Trucks get FAST border access

The Homeland Security Department started a new program to give truck drivers speedy access across the U.S./Mexico border, piggybacking on the success of the container cargo initiative designed to prevent terrorists from smuggling weapons to the United States.

The program -- Fast and Secure Trade (FAST) -- will give a faster lane across the border for trucks of companies that agree to guaranteed security checks on their own cargo.

"Mexico is one of our largest trading partners, and it is absolutely critical that we prevent terrorists from infiltrating the commercial chain to launch an attack," DHS Secretary Tom Ridge said when announcing the program.

FAST lanes have been operational since September for the United States on its Canadian border and along parts of Mexican border, including San Diego, the busiest land border crossing in the world.

A similar program already has been underway worldwide for securing container cargos destined for the United States. Like the container initiative, carriers participating in the FAST program will be required to enhance security with technology and other means to prevent tampering.

Customs and Border Protection programs have issued nearly 1,000 FAST identification cards to commercial truck drivers at the El Paso Fast Driver Enrollment Center. The FAST lanes at El Paso have processed almost 3,000 trucks since October.

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