To take a tour of a port of entry connecting the U.S. and Canada or the U.S. and Mexico is to get a glimpse of the latest in cutting-edge technology. This is true whether you’re traveling in your own car or have a business that depends on border crossings. Residents of San Antonio and South Texas, especially the many Mexican National families who now call Texas home, know it well.
For example, there are industrial-strength X-ray machines – called VACIS machines – that can be mounted on a truck chassis to scan the contents of a container without popping it open. Electronic seals can confirm that a container’s contents haven’t been tampered with in its journey from the factory or maquila. And various types of GPS and RFID technology track a truck’s journey to the border and can help ensure that the driver hasn’t been taking any unscheduled detours.
In 21st century international trade, this is as it should be, and there are more gadgets and widgets in the pipeline. Not a week goes by in which I don’t get an email from a vendor touting the latest and greatest in supply-chain security technology.
But in the year 2012, when you can easily determine when a truck left the maquila, where the driver took a pit stop, whether the trailer was opened and what speed the truck was traveling, you’d think we'd also have a reliable, predictable way of determining how long your shipment will be expected to wait in line to enter the U.S.
But we don’t.