We all know cargo shipments of all stripes need tighter security. The speed bump in all this, however, is the impact on transport efficiency, something that directly affects logistics costs.
Can tighter security and transport efficiency successfully co-exist? Stephen Russell, chairman, CEO and founder of truckload carrier Celadon Group, believes they certainly can — if approached in the proper manner.
Russell recently gave testimony before the Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism, which is part of the Committee on Homeland Security within the U.S. House of Representatives. Russell thinks current cargo security programs such as the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) program, the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program for crossborder shipments, and the wider use of the Automated Commercial Environment's (ACE) electronic manifest system all work very well in terms of “segregating” freight for federal agencies.
It also comes as no surprise that there are glitches, the biggest being the way the physical infrastructure at border crossings, in particular, is just not designed to handle such “segregation.” Oftentimes, commercial trucks are jammed cheek-by-jowl with everyday motorists creeping slowly up to the border-crossing point despite having C-TPAT status and electronic manifests already processed.
“The biggest challenge trucking companies continue to face with the C-TPAT/FAST program is the lack of ‘true’ FAST lanes, in essence, lanes that extend far back from the port of entry, instead of FAST lanes that begin only a few yards prior to arrival at the primary inspection booth,” he explained. “This results in low-risk C-TPAT carriers being stuck in the same traffic as non-C-TPAT-certified carriers. Thus, C-TPAT-certified motor carriers with drivers who have undergone FAST background checks are not getting the benefits that were promised for investing to comply with the program.”
“The big benefit touted by these programs was that, once approved, carriers could more quickly pass through border checkpoints,” Martin Rojas, director of international affairs for the American Trucking Assns., told me. “At most border-crossing points, you don't get that segregation until literally a few yards before the inspection station. We think that process should begin farther back, maybe 500 yards; maybe a mile. The thing is to keep low-risk, approved cargos moving — and not have them mixed in with everything else.”
“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,” added Celadon's Russell.
“Establishing the necessary infrastructure … and implementing technologies helps improve the clearance and throughput of trade with the highest standards of security,” he noted. “For example, through the use of non-intrusive inspection systems, X-rays and gamma rays are used to capture images of any anomalies within our commercial vehicles. Such technological advances and tools have improved CBP [Customs & Border Protection] officers' enforcement capabilities while improving the efficiency and throughput of commercial vehicles across our borders.”
All good points. These initiatives could turn the age-old conflict of cargo security vs. efficiency safely and securely on its head.