Crossing the Canada/U.S. Border: Streamlined and Efficient Freight Shipping

The United States and Canada share the world’s longest international border, 5,525 miles with 120 land ports of entry. According to the U.S. Department of State, nearly $2.6 billion in goods and services are traded between the two countries every day. In fact, the International Trade Administration announced Canada was the United States’ largest trading partner in 2022.

If your organization is one of the many that transports goods by truck across the U.S./Canada border—or if you are looking to start—the following best practices can help create a streamlined, efficient experience.

Plan and prepare in advance

Cross-border shipments—especially those shipping same-day—require careful coordination due to the complexity involved.

If your business will be moving cross-border freight with short lead times, be sure to have a standard process in place. Whenever possible, find appropriate carriers and drivers and prepare your compliance documentation in advance.

With all the information available up front, your customs broker can better position your freight and your business for successful same-day entries.

Build relationships with quality capacity providers

Whether arranging your own carrier or relying on an external provider to manage your carrier relationships, choosing truckload carriers with border-crossing experience is a must.

Quality cross-border carriers will have an understanding of the differences of hauling in both countries, including the preparation and utilization of PAPS and PARS numbers along with hours of services tracking requirements.

Choose an experienced customs broker

Working with an experienced customs broker is another way to help with the timely release of your freight. They will know all the ins and outs of successful cross-border clearance:

Proper documentation

If short lead times are common for your shipments, proactive preparation plays a crucial role in streamlining your border-crossing experience. Processing delays during clearance often occur due to issues with the commercial documentation.

Incomplete paperwork at the border is a huge mistake that can stall your shipment’s progress. In fact, the Ministry of Transportation, Ontario, reports that 35% of drivers show up at primary inspection with insufficient documentation for a shipment—leading to delays.

Accurate classification

All imported goods must also be classified according to each country’s specific tariff classifications. Goods from Canada into the United States need to be classified with a Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) code while goods shipping from the United States to Canada will require a Harmonized System (HS) code. 

Both U.S. and Canada customs agencies revise the tariff schedule throughout the year, so staying up to date is crucial for timely clearance. 

Even slight modifications to the classification codes could delay your clearance at the border if products require additional information for clearance. 

Inspection supervision

Some inspections are unavoidable—especially if your freight falls into certain categories. And while most border examinations are resolved within 24 to 48 hours, they can still impact the rest of your freight’s timeline. An experienced in-country customs broker can make all the difference in the outcome of border inspections. Trust them to coordinate with inspectors/facilities and secure the timely release of your freight.

How can C.H. Robinson help?

Moving goods by truck across the border is fast paced. Any potential delays can prolong an otherwise smooth process—adding costs along the way. 

Looking to implement these or other cross-border strategies? Connect with our experts and start working with our dedicated team.