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Underrated Ways to Minimize Cross-Border Delay
Border crossings can be a nightmare for truck drivers. Between inspections, delays and documents; it has become easily one of the most frustrating parts of the job. We often underestimate the importance of preparing and having a routine set up. You may be surprised at what factors can affect your crossing experience. The documents are just half the solution. Time is an enemy in the world of freight, but some less talked about factors can push back the clock, for those who like a little extra cushion. Here are a few considerations which can expedite the border crossing experience:
Reputation does matter to some extent:
Whether it is obvious or not, customs officials do tend to keep a mental note of companies or drivers who are known to have documents ready and adhere to regulations. Reputation can make a difference in the speed of your border crossing, if this is a job you do frequently. Certain trucking companies or carriers tend to get waived through the scales more easily, and some face less inspections, simply because of familiarity or a known reputation for following the rules. While this should not be a major factor, it does play a role in border crossing. It is important to consider who you drive for, when taking on jobs, or if you are an owner-operator, investing a little bit of extra effort to be polite to customs officials can go a long way in cutting time at the border.
Brokers can be an asset, if you choose:
While customs brokers are usually hired by the shipper, a carrier can benefit from either having the contact information or getting familiar with the customs broker and developing relationships. This usually works well for owner-operators or small trucking companies, because it allows for more opportunity for work. It also provides time saving means for the carrier, to make sure paperwork is all submitted before arrival and that the driver is not missing anything. Having broker contact information at disposal allows for any issues or documents to be addressed ahead of time. Sometimes it is difficult to find contact information for brokers, which is why using a broker directory can help.
You can learn how to answer customs questions most efficiently:
When you arrive at the border, customs officials can ask you a series of questions to make sure you are valid and able to cross. One common question that many do not know how to answer efficiently, is where you have been, prior to arrival. If you’re driving multiple loads, make sure to tell the customs official where your initial load was dropped and where your current one coming into the country was picked up. This is important because adhering to cabotage regulations is significant, and thus you will help clear up any potential issue. You may also expect be asked about where you live/citizenship questions, the goods you are hauling, and whether your load is sealed or who sealed it. Knowing the answers to these ahead of time, can speed things up and address any potential confusion at the border.
Drivers should be aware of the correct entry points and crossing status:
Drivers should make sure to show up at the correct crossing and check if they are cleared to cross ahead of time, in order to avoid delays and even potential fines. Drivers who arrive at the wrong crossing may not only be turned around but there could also be fines present. You can also track your PARS or PAPS status to see if you are cleared to cross before you even arrive, which can save you time at the border. It is easier to correct if documents are missing ahead of time, than at the border itself. Paperwork should be submitted minimum 2 hours before arrival. For a reliable real-time PARS/PAPS tracker, you can use Zipments.
Carriers do have responsibility until drop-off:
The CBP (Customs and Border Protection) and CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency), will hold the carrier accountable for the cargo they are transporting, until it is released. It is important not to underestimate proper communication with either your team, the importer or broker in the process. Until the final recipient gets the cargo, you are liable for it, so if you are transporting prohibited goods or are not sure what you are transporting, it can become a problem. Always make sure you have proper documentation and that the cargo is secured, in order to have the most efficient transport.
Technology can benefit truck drivers and speed up the process:
The move toward digitization may not be every trucker’s favorite way to go about things, but it does save time. Customs encourages carriers to sign up for electronic notices, so that they can be informed on any changes or requirements and so they can communicate easily. Technology also allows for less paperwork at the inspection lines and quicker resolution. Pre-submitting documents also expedites the clearance process.
Preparation is the most important factor:
Identification documents also make a big difference in speeding up the border crossing, because the driver will be checked, and not just the freight. You need proof of citizenship or resident card, and two forms of identification (one photo), in order to be cleared. FAST cards are considered citizenship proof as well.
Remember that it is not just the driver's documents which may be checked, the truck cab is also important for the customs process; because if you have any fruits, vegetables, animals, meat, plant products or even birds in your cab, you will need to declare those at customs as well.
No matter how big or small a load, there are always potential issues we can't predict. Knowing how these small, but significant, factors can affect your crossing time, should help minimize at least a few issues at the border. Staying smart and proactive can ensure ease and expedite the process. Always have your documentation ready for inspection and never underestimate the power of technology to simplify the process for you.