BNSF, UP temporarily booted from federal customs trade partnership program

UP is filing an appeal to get reinstated in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program, which it joined in 2022. Union Pacific Railroad

By Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor

Two Class Is are trying to get reinstated in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) voluntary public-private sector partnership program that targets cargo security.

On Aug. 22, the CBP notified BNSF Railway Co. and Union Pacific Railroad that their certification in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) program temporarily was suspended for 90 days.

Through C-TPAT — which was launched in November 2001 — the CBP works with the trade community to strengthen international supply chains and improve U.S. border security. 

The program now has more than 11,400 certified partners, including U.S. and Mexican railroads, ocean carriers, truckers, importers/exporters, customs brokers, port authority/terminal operators, freight consolidators and manufacturers, as well as Mexican long‐haul carriers. The partners account for more than 52% of cargo imported into the United States by value.

When an entity joins the C-TPAT program, they agree to work with the CBP to protect supply chains, identify security gaps and implement specific security measures and best practices. Members must address a broad range of security topics and present security profiles that list action plans to align security throughout the transportation supply chain. They are required to conduct a risk assessment, develop and implement a program to enhance security, complete annual security assessments and maintain a C-TPAT profile.

C-TPAT suspension If BNSF’s temporary C-TPAT suspension reaches a full 90 days, it would expire sometime in November. BNSF Railway Co.

The CBP considers C-TPAT members to be a low security risk, so they are less likely to be examined at a U.S. port of entry — they are five times less likely to receive customs examinations while encountering reduced border wait times.

The federal agency can suspend or remove a member’s certification and partnership status if they fail to adhere to the C-TPAT partner agreement to voluntarily participate, meet minimum security criteria or eligibility requirements, or comply with other related rules, laws and regulations.

Members that receive a suspension letter have 90 days to respond to the stated recommendations and action items. If they don’t respond or provide responses that the CDP deems as inadequate, they are removed from the C-TPAT program. They then need to wait one year to reapply.

Seeking reinstatement
UP isn’t taking any unnecessary chances with its current program status. The railroad joined the C-TPAT program in 2022.

The Class I is working closely with C-TPAT and CBP officials to end the temporary suspension of its certification through an appeal, said UP spokesperson Robynn Tysver in an email.

“Union Pacific continues to follow international supply chain inspection processes and protocols that were established through the partnership with C-TPAT and the CBP,” she said.

UP’s security processes and measures remain in place to ensure shipment security, and its long-standing safety and security procedures with the CBP remain intact.

“As we wait for our certification to be reinstated, we continue to follow our approved security procedures for inspection at the borders and ports,” UP officials said in a customer advisory.

Meanwhile, BNSF also is working with the CBP to address its temporary C-TPAT suspension. The Class I joined the program in 2003.

“This does not impact [our] customs bond status, required customs documentation or clearance processes,” a BNSF customer advisory states. “[We] will continue to follow our approved security procedures for inspection at borders and ports, and we do not anticipate any delays in our operations.”

BNSF officials declined to comment further on the suspension.

If both BNSF’s and UP’s temporary C-TPAT suspensions reach the full 90 days, they would expire sometime in November.