U.S. agencies still seek ways to reduce freight bottlenecks at U.S. borders

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Federal agencies will continue their ongoing efforts to resolve blocked highway-rail grade crossings for international freight rail after Government Accountability Office (GAO) teams visited four U.S. border ports of entry (POE), GAO said late last week.

Crew changes and inspections have been cited as some of the reasons for the bottlenecks.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is responsible for keeping the U.S. border safe. Officials with CBP inspect and scan inbound rail cars using the Rail Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System (R-VACIS), a machine that looks for threats or other problems that could endanger U.S. security.

To use the system, the CBP needs the trains to slow down, which can cause congestion on the railways. To stop this from happening, the CBP has modified its procedures so that specific trains can pass the R-VACIS scan points more quickly at two POEs on the northern border with Canada.

Crew changes also happen at POEs, which require the trains to stop, effectively blocking the crossings. This happens most frequently on the southern border with Mexico. Even though railroad leaders have said they are willing to forgo the crew changes, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), as well as labor union safety standards, are more strict. In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation said crew changes are necessary due to differences in safety regulations between FRA and Mexico.


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