Software companies are gearing up for the phase-in of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requirement that border-crossing trucking companies submit an electronic manifest to the agency prior to reaching the border.

The truck manifest component of the Automated Customs Environment (ACE) program is expected to become mandatory at some point in 2006, although CBP has not yet announced a firm date.

Trucking software company Maddocks Systems has announced it gained certification as a solution provider for the ACE e-manifest program. According to Maddocks, it is the only trucking software company to gain this certification.

“This will enable our clients to leverage their existing investment in TruckMate, use a Maddocks tested application and maintain a completely integrated solution,” said Bob Maddocks, president & CEO.

“Basically, TruckMate for Windows is a complete trucking software solution from order entry to dispatching to the accounting side of a fleet operation,” explained Neal Cranna, Maddocks marketing manager, in an emailed statement to FleetOwner. “Within this enterprise-wide solution the data required to meet the ACE e-manifest requirements are already stored in driver, customer, shipper and equipment profiles. When a new manifest is created during the order entry process, these details are easily transmitted to ACE without the need for double entry.”

David Mook, executive vp, COO & chief technology officer of TMW Systems, told FleetOwner that the company is in the development stage of integrating ACE capabilities into its own trucking software suite. In a user conference the company held last year it found that the e-manifest rule was among the top concerns of its clients, Mook said.

TMW Systems plans to have five participant carriers Beta-test its software with ACE capabilities in April, with a full release in May.

“We decided to pull together a steering committee to flesh out the requirements, keep us on the right track and get us the appropriate certification level,” Keith Mader, vp-development, told FleetOwner. “You can certify for ACE just by creating the right kind of file—this is why the steering committee has been so helpful. It’s been driving us to a solution that will be valuable to all customers. This system will be smart enough to know when an ACE document is created, what information needs to be included and sends it [to CBP] to create a truly seamless integration. The only aspect the user will have to mange is the exceptions.”

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) this week announced that CBP has postponed the fourth phase of an enforcement program for trucks—which would have stepped up enforcement of the U.S. Trade Act’s advance cargo requirement effective Feb. 28. According to CTA, this would have meant carriers not participating in the truck manifest component of ACE would have been denied entry into the U.S. if the required cargo data was not successfully sent to CBP in advance of arrival at the border.

CTA said that non-ACE carriers are having difficulty coming into compliance.

“While we fully support the objectives of ACE, I think it is fair to say that neither the trucking industry nor ACE is completely ready at this time,” said David Bradley, CEO of CTA. “Make no mistake, ACE is coming and carriers should be seriously considering their options.”

“We’ll certainly be ready for it,” said TMW System’s Mader, adding that he expects the implementation of the e-manifest rule will boost software sales. “I do see there will be a need to make better use of tools. CBP will provide a method for getting this information in, but now you’re talking about double entry to do this. The desire and need for integrated solutions to provide that capability definitely will go up and will be in a position to serve those clients.”

“By addressing the ACE requirements within the TruckMate solution, our clients benefit from a completely integrated solution,” said Maddock’s Cranna. “We anticipate this capability to be attractive to fleets that are considering a new software purchase, which would make Maddocks a more comprehensive solution compared to other providers that do not have this feature.”