Canada is the United States' largest single trading partner, and two-thirds of that trade moves by truck. While both countries need to keep that flow of goods moving as smoothly and quickly as possible, the post 9/11 world also poses stringent border-security concerns.
The Smart Border Accord of 2001 resulted in a voluntary program called Free and Secure Trade (FAST), which in addition to creating expedited border clearance for truck shipments, also established an official FAST commercial driver ID card. Drivers have to be approved by both countries.
While cumbersome, the FAST driver card program did at least satisfy border document requirements for drivers; however, the value of the driver ID card was thrown into question when the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security issued another set of document requirements under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative that seemed to demand that anyone entering the U.S. present a passport.
The cost and disruption of overlapping ID requirements for truck drivers in crossborder operations created a great concern among fleets and industry trade groups. The Canadian Truck Alliance criticized what it said was “a thickening of the U.S.-Canadian border” and the cost of compliance, which it said could exceed $500 million a year.
In late March, however, the Dept. of Homeland Security announced that it was not only delaying the passport requirement until June 2009, but that it would also accept FAST driver cards as “compliant documents” for truck drivers who are U.S. and Canadian citizens. Non-citizens with landed immigrant status or green cards would still need to present passports along with their FAST IDs.
Additionally, the TWIC program has agreed to accept the FAST background check in issuing its port-entry identification cards for truck drivers.