IT at the border

Sept. 1, 2006
A CBP official told FleetOwner that a rulemaking on the roll-out schedule of the e-manifest program is expected within two months

As the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) prepares to make mandatory its e-manifest program for cross-border commercial truck carriers on a port-by-port basis later this year, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), the not-for-profit research arm of the trucking industry, said that there are significant differences between the northern and southern crossings.

“We've done a series of carrier interviews, documenting issues and opportunities,” Dan Murray, ATRI vp of research, told FleetOwner. “We're discovering that the experiences between northern and southern border crossings are so different that it will look like two different results. We're developing a survey that will go out to a large targeted group of carriers engaged in border crossing at both borders to see what are the issues with the programs and processes.”

A CBP official told FleetOwner that a rulemaking on the roll-out schedule of the e-manifest program is expected to be published in the Federal Register within two months. In the meantime, CBP said that as of July nearly 300 companies have been certified to submit e-manifests via electronic data interchange (EDI), with an additional 1,500 carriers signed up for CBP's free ACE portal accounts. Over 10,000 e-manifests have been filed since July.

The ACE database will eventually be merged with that of other federal agencies involved with trade, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. “We can push this data to FMCSA and in turn, the agency will be able to return a message to a trucking company to say whether they meet all their requirements,” Murray said, adding that FMCSA will have access to ACE data by next year.

“The trade loves that. If you're filing entries with ACE, you're also doing the same for other agencies. The vision is this single window for information collection for cross-border commerce,” Murray added.

And so far, it appears that the ACE program will indeed provide truckers with quicker clearance, said Murray. “One of our first priorities is to recognize that since trucking companies have low margins, we can demonstrate [CBP is] investing in the right technologies and to confirm that ACE is a good tool for productivity enhancement. That research will raise their comfort levels as long as we do it right and it's validated by data from the industry. Ultimately we hope to demonstrate to carriers and drivers that [ACE] has a payback beyond improving security.”

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