Monday, December 14, 2009

The Trusted-shipper System For Truckers Attracts Drug Smugglers

The U.S government’s trusted-shipper system that offers a speedy passage across American borders for trusted trucking companies has started attracting the Mexican drug smugglers.

Almost all the trucks enrolled in the program stop at the border for just 20 seconds before entering the United States. And nearly nine out of 10 of them do so without anyone looking at their cargo.

But among the few trucks that were inspected, authorities have found several loads of illegal imports, together with eight tons of marijuana seized during one week in April.

Due such problems some professionals have now started questioning whether the program makes sense at a time when drug traffickers are willing to do almost anything to smuggle their consignments into the U.S.

This system “just tells the bad guys who to target,” said Dave McIntyre, former director of the Integrative Center for Homeland Security at Texas A&M University.

The system actually works like this: the companies that are involved agree to follow certain security measures in exchange for fast entry into the U.S. They are forced to put their employees through backdrop checks, fence in their amenities and track their trucks. They are also requested to work with subcontractors who also have been specialized under this system, which is run by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

The government maintains the list of participants as a secret record, citing national security and trade secrets. But some of the 9,500 companies who are part of the system publicize their membership to boost up their business, making them targets for smugglers, who can then intimidate drivers or offer them bribes.

Almost more than half of all U.S. imports now come from companies in the program, called the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, or C-TPAT. Trucking companies from Mexican make up only 6 percent of global membership in the system, but they account for half of its 71 security breaches during the past two years.

Mexican trucking companies face high inspections than others. They get a full customs check every year, instead of every three years like other participating companies.

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