Truckers must file e-summaries of cargo at borders

Legislation from 2002 gave Customs, Border agency the authority to require the electronic transmission of advance cargo information.

CBP now has the capacity to accept e-manifests at every port on the southern border. Blum said, however, that northern-border states such as Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire and parts of Minnesota and North Dakota have work to do.

The Customs and Border Protection agency has moved forward with a plan to require all truckers entering the United States to file electronic summaries of cargo.

As of Jan. 25, all truck carriers entering through Arizona, Washington and seven ports in North Dakota must file electronic manifests through the Automated Commercial Environment, a processing system being developed to enhance national security and facilitate legitimate trade.

An e-manifest requires the trucker to provide details of the trip, vehicle, shipment, passengers and driver. All of the data goes into the ACE databank or a national CBP database, CBP spokesman Eric Blum said.

Legislation from 2002 gave CBP the authority to require the electronic transmission of advance cargo information. Blum said the goal is to deploy the program into all states within the next year.

Once states are designated for compliance, truckers will be given notices if they fail to meet the requirement. After 60 days, carriers arriving at designated ports must demonstrate that attempts were made to submit e-manifests. During a third stage, carriers that fail to comply will be denied entry to the United States or could be fined.

In the past, all commercial trucks arriving at the borders have had to apply for entrance using paper manifests. That process resulted in problems such as incomplete information, Blum said.

The electronic program saves shippers time, makes the documents more accessible and legible, and enables determinations on the frequency and normalcy of certain shipments. CBP's spokesman said the program has been more difficult for smaller companies or trucker groups satisfy, although third parties can assist such companies.

As of April 19, three new states -- California, New Mexico and Texas -- will have to adhere to the e-manifest initiative. Other states will be put into the mandatory category following a 90-day notice, Blum said. The agency has been moving toward mandatory, nationwide participation for a long time, he noted.

"E-manifests are a good thing but making them mandatory in certain states before it is rolled out to all ports may have been pre-mature," said Margaret Irwin, director of customs, immigration and cross-border operations at the American Trucking Association. "We still do not have all of the kinks worked out of the system."