The United States Government Accountability Office, or GAO, released a study in July 2013 entitled, “U.S.-MEXICO BORDER CBP Action Needed to Improve Wait Time Data and Measure Outcomes of Trade Facilitation Efforts.” The study was for the purpose of examining border crossing time calculation methodologies.

As a part of the report preparation, representatives of the GAO traveled to six different land ports of entry. At each, they reviewed the government’s processes for data collection for commercial crossing times, among other operational items of interest. In its final report, the GAO authors specifically state that “Within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) data on commercial vehicle wait times–the time it takes to travel from the end of the queue to the CBP primary inspection point at land border crossings–are unreliable for public reporting, and CBP management decisions across border crossings. These data–which are collected manually by CBP officers–are unreliable because CBP officers inconsistently implement an approved data collection methodology, and the methodologies used vary by crossing. ” For years the private sector and local municipalities have raised concern that because there is no consistent means by which CBP collects crossing time data, the information that is collected is of limited, or little, value.

Our review of the document, at Secure Origins, highlighted the glaringly obvious need for a consistent and standardized by which to calculate U.S. – Mexico border crossing time. Although the GAO report pointed to a hodgepodge of governmental entity data collection methods, it made no mention of what is being done to standardize border crossing time calculation in the private sector.

Contrary to what unreliable and improvised at other points along the U.S. – Mexico border, the El Paso/Juarez region CBP has solid border crossing time metrics that provide reliable information on crossing times, as well as have the ability to assess the negative economic impact that crossing delays at the border result in. This is because with the click of a mouse, the agency has access to the Secure Origins web portal.

Secure Origins, a member of the Tecma Group of Companies, via a partnership with the City of El Paso, has been running Project-21 since October of 2012. Project-21 is the premier commercial traffic third party reporting and analysis system. It is the single largest crossing time analysis and security protocol system in existence on the U.S. – Mexico border. Presently, anyone with internet access can log onto and see the crossing times for three ports of entry (Bridge of the Americas, Ysleta and Santa Teresa). Simply put, users have a powerful economic analysis tools at their disposal. This enables them to make direct decisions regarding where to send their product, in order to meet shipping times, and to achieve the best possible outcomes on any given day. Doing so has already had a palpably positive impact on companies’ bottom-lines.

A comprehensive solution requires a solution that is different from that devised by the GAO. Lane segmentation, industry buy-in, preemptive intelligence solutions and government partnership are all required to make the flow of goods and services optimal at international land ports of entry. Collaboration between the United States and Mexico is critical to be able to extract the most benefit from a constrained infrastructure.

Lane segmentation must be recognized as a practical need to all parties involved. Without it, ports of entry inevitably transform themselves into crowded parking lots similar to those jammed by last minute shoppers on Christmas Eve. Except, in this case, this is a daily occurrence, not a once a year phenomenon.

Private industry buy-in requires all concerned parties to come together in order to provide the needed transportation data for government agencies such as CBP that empower them to develop metrics that they can use to assess their own performance. Not doing so will perpetuate CBP’s continued lack of understanding of the negative impact that border crossing delays have on businesses, as well as on local and broader economies in both the U.S. and Mexico.

Today there is no requirement for industry to provide valuable GPS data detailing routing, wait and queuing times to the government agencies that can put it to use. Industry must warm to the idea that providing such information voluntarily will produce a tangibly positive result. In other words, if they lead the CBP “horse” to water, it just may well drink. Providing such preemptive intelligence, however, requires the development of analytically sound software that is implemented in a secure environment. Meeting these requirements results in the provision of sophisticated tools that enables decision makers to parse through tremendous amounts of proprietary data,for the purpose of delivering detailed and reliable reports that give CBP the confidence to act. Secure Origins, Inc. has developed such tools and has a track record of putting them to use.