E-manifests becoming mandatory at southern border

By Peter A. Buxbaum, AJOT

As US Customs and Border Protection continues to expand its policy requiring the mandatory filing of electronic truck manifests, more carriers are beginning to use e-manifests in preparation for the mandatory policy. In a case in point illustrating this trend, Swift Transportation Co., Inc. recently announced that its wholly-owned Mexican subsidiary, Trans-Mex, has become one of the first Mexican trucking companies to deploy the Automated Commercial Environment, or ACE.

ACE is CBP’s electronic trade processing system that is designed to accelerate cross-border commerce. The system automates the flow of information between the trucks and the border agents about cargo approaching US borders, facilitating the decision about which shipments border agents will inspect. The electronic manifest for trucks is an ACE process that replaces paper-based submissions.

When CBP announced in 2006 that the mandatory e-manifest policy would be phased in, e-manifests represented only 3.9% of all manifests filed in those states, according to Louis Samenfink, executive director of CBP’s Cargo Systems Program Office. The initial phase-in involved all land border ports in the states of Washington and Arizona, and several in North Dakota. By the time CBP began implementing the policy in January 2007, said Samenfink, the number of e-manifests filed rose to 50.3%. E-manifests now represent 97% of all truck manifests filed at the initial group of mandatory ports.

CBP experienced similar upward gains in the run-up to the mandatory e-manifest policy implementation at land border ports in California, New Mexico, and Texas. E-manifests represented only two percent of all truck manifests filed when the agency announced in January 2007 that e-manifests would be required beginning April 19, 2007. By April 18, the day before mandatory filing was set to begin, e-manifests had already climbed to 28% of all manifests filed in these states. The next day e-manifest usage jumped to 58% of all truck manifests filed at ports in California, New Mexico, and Texas.

The adoption of e-manifests before they were required is helping ensure a smooth transition to the eventual mandatory use of e-manifests nationwide, according to Samenfink. He expects e-manifest usage to continually rise as a result of the mandatory e-manifest policy.

Automating the truck manifest inspection process

In the case of Swift, a Phoenix-based truckload carrier, tying its Mexican operation into ACE allows the company to expedite shipments between Mexico and the United States, according to Jerry Moyes, Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Swift Transportation parent, Saint Corporation. “Tying our Trans-Mex business information systems to ACE provides our customers with tangible benefits such as faster customs clearances, and it also supports the US Department of Homeland Security’s dual mission to facilitate legitimate trade and secure our nation’s borders,” he said. “Because Trans-Mex moves hundreds of shipments across the border every business day, a significant amount of paperwork was required under the old system. ACE completely automates the truck manifest inspection process.”

Swift views international transportation with Mexico as an area for substantial growth. Currently, Swift handles less than three percent of the 3.2 million crossings from Mexico each year. “Our business with Mexico is a growing and important part of the service portfolio that we offer our customers,” said Moyes. Trans-Mex was founded in 1994, and incorporated in 1996, at which time Swift owned 49% of the company’s shares. Swift purchased the 51% it did not already own in 2004.

With its recent integration into the ACE system, Trans-Mex provides CBP with shipment information electronically through an electronic data interchange connection. Trans-Mex also provides information on the vehicle and the Trans-Mex driver. CBP verifies the legitimacy of vehicles and driver