RE: Comments in Response to Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) titled “Continuing Education for Licensed Customs Broker” Docket No. USCBP-2021-0030
The Florida Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association (FCBF), a non-for-profit entity founded in 1960, is an organization made up of over four-hundred (400) member companies from the Florida freight forwarding, customs brokerage, and related trade community. Through its variety of committees of working professionals, the FCBF represents our industry on matters that directly affect international trade. We thank you for seeking comments from the trade and customs brokerage community regarding the topic of continuing education requirement for licensed customs brokers. Continuing Education (CE) in the customs brokerage community is something we value as an organization and encourage of our membership. As such, we fully support CBP’s efforts and offer the following comments derived by consensus from our Customs Committee as well as individual members who are licensed customs brokers and will be most affected by this NPRM.
I. Number of Hours
FCBF supports CBP’s proposal requiring continuing education for licensed customs brokers because this is the best manner in which to ensure that brokers stay up-to-date in our ever-changing regulatory environment and maintain expertise in matters related to customs business. We opine that 36 hours over three (3) years seems like an appropriate amount of training as this is in line with the number of hours our active members are already spending in training.
II. Qualifying Coursework
- We agree that all training provided by CBP and Partner Government Agencies (PGAs) that is relevant to customs business should be considered as qualifying coursework. We encourage that, at the conclusion of training provided by these entities, a certificate of completion be provided to the individuals who participated. To that end, we ask that CBP communicate with the PGAs on this point to ensure some verification of attendance is made available to participating brokers; and therefore, that CBP be flexible about the format of certification from PGA programs.
- In the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, CBP lists three types of training activities including: coursework/seminars/workshops; symposia/conventions; and licensed customs brokers serving as instructors of approved and accredited training. We ask that the language be expanded to include qualifying self-guided learning programs – to the extent they do not otherwise fall within the definitions of coursework/seminars/workshops – which are typically taken online, as long as the training is certified by an approved accreditor. CE credits should be based on the actual instruction time recognized by the accreditor for each training activity.
III. Reporting Procedures
The existing triennial submission requirement is the appropriate opportunity for CBP to obtain CE compliance information from brokers. We propose that, in order to minimize inadvertent omission of CE certification when submitting a triennial report, an automated warning message be generated to inform a broker attempting to submit their report without a certification of CE credits. We favor a progressive enforcement approach whose main objective is to solicit compliance from brokers rather than to discipline them. We propose a period of 60 days for brokers who need to take corrective action to obtain the necessary education credits or who have failed to properly certify their CE credits. 60 days is a more reasonable period of time in which to correct any deficiency and is in line with promoting compliance.
If CBP finds any deficiency regarding CE certification or CE compliance records request, we ask that CBP notify that broker of such deficiency to the mailing address and email address reflected on CBP’s records.
We concur that CBP should take enforcement actions against any broker who falsely reports or fails to provide CE training records, however the language in the NPRM of “false, misleading, or omitting material fact” may be subject to subjective determinations and can have unintended consequences. We ask that that CBP change the language and include to “knowingly false, misleading, or omitting a material fact”.
- FCBF understands the need for an independent third-party accreditor to certify the CE provided by non-governmental entities and believe that CBP is the best entity to examine and approve the accreditors. However, the proposed Request for Information (RFI) and Request for Proposal (RFP) can be unnecessarily complicated and time-consuming. We recommend that CBP instead follow a process such as that used to evaluate parties seeking to become a CBP-accredited commercial laboratory, outlined in 19 C.F.R. §151.12.
- Proceeding in this manner will provide CBP with more visibility and oversight of the accreditation process, ensuring consist quality of the educational activities provided
- Regarding the prohibition of accreditors certifying their own training or educational activities, we concur with CBP’s proposal, which sets high standards for those seeking to become an approved third-party accreditor and feel that any entity that is able to meet those requirements should also be entrusted to approve its own training material. This is also in line with other professions which allow accrediting providers to evaluate their own training for CE credit consideration. Keeping in mind that we also propose that CBP should be charged with the accreditation process, it will have the supervision necessary to ensure that the accrediting parties follow criteria declared as part of their accreditation application.
Our members overwhelmingly indicated their support for the requirement of continuing education for licensed customs brokers and are in favor of the suggestions provided in this response. We strongly encourage steps be taken so that the program is designed in a manner which will add even more value to the relationship between customs brokers and CBP.
We appreciate the opportunity to comment on such impactful proposed rules and remain available to you should any questions arise regarding our comments.
The Florida Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association