ATA warns of potential disruptions after DHS cross-border decision

Backups and slowdowns for trucks moving between New York state and Canada could soon result from a decision by the Trump administration to no longer enroll or renew New York-licensed drivers in its Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program, according to the American Trucking Associations.

Initiated after 9/11, FAST allows expedited processing for commercial drivers who have completed the necessary background checks and is open to truck drivers from the United States, Canada and Mexico. It is one of four Trusted Traveler Programs (TTPs) meant to speed cross-border movement among the three countries.

However, under a decision by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), residents of New York state are no longer eligible to enroll or renew their registrations TPPs, including FAST. The decision, issued on Wednesday, is in response to a law enacted last year in the state allowing individuals to obtain driver’s licenses regardless of their immigration status.

According to a letter from DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), because the New York law prevents DHS from accessing the state’s DMV records to determine if a TTP applicant is eligible, “New York residents will no longer be eligible to enroll or re-enroll in [Customs and Border Patrol’s] Trusted Traveler Programs,” Wolf asserted.

According to DHS, almost 30,000 commercial truck drivers are enrolled in the FAST program at four New York-Canada ports of entry.

“While the immediate impact of this change is unclear, the longer it remains in place, the more the potential for issues at the border and our level of concern will increase,” the ATA said in a statement to FreightWaves.

“Commercial clearance programs like FAST are designed to make border crossings more efficient, and disruption to that will change traffic patterns at ports of entry, which may increase delays and congestion at the border. If drivers are prevented or dissuaded from using FAST lanes it will create delays and force CBP to compensate in order to keep traffic moving.”

Democrats in Congress pushed back against DHS as well, contending that the department was using invalid concerns about security to retaliate against New York state’s immigration policies.

“To be clear, applicants already submit their passport, proof of residence, and fingerprints – and submit to a background check and interview. A driver’s license is not even required to apply,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, in a statement.

“Trusted Traveler programs exist to improve security and travel efficiency, and barring access for millions of Americans will only undermine those goals. Congress needs to respond to this abuse of power — we will not stand by while this Administration repeatedly plays politics with our homeland security.”