A new era in customs clearance may have begun in May when a Roadway Express truck picked up a shipment in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, bound for Laredo, Texas. The Akron, Ohio-based less-than-truckload carrier is participating in the Customs Automated Forms Entry System (CAFES) pilot program, which involves land border crossings at Laredo, Texas, and Port Huron, N.Y.
If the 60-day test program proves to be successful, use of the CAFES software – developed by the U.S. Customs Service for brokers, shippers and carriers – will eventually help truckers expedite the crossing process at border ports across the United States.
Here’s how the program works. Shippers in Canada and Mexico will use the CAFES software to produce CF 7512-2D in-bond forms, which include a standard, two-dimensional bar code containing information required for border clearance.
When a driver arrives at an origin border point with one of the CAFES forms, a Customs inspector at a “primary” booth uses a Symbol Technologies P300 PRO scanner to instantly upload the CAFES form data into the Customs’ Automated Commercial System and runs the information past several edit checks within seconds.
Then the inspector receives an “accepted” or “rejected” response. When drivers receive an “accepted” response, they receive an endorsement printout marked “Movement Authorized,” and they can continue to transport the freight across the border. If a truck is rejected, the driver has to jockey the truck around for a parking space and wait in line at a “secondary” Customs booth for additional paperwork processing.
And when drivers arrive at a Customs booth near the freight’s destination, with a CF 7512-2D form stamped “Movement Authorized,” the clearance process is comparable to that conducted at the origin border.
Loads of benefits
According to Paul Schwartz, director of the CAFES program for the Customs Service, informal, nationwide surveys have indicated that the average downtime for one in-bond truck transaction at a border is 17 minutes and, during peak periods, combined broker and Customs wait times can add up to more than 60 minutes. Customs officials claim those long waits will be significantly reduced, if not eliminated, with CAFES.
The current process is time-consuming because a driver is required to have a Customs inspector review the carrier’s Inward Manifest form before he/she can see a broker to get a CF-7512 that notes the freight being hauled.
In addition to minimizing long waits and congestion at border points, according to Customs officials, the new CAFES program also decreases the likelihood of data entry errors when Customs personnel at a checkpoint have to keystroke shipment information from a hard copy of a CF-7512 form into their ACS.
For more information about the CAFES pilot program, access this site.