Border Crossing: Keeping Up The Pace, Despite More Red Tape

Once upon a time, it was a snap to cross the world’s longest border. A flash of your driver’s license and permits and a trucker was through. No hassle.

No longer. Security has tightened on both sides of the border since 9/11 and the impacts have been felt strongly by the trucking industry. Naturally, administrative requirements have risen in tandem with the increase in reporting requirements for border crossings.

About 60% of ARG drivers are certified to enter Canada, travelling to the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, and it is imperative that they have their documents in order.

There are definitely strategies that freight carriers can pursue to keep business moving smoothly across the border. However, in order to cope with the enormous task of documentation and paperwork, every trucking company has to add substantial administrative support to their operation (at a cost to the business), and make sure drivers, dispatchers and office staff know how to do their part.

Pre-Arrival Processing System (PAPS)

This program allows trucks to cross the border safely, quickly, and efficiently. PAPS, along with the Border Release and Selectivity System (BRASS) or the FAST-National Customs Automation Program (FAST-NCAP) can be used on overland port entries to Canada or the U.S.

To qualify for PAPS, the carrier must fax the required PAPS release form to a customs broker. When the truck arrives at the Primary Inspection point, the border officer only has to call up the trip information to allow the truck and cargo to be released immediately.

Free and Secure Trade (FAST)

This voluntary joint initiative between U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is another program to facilitate cross-border commercial traffic. Drivers still require a passport or Nexus card but it speeds things up since there are dedicated lanes available for this service. A FAST-approved driver presents three bar-coded documents – one for the driver, one for the carrier, and one for the importer. Customs officials can quickly scan the bar codes and approve passage.

In order to be eligible for the FAST program, Wadhams has to complete background checks on all our drivers and fulfill a myriad other requirements. Though incredibly time consuming, it’s worth it: a truck driver with FAST documents can expect fewer inspections at the border and FAST users are given priority for CBP inspections. They also get can use specific lanes to speed things along.

In order for us to maintain our FAST clearance, Wadhams truck drivers must be certified under the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program (C-TPAT). Customs and Border Protection (CBP) routinely inspect C-TPAT members to appraise what security measures are in place.

Administrative Functions

Each of these various programs require some administrative work from the driver, dispatcher, and company as a whole.

Drivers must carry with them at all times: their enhanced license, passport, HazMat certifications, Nexus lane card, transport workers ID card, Indirect Air Carrier Certification, HazMat Certification, medical certifications, and registration numbers. The driver passes through the various customs and immigrations checkpoints, and may be required to submit fingerprints up to five times. Then they have to ensure that they’ve sent the right paperwork to their home terminal, sending out eblasts to the broker and dispatcher.

Furthermore, customs officials have the right to audit all paperwork – and often do. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, members of our management staff spent two full days with customs officials going through documents and paperwork to ensure that everything has been filled out correctly.

HazMat Additional Requirements

For our HazMat carriers, we have the additional task of tracking every truck and driver at every point along their route. The Human Resources department must also ensure that records are updated, and that permits and regulation numbers are in order.

The factors driving up the cost of doing business in the transportation industry are many, but the burdensome administration of border crossing is one factor that demands time and effort from multiple team members at a freight company to overcome.

While costly, drivers, dispatchers and managers working together to tackle administrative, reporting, and licensing requirements can make sure business across the border continues smoothly and on time.