DHS moves into the FAST lane along Mexican border

DHS moves into the FAST lane along Mexican border

The Homeland Security Department is expanding its trusted-vehicle program to Mexican ports.

The program uses wireless radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags to identify and speed border crossing for trucks and drivers that the department has registered as secure.

The department has been using the Free and Secure Trade program, or FAST, at five Canadian port crossings. Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge last week announced the plan to expand it to Mexican ports.

FAST establishes dedicated lanes at border crossings for trucks registered through the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program, an initiative for freight carriers and suppliers to implement security plans and volunteer operational information.

Texas' El Paso border port opened FAST lanes Sept. 27. An additional six ports will be opened by Jan. 31: at Brownsville, Hidalgo and Laredo in Texas; at Calexico and Otay Mesa in California; and at Nogales, Ariz.

The opening follows a successful implementation of FAST program at U.S.-Canada crossings. The U.S.-Canada FAST border points'Blaine, Wash.; Buffalo and Champlain, N.Y.; Detroit; and Port Huron, Mich.'have been operational since September of last year. A total of 27 traffic lanes have been equipped so that nearly 70 percent of freight traffic with Canada can use the system.

When a registered truck rolls into one of these border points, a reader identifies the vehicle from its RFID tag. The driver also presents an identification card, which can be read by either a stationary or handheld reader.

ITS Services Inc. of Springfield, Va., the systems integrator for FAST, has a contract to wirelessly equip 65 U.S.-Mexican lanes, said Jill Thompson, group vice president for ITS Services. ITS Services equipped the Canadian ports for $1.2 million and will equip the Mexican ports under the original contract, bringing its value to $5.7 million.

For the original contract, ITS Services used RFID tag printers from the DataCard Group of Minnetonka, Minn., for printing ID cards for truck drivers. TransCore of Beaverton, Ore., provided the windshield sticker tags, blank ID cards and inspection booth reader equipment. Intermec Technologies Corp. of Everett, Wash., provided the handheld readers.

'I anticipate the same degree of success with FAST on the Mexican border as we've seen on the Canadian border,' Ridge said in a statement.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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