To improve wait times for trucks at the border between the United States and Mexico, officials at Customs and Border Patrol should look into automated collection methods and develop performance measures based on improved service, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The report noted CBP also needs to ensure consistent data-collection methods when measuring wait-time data and document its rationale behind staff allocation.
In its report, GAO measured southwest border crossings to determine wait times and the actions taken to address what officials say has become a growing problem. The report involved a study of six high-traffic volume crossings.
It generally found that wait-time data is not suitable for public reporting and that steps need to be taken first to improve data collection before the broader issue can be addressed.
“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,” the report found. “For example, five of the six crossings GAO visited require observation of the end of the queue to estimate wait times, but officials at these crossings reported the lines extended beyond their view at times.”
Staff allocation is also a concern. CBP has reported a need for 3,811 more staff members along the border and that each southwest crossings need additional staff. The GAO’s report found that half of the crossings studied were sufficiently staffed.
“CBP human capital officials reported that they adjust staff allocations across locations to better ensure that staff levels match areas of greatest need, but CBP has not documented this process, and there is no guidance defining the methodology used or factors considered when allocating staff across ports,” the report found. - Jon Ross