2 trillion worth of goods and export $1.8 trillion. Trade is critical to our economy and to our ability to compete in the global marketplace. And our economic security plays an enormous role in our national security.”
Yet security efforts are plainly being strained by the mounting volumes of cross-border freight. That’s where Bersin’s second “R” comes in. CBP is rethinking its traditional approach to border management, which has been to “hold the line,” to intercept threats only as they attempt to cross.
“We should be securing the movement of commerce from beginning to end, from factory floor in one country through whatever mode of transit is used—ship, rail, truck, air—across the border to its ultimate destination, whether it’s a manufacturer or company,” Bersin explained.
“What I’m talking about is continental security—securing the flow of people and products into, out of, and within the North American continent,” he added.
These efforts are being mirrored in Canada as well. For example, at Ryder’s meeting, the CBSA stressed the importance of Canada’s Partners in Protection (PIP) program, which enlists the cooperation of private industry to enhance border and “trade chain” security, combat organized crime and terrorism, and help detect and prevent contraband smuggling.
CBSA also updated attendees on its eManifest project. This is amajor Canadian initiative aimed at getting the right information at the right time to enhance the agency’s ability to identify potential threats without delaying low-risk shipments across the U.S.-Canadian border.
“The North American Free Trade Agreement created the world’s largest free trade area, yet companies that move freight across these borders must remain aware of the significant security and customs compliance issues that continue to exist,” pointed out John Williford, president of Ryder’s global supply chain solutions division.
“By strengthening cross-border security processes, we help our customers gain a competitive advantage that allows them to prevent loss and drive efficiencies in their supply chain operations,” Williford added.”