Initiatives for speeding up truck traffic while improving security along the U.S.-Canadian border were discussed between Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan last week. The two-day meeting was a precursor for the upcoming Smart Border Action Plan status report due in a matter of weeks.

Both countries agreed to engage stakeholders such as trucking companies in discussing a full commercial pre-screening pilot program at the Fort Erie, Ont.-Buffalo Peace Bridge. Security officials from both countries are expected to discuss the details by late next week.

One possible plan is to send U.S. agents to the large pre-clearance truck yard in Fort Erie to inspect all U.S.-bound trucks, instead of the current system in which the trucks are inspected in a crowded plaza on the West Side of Buffalo, The Buffalo News reported.

Lucian Greco, director of public affairs for the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority told Fleet Owner the result will be speedier routes through the corridor. “The Canadian plaza that exists now is much larger than the plaza on the American side,” Greco said. “The significance is the idea of looking at a program that will have full pre-clearance of commercial traffic on the Canadian side. When you have that, the trucks won’t be bogged down with clearance here (on the American side). We just don’t have the room.”

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) expressed its support for the measures that were discussed. “The prospect of pre-screening and eventually full pre-clearance away from the busiest border crossings would be a very positive measure in helping to alleviate congestion on the approaches to the bridges,” said David Bradley, CEO of CTA.

“I think if trucking companies voice their support that will help move the process along. We’re looking at improving the flow of commerce, we understand time that is money for truck drivers, and we understand the need for security,” the Bridge Authority’s Greco said.

Two new FAST lanes will also be created: one southbound at the Pacific Highway at the (British Colombia)/Blaine, WA junction on October 20, 2004; and the other going both directions at the Windsor-Detroit, MI Ambassador Bridge on November 1, 2004.

CTA’s Bradley also used the meeting to voice CTA’s concern over the difficulty in getting enough drivers registered for FAST cards by November 15— the day new U.S. customs pre-notification rules becoming effective.

For more details of the meeting visit www.psepc.gc.ca.