“There is no one common cost structure that can be applied to trucking carriers, which is why the impact of security changes is so variable in our industry,” he said at the recent Transportation Research Board meeting in Washington, DC.
He added that security rules often are being developed on the fly and complicated by the number of federal agencies involved. “About 120 federal agencies require some sort of paperwork for international shipments today. Not only do each require different paperwork, but most don’t talk to each other or share information,” Nichols explained.
“On top of that, the Trade Act of 2002 requires truckers to communicate with government agencies through some form of electronic connection,” he added. “But a lot of carriers today don’t have the financial wherewithal to afford it – and for many smaller carriers, the most sophisticated electronic communication system they have is a fax machine.”
Nichols, however, stressed that improved border security is vital and necessary, but “quick fixes” are not the solution. “[Security solutions] won’t be convenient for cross-border shipments and will be expensive, but no one is in favor of another Sept. 11,” he said. “We need to understand the effect of cross-border security on the larger costs within the supply chain and work together – shippers, carriers and consignees – to implement and pay for it.”