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New online prepay option available at Peace Bridge

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A new online prepay option for commercial vehicles is now available at the Peace Bridge as part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's latest effort to support a more efficient flow of traffic across the Canadian border.

Rep. Brian Higgins announced a pilot project will begin this month, allowing commercial vehicle operators to prepay the single-crossing user fee online prior to arrival. Following the pilot, CBP will undertake a 90-day evaluation to consider implementation at all U.S. land ports of entry.  Buffalo, Detroit and El Paso are the three sites nationwide testing the effort.

“Antiquated payment procedures are slowing the movement of goods in commercial vehicles across the border and contributing to bottlenecks for passenger vehicles,” said Higgins, who is co-chair of the Congressional Northern Border Caucus and a member of the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security.

“Under this new program we remove what can be a time-consuming step, which is not only stalling traffic but stalling economic opportunity, from the border crossing process providing a win-win for travelers and for our regional and national economies,” he said.

Explaining the process, Higgins said commercial vehicles crossing the border currently pay a U.S. CBP user fee. However, truck operators that cross on a regular basis frequently purchase a transponder containing information about the vehicle and border crossing user fee payment status, to allow for expedited processing. 

When commercial carriers do not purchase an annual transponder, he said the driver is required to pay a $13.05 user fee per crossing.  The Buffalo Democrat said the collection of this user fee causes significant delays in cash collection, processing and backups on the bridge.

Under the new program, commercial truck operators will be able to pay the single-crossing user fee online through the Decal/Transponder Online Procurement System website, which will include mobile phone friendly features.  Users will receive payment confirmation via an electronic receipt. 

Higgins cited Homeland Security's budget, which talked about how the current manual process results in increased wait times and fuel costs for carriers and loss of work hours for CBP. It stated that last year in Buffalo, each commercial truck inspection took an average of 80-90 seconds per vehicle and user fee collections were approximately $774,000, or approximately 72,000 collections. 

"Preliminary analysis from an independent contractor indicates that implementing an automated user fee collection solution could result in a potential 6.5 percent decrease in processing times and 5.5 percent increase in throughput in Buffalo alone," it stated.