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Easier In-Transit Shipments Overdue, but Good News: CTA

TORONTO — Remember the days before 9/11 when Canadian domestic shipments could go through the U.S. without too much hassle and paperwork? They may be coming back, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) announced.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have reached a harmonization agreement on the data required for domestic goods transiting through the other country.

“This data harmonization agreement is an overdue but extremely important development,” says David Bradley, CTA’s president and CEO.

For many years, Canadian carriers could go through the United States on safer, multi-lane divided highways to avoid inclement weather, reduce wear and tear on vehicles, improve fuel efficiency, and provide drivers with more access to rest areas instead of moving domestic shipments (e.g., Toronto-Calgary) across the top of the lake head. 

Since the goods were not entering the U.S. for consumption or being offloaded or stored, they could enter with minimal documentation. At the same time, many U.S. domestic shipments (e.g., mail entering Canada at Buffalo, re-entering the U.S. at Detroit) also move in-transit through Canada.

But that changed in the aftermath of 9/11 and in-transit shipments were classified as international loads, subject to full documentation and advanced e-manifest submission to CBP. The new policy ended in-transit shipments through the United States for Canadian carriers. Canada did not adopt a similar policy, so U.S. domestic shipments could still move in-transit through Canada while Canadian domestic shipments were denied similar access to the United States.

Under the Action Plan, Canada and the U.S. agreed to develop “common sets of data elements required for … domestic shipments which transit through the other country,” by June 2012 with implementation by December 2013.

But overdue or not, implementation could still be delayed if customs agencies require both countries’ systems to be able to accept each other’s information electronically, something the CTA has been told could take years.

“It would be a shame to see the true benefit of the agreement – the resumption of in-transit movements – delayed indefinitely over systems issues,” Bradley says.

That’s why CTA is proposing a pilot project or trial, which would utilize the harmonized data set and allow for resumption of in-transit truck shipments at least on a limited basis.

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