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U.S. Customs chief inspects Peace Bridge pre-inspection program

The head of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency visited Buffalo’s Peace Bridge today to meet employees and assess the pre-inspection program piloted several months ago to smooth the travel of trucks entering the country from Canada.

R. Gil Kerlikowske, who served as Buffalo’s police commissioner from 1994 to 1999 before moving on to other high-level positions in law enforcement, was sworn in in March to lead a federal agency that is 225 years old, has 60,000 employees and a budget of $12.4 billion.

“The push is always on to, you know, how are you going to expedite travel? How are you going to expedite trade? Particularly with increases in both of those, and also do it in a safe way?" Kerlikowske said during an interview with The Buffalo News. “I have had the job now for almost six months and have traveled to most of our major ports. ...So it’s a good opportunity to visit, to see people and also to see things first hand."

Customs and Border Patrol officers this past winter began inspecting trucks bound for the United States at the more expansive plaza in Fort Erie, Ont., as a way to help ease the way for cargo entering the country at the busy Peace Bridge.

For the most part, the program seems to be working, said David Bradley, president and CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, which represents 4,500 trucking companies. But he said he would still like to find a way for truckers to avoid a second stop — usually a rolling stop — after crossing the Peace Bridge before learning if they can truly be on their way.