Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety, and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that paves the way for a pre-inspection pilot to be conducted in Canada for truck cargo moving to the United States.

The pilot will involve the pre-inspection of U.S.-bound truck cargo by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (US CBP) at ports in Canada whose infrastructure constraints make pre-inspection of potential benefit. Phase I will test the concept of conducting U.S. CBP primary cargo inspection in Canada, and will be implemented at the Pacific Highway crossing between Surrey, B.C. and Blaine, Wash. Phase II will further test how pre-inspection could enhance border efficiency and reduce wait times to facilitate legitimate trade and travel. Phase II will be implemented at the Peace Bridge crossing between Fort Erie, Ont. and Buffalo, N.Y.

Minister Toews said “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.” Secretary Napolitano said: “Our countries have made significant progress in implementing the initiatives of the Beyond the Border Action Plan. Implementation of the truck cargo pre-inspection pilot will aim to further enhance the economic and national security of both of our nations.”

Commitment to a pre-inspection pilot was included in the Beyond the Border Action Plan announced by the leaders of Canada and the U.S. last year. Canadian and U.S. officials will now work together to finalize the details to implement the pilot.

David Bradley, President and CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, agrees that “being able to have primary inspections conducted on one side of the border, or what we used to call reverse inspection, could be of benefit at some land border crossings where efficient border clearance is impaired by geographic constraints on one side; so the signing of the MOU is very significant.” Bradley says there has been some confusion and inter-mingling of terms in recent years. “Sometimes people were using terms like pre-clearance or pre-inspection, when really what they appeared to be talking about was pre-screening, which implies two stops for a truck where currently there is one. Obviously, that would raise some concerns for us. Today’s announcement seems to make clear we are talking about primary inspections; we and the provincial associations in the affected crossings look forward to working closely with the government agencies and infrastructure operators on both sides of the border in the design and implementation of this project.”