Freight and Technology
Northbound In-bond System
In 1997, WSDOT received funding from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration to apply ITS technologies to border operations at the Washington /British Columbia border. WSDOT hired the system integration firm of TransCore. Project partners included the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, U.S. Customs, several maritime shipping lines, and British Columbia’s Ministry of Transportation (MoT).
The resulting system is designed to monitor and facilitate the movement of northbound trucks carrying containerized, in-bond freight through the Blaine/Douglas commercial port of entry. This border crossing is approximately 100 miles north of Seattle and is the fourth busiest truck crossing on the U.S.-Canada border. In fact, it was used in 2001 by more than 900,000 trucks, a doubling of truck traffic since 1991. Because enforcement agency staff levels at this crossing have not increased at the same pace, long queues of commercial vehicles are a frequent sight at the Blaine border crossing.
This project employs a transponder tag to track in-bond containers trucked from the ports of Seattle or Tacoma into Canada. The tags, which are the same tags used for Washington’s popular freeway speed weigh-in-motion system, are installed in the cab of legal, registered trucks deemed "safe" by the state. The system utilizes the unique tag serial number to reference shipment, carrier, and vehicle credentials.
Automatic vehicle identification (AVI) (transponder) readers are installed at the exit gates of the American President Lines terminal at the Port of Seattle and of the Maersk Sealand terminal at the Port of Tacoma. As the commercial vehicle exits, these gate systems detect the tag, and software references the container and in-bond information and posts it on the project’s web site. The system also alerts U.S. Customs and other users that a container has left the port and is heading north. AVI readers installed at weigh stations along I-5 provide additional en-route information.
An advanced AVI reader installed a quarter of a mile south of the border gives U.S. Customs Inspectors at the Blaine commercial crossing sufficient time to preview the truck's in-bond transaction status before it arrives. The inspectors may then allow the container and truck to pass through the border with little or no delay. A final reader at the border automatically clears out the bond on the shipment and marks the cargo as exported. The responsible carrier is simultaneously notified of the exportation. This automatic process helps to eliminate ongoing problems associated with “lost” in-bond shipments and paperwork errors.
In addition to AVI hardware, the system uses the Trade Corridor Operation System (TCOS) information management system (found at www.transcorridor.com). This Internet-based system links the AVI readers, the shipping line’s information system, and U.S. Customs’ Automated Manifest System (AMS). TCOS is being operated in a service center in San Diego by WSDOT’s system integrator (TransCore). For security and privacy protection, information from the TCOS is available only to authorized, registered users.