Protect data privacy by implementing user authorization levels for sensitive information.

The Washington State and British Columbia experience in developing a fully operational and bi-national electronic commercial vehicle operations (CVO) border crossing system.

Date Posted

Washington State-British Columbia: International Mobility and Trade Corridor (IMTC)

Summary Information

The International Mobility and Trade Corridor (IMTC) Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Commercial Vehicle Operation (CVO) – Border Crossing Deployment Project was undertaken in 1997 by the Washington State Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, and Transport Canada. The goal of the bi-national, multiyear border freight ITS deployment program was to deploy ITS technologies to improve border crossing operations between Washington, USA and British Columbia, Canada.

This deployment provided an opportunity to examine the feasibility of integrating Automatic Vehicle Identification (AVI), Weigh-In-Motion (WIM), and electronic container seals with the U.S. Customs Service’s Automated Manifest System (AMS). The integrated system was designed to coordinate shipper, motor carrier, and international governmental agency operations and processes seamlessly through a single internet-based information system. Upon completion of the physical infrastructure (i.e., additional lanes and revamped customs booth areas), the coordinated processes and technologies were expected to relieve some of the congestion at border crossing facilities, improve the efficiency of enforcement agencies, and reduce the delay that trucks encounter as they wait to cross the U.S. - Canadian border.

Lessons Learned

Ensuring data privacy is essential to the success of an Internet-based border-crossing information system. The IMTC Border Crossing Deployment Project's freight–tracking information system, TransCorridor Operating System (TCOS), linked the shipping company's information systems with the U.S. Customs Service's Automated Manifest System (AMS). TCOS provided data security by requiring commercial carriers, shippers, brokers, importers, exporters, and governmental regulatory agencies to register as 'trade corridor users'. Users were then required to log-in with a valid user name and password, which granted them access to specific pre-defined trade corridor information. Although certain stakeholders (U.S. Customs, the Washington State Department of Transportation, and the TCOS administrator) were allowed to view each company's freight information, private companies were not granted access to view competitive information. The deployment allowed the IMTC stakeholders to successfully demonstrate how freight data could be protected in this type of ITS deployment.

The IMTC Border Crossing Deployment Project provided the following valuable insight for future border crossing/corridor ITS technology programs:

  • Keep in mind the needs of users when implementing methods to protect proprietary and sensitive information. The TCOS used established data security measures to protect both private and public sector proprietary and sensitive information. Private sector entities wanted to protect the proprietary and/or sensitive nature of their information. Public sector stakeholders such as United States Customs Service (USCS) and the Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) needed to access a wide range of shipment information related to the enforcement of national laws and regulation. The TCOS system was designed to protect this delicate balance of information dissemination and protection.
  • Demonstrate that information sharing can result in a win-win situation for the stakeholders. One area of the TCOS project demonstrating great promise was the deployment of ITS technologies to enhance not only the timeliness of physical travel along the corridor, but also the flow of information among stakeholders. This coordination of information sharing resulted in: better freight planning and operations; improved regulatory processes; and cooperative screening processes to support national security concerns and commercial vehicle safety and weight enforcement.
  • Realize that to achieve potential benefits many significant institutional issues may need to be addressed. Frequently, the most complex deployment issues are not only technical hurdles, but the institutional challenges that accompany the deployment. It is crucial for stakeholders to communicate effectively and to reach agreements early in the operational process so that obstacles can be detected quickly, solutions successfully proposed and ultimately administered. The IMTC partnership facilitated open discussions between the USCS and CCRA to explore the feasibility of bi-national inspection facilities at the Blaine/Surrey international crossing. These bi-national inspection facilities would allow economies of scale, greater coordination of inspection efforts, and facilitate direct on site communication between USCS and CCRA. Other institutional issues cited by the Evaluation were: Stakeholder Data Privacy; USCS/CCRA Information Exchange; Transponder Interoperability; Transportation Infrastructure; Security Requirements and Business Impacts.

This lesson suggests that implementing user authorization levels can be used to protect proprietary and sensitive freight data. The IMTC Border Crossing Deployment implemented the TCOS system to allow users to protect and share information. Upon completion of the physical infrastructure, the system is expected to result in commercial vehicle travel time savings as well as administrative costs savings associated with improved automation and exchange of carrier, vehicle, driver, and shipping documentation across stakeholders. Finally, implementers of similar systems should remember that security and privacy of stakeholders' data are major concerns that need to be addressed to fully realize the benefits of these types of deployments.