Photo: Óðinn, via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo: Óðinn, via Wikimedia Commons.

The U.S. and Canada have officially launched the second phase of the truck cargo pre-inspection pilot program at the Peace Bridge crossing between Fort Erie, Ontario and Buffalo, N.Y. in what might eventually lead to land pre-clearance for trucks at many other border crossings.

During the one-year pilot program, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers will pre-inspect trucks entering the United States on the Canadian side in the hopes of avoiding backups on the bridge due to the size constraints of the customs plaza on the Buffalo side. The project, which creates two new booths on the Canadian side to house U.S. CBP officials, is being funded by the Peace Bridge Authority.

After being processed on the Canadian side, trucks that take part in the pilot will proceed across the bridge where it is anticipated they will come to a rolling stop at a U.S. CBP exit booth. If the process goes smoothly, they will be given a green light signaling they are free to proceed through the customs plaza en route to their destination. A red light instead signals the truck must be brought to a complete stop for further processing. 

The Canadian Trucking Alliance, which supports the pilot program, says its success will essentially depend on whether the two stops, compared to the current one-stop, will actually speed the flow of trucks across the border and maintain advantages for carriers and drivers operating under the trusted trader program, Free and Secure Trade.

CTA says it has received assurances the pilot is adequately resourced and that strategic management of traffic queues will ensure the pre-inspection process will not contribute to delays. 

In March 2013, Canada and the U.S. signed the Memorandum of Understanding that enabled the U.S. CBP truck cargo pre-inspection pilot project to take place on Canadian soil.

The first phase of the pilot program was launched at the Pacific Highway crossing between Surrey, British Columbia and Blaine, Wash. in June 2013.

The commitment to conduct a pre-inspection one-year pilot program was contained in the Beyond the Border Action Plan. It’s intention is to determine whether the cross-border movement of trucks would be facilitated at certain crossings by having border officials from the country of entry conduct pre-inspections of trucks on the other side of the border. It is believed that such an initiative could be of particular benefit at land crossings where geographic factors and other issues constrain the ability to conduct efficient inspections on one side of the border or another.