CBP invests $46M to upgrade rail cargo inspection technology

Technology upgrades and testing slated for this fall

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) plans to spend $46 million to upgrade technology to improve rail cargo inspections at 12 points of entry by the Canadian and Mexican borders.

CBP says it will replace aging rail scanner systems with new high-energy rail scanners that can generate high-quality images more quickly and securely. The scanners use linear accelerators to generate X-rays from electricity rather than radioactive isotopes, the agency said.

Installation and testing of the new scanners should begin this fall. 

Twelve locations, which process approximately 60% of the rail cargo imported into the U.S., will receive the new scanning equipment:

  1. Blaine, Washington
  2. Brownsville, Texas
  3. Buffalo, New York
  4. Calexico, California
  5. Eagle Pass, Texas
  6. Eastport, Idaho
  7. El Paso, Texas (BNSF Railway)
  8. El Paso (Union Pacific Railroad)
  9. International Falls/Ranier, Minnesota
  10. Nogales, Arizona
  11. Portal, North Dakota
  12. Rouses Point, New York

CBP says the new scanners will increase the efficiency of commercial rail inspections. The X-rays will occur only when trains are present, and CBP will install shield walls, fencing and signage at project sites in compliance with the safety and performance requirements specific to each location.

CBP processed approximately 3 million rail containers in 2020.

“Nonintrusive inspection technology is a force multiplier that allows CBP officers to safely and more efficiently process U.S.-bound cargo,” said William A. Ferrara, executive assistant commissioner of the CBP Office of Field Operations. “The high-quality images produced by the new rail cargo scanners will enhance CBP’s efforts to interdict stowaways, deadly narcotics and other contraband while facilitating the flow of lawful trade.”

CBP estimates that during its 6.4 million nonintrusive inspections at U.S. ports of entry in 2020, it intercepted 470,000 pounds, or 235 tons, of illicit narcotics and $11.54 million in undeclared currency. 

Subscribe to FreightWaves’ e-newsletters and get the latest insights on freight right in your inbox.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.