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Pilot project launched to speed up border wait times for trucks

Canadian border guards are silhouetted as they replace each other at an inspection booth at the Douglas border crossing on the Canada-USA border in Surrey, B.C., on August 20, 2009.

DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

U.S. Customs agents will soon be inspecting trucks inside Canada, checking border-bound shipments in British Columbia in a pilot project aimed at reducing delays at the actual border, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced Thursday.

Mr. Toews and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano agreed to launch the long-promised test project at a meeting in Washington.

"The pilot announced today will test the concept of conducting primary inspection of U.S.-bound truck cargo in Canada in order to better manage our shared border and improve economic opportunities for Canadian manufacturers and their U.S.-based supply chain partners," Mr. Toews said in a statement.

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The deal is part of the slowly unfolding effort called Beyond the Border. It's intended to shift inspections and clearances away from actual border crossing so that shipments – once cleared and approved – can go directly to destinations.

The first pilot project will be conducted with U.S. customs agents working in Canada on the Pacific Highway between Surrey, B.C. and Blaine, Wash., a key land crossing between Canada and the United States where about 3,000 trucks cross daily.

A second and more ambitious test will follow on the even busier Peace Bridge over the between Fort Erie, Ont., and Buffalo, N.Y., the third busiest crossing with roughly 4,000 trucks daily.

The intent is to reduce wait times by inspecting trucks before they reach the border.

In the initial phase, U.S. customs agents will work in Canada although pre-clearance and inspection could also be conducted by Canadian customs agents working in the United States and dealing with northbound traffic under the Beyond the Border concept.

"Our countries have made significant progress in implementing the initiatives of the Beyond the Border Action Plan," said Ms. Napolitano. Business groups have faulted both governments for falling behind in the timelines initially announced to speed crossings.

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International Affairs and Security Correspondent

Paul More

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