ISF progress reports – how to access

US Customs has announced that it will no longer be emailing ISF Progress Reports after the December 2011 reports.  Rather, recipients can continue to access the reports through the ACE Secure Data Portal.

The full notice, which can be found here, includes a link to set up a free ACE Portal Account.

How shippers can weather predicted trucking shortage

As recently reported in American Shipper, analysts and trucking executives are predicting an alarming commercial truck scarcity in the US in 2012.  Currently, capacity is extremely tight, and if the economy improves, the situation will worsen.

The main factors that are leading to the looming crisis are a shortage in both equipment and drivers.  As for equipment, the trucking industry has significantly reduced its fleets since the global economic downturn began in 2007 by selling used tractors and deferring purchase of new equipment.  In addition, many small trucking companies went out of business.

With regard to drivers, more than 13 percent left the workforce left since 2007, and there are fewer younger drivers entering the market to replace older workers.  Factors such as new federal hours-of-service rules inhibit hiring, leaving a current driver deficit of 125,000.

Astute shippers can take steps to mitigate problems caused by the shortage:

  • Strengthen relationship with key carriers (give consistent business, accept fair rates, reduce dock-wait times, pay invoices early) to increase priority during busy shipping times.
  • Create more consistent shipping patterns and share demand forecasts so carriers may deploy their trucks and drivers more efficiently.
  • Secure dedicated contract carriage (set asides of certain number of vehicles or drivers).
  • Use the spot market where rates and terms are better than contract rates.
  • Increase size of private fleet, and sell empty space in trailers on return trips.
  • Work with a truck broker for flexibility in last minute scheduling.
  • Adjust production schedules to produce loads when carriers have extra seasonal capacity.

The full article, “Where did all the trucks go?,” is available here.

Simplified entry pilot – apply by November 17

As reported in our blog post of October 4, US Customs is launching a simplified entry process pilot program.  To that end, the agency is seeking applicants for the pilot, and has extended the deadline by which to apply for the pilot through midnight (EST), Thursday, November 17.

Applicants interested in participating must submit an email to with the subject heading “Simplified Entry Participant Request,” and must include information regarding estimated volume of entries anticipated to be filed under the pilot, and the identity of the ports where filings are likely to occur.  Additional information is available in November 9th’s Federal Register.

CBP hopes to simplify the entry process by allowing participants to submit 12 required and three (3) optional data elements to CBP at any time prior to the arrival of the merchandise on the conveyance transporting the cargo to the United States. This data will fulfill merchandise entry requirements and will allow for earlier release decisions and more certainty for the importer in determining the logistics of cargo delivery.

Customs compliance manuals – tips for importers

Since a customs compliance manual is evidence of reasonable care under the Customs Modernization Act, an astute importer will maintain such a manual to demonstrate a proactive stance with regard to compliance.  In fact, creation and maintenance of an accurate and up-to-date customs or trade compliance manual can help to mitigate certain types of customs errors and penalties (provided that the steps in the manual are followed).  In addition, a customs compliance manual is typically required for both C-TPAT and ISA program acceptance.

Following are a few tips for maintaining and providing access to a compliance manual.

Internal use

Following best practices, an importer should maintain its compliance manual electronically.  The document is uploaded to the corporate intranet site, a SharePoint site or the like.  For version control purposes, the preferred approach is for the document to be stored in portable document format (PDF), read/view only or otherwise write-protected.

To the extent hard-copy versions of the manual are distributed internally, these manuals should contain a disclaimer, with a print date, that printed versions are for reference only, and that the electronic copy is the control copy (also helps to satisfy ISO9000 controlled document requirements).

Providing manuals to third parties

When US Customs requests a copy of the trade compliance manual, many importers provide a hard copy of the document, neatly arranged in a binder(s), with tabs for easy reference.  Some provide the entire manual, while others provide the specific section of the manual that CBP requests.  It is good practice to include the version control disclaimer mentioned above, so that Customs can see that the importer values the integrity of their compliance documentation.

Depending on the Customs representative’s request, some importers provide – instead of or in addition to the hard copy – a digital version of the manual on a flash drive or a compact drive.  In this case, it is best to ensure that the document on the disc is write-protected.  Most importers shy away from providing Customs with access to a company intranet to view a compliance manual, in order to maintain security of the corporate firewall.

Often, other third parties – usually a customs broker or a customer or supplier – may request a copy of the importer’s customs compliance manual.  As for brokers, since generally they are intimately tied into the import process, it makes sense that each of the broker’s employee handling an account is provided with the importer’s customs compliance manual (following the safeguards discussed above).  Alternatively, an importer may create a broker-specific manual, which the broker will use to create their internal SOP for the importer’s account.

Conversely, when a customer or supplier requests the manual, there may not be a need to provide the manual.  An importer may instead provide a certification that that it is in possession of a manual and adheres to the procedures outlined in the document.  Of course, whether to provide the manual to customers or suppliers may depend on any contractual obligations or the nature of the relationship between the parties.

On-demand webinar available for ACE courtesy notice of liquidation

If you missed US Customs’ October 12 live webinar on life after the termination of the paper courtesy of liquidation program (see our blog post), you may now watch it at your convenience.

Simply click here to view the webinar.  The presentation provides helpful tips for imports — who rely on brokers to file their entries — to access ACE to run reports to determine liquidation status of those entries.