Acing Cross-Border Transport with FCL’s Brock Hubble & Dalton Parker

Aug 7, 2023

As your go-to resource for all things shipping and supply chain management, we saw fit to bring in some of our most experienced teammates for a discussion on worry-free cross-border shipping. Be sure to check out our related international supply chain articles below:

Q: So guys, shipping internationally can obviously benefit a growing business, but how do you prevent it from becoming more trouble than it’s worth?

A: The first thing is confirming they have all their paperwork taken care of, so once the driver gets to the border the customs invoice aligns with everything in the back of that truck. Without that, you’re not going anywhere — you’ll sit at the border. If you get held up because of a paperwork issue, that truck can end up getting locked down, and it could be days before it’s released after the paperwork is in order.

Q: And what’s the trick to keeping everyone on the same page when it comes to all the paperwork? Is that where customs brokers step in?

A: Every shipper handles its cross-border shipments a little differently, but once you do it with one customer it’s pretty simple thereafter. Usually, they’ll provide the paperwork to the driver at the time of pickup, including the bill of lading as well as the customs invoice.

That customs invoice lists the customs broker information — the broker is basically a liaison between shippers, 3PLs and customs officials. If it’s a multi-stop shipment, there can be different customs brokers for each stop.

So, paperwork is provided to the driver at pick up, then the carrier reaches out to the customs broker and basically says “are we good to cross, are there any clearance issues?” As long as the invoice matches the bill of lading, they should be fine.

Q: So when you arrange a pick up in Canada, do you have an American carrier going and getting it or do you work through Canadian carriers?

A: Typically it’s Canadian carriers, but it all depends on their authority. We work with a couple of carriers that have dual authority, which just means they can pick up and deliver in the United States as well as in Canada.

Q: Is there any additional liability coverage a 3PL or a carrier needs to have just to cover themselves crossing the border?

A: If we do need additional insurance because of a product’s estimated value, we just go and get it through an insurer. But no, it stays the same. They have coverage the same as the U.S. carriers, so nothing changes on that side of it.

Q: Well, you know I always have to ask about your shipping “horror stories” — what do border troubles look like when they do occur?

A: Once we came to find out a partner’s servers had gone down while goods were in transit. So it wasn’t so much that it hadn’t cleared customs regulations, it just wasn’t able to be cleared because their servers weren’t available to process shipments. One of their trailers ended up sitting for two weeks before their systems were back online.

It’s worth noting, when a shipment does get held at the border a lot of times the driver is not going to have the hours nor the flexibility to just sit there until it’s cleared.

Q: What happens to trucks that get to the border and can’t find a quick solution to pass through?

A: So they can do what’s called bonding, and basically it’s just a yard or a storage facility there at the border crossing where a carrier can leave the trailer and head home. But it can be $150-200 a day to bond the trailer, so I think for that one situation it was something like $2,000 in storage fees alone just for one customs broker that couldn’t clear the shipment.

A lot of times your hands are tied because that driver can’t sit there for days on end — they need to be out driving new loads or they aren’t getting paid. So it often works out better for the carrier to just bond it so these drivers can deadhead home.

Q: How does a driver’s hours of service play into border delays?

A: Well I can’t imagine what it was like even 20 years ago. I mean, it was kind of the wild west. They didn’t have ELDs — they didn’t even have time to break. They just drove until they passed out. So, hours of service is a good thing. It can be a pain in the ass sometimes when you’re trying to get something somewhere, but the priority is rightly on safety for everyone on the road.

Q: Why do you think your customers choose to work with you specifically on these kinds of shipments? Is it just familiarity or more a sense that they really trust you both?

A: I think that’s what it comes down to; trust and customer service. When you supply them with a good carrier and you get the job done week after week after week without issues, it speaks to your experience more than any sales pitch could. Then, when issues do come up, you know your carrier gets the job done.

I think that’s the case, especially for our long-time clients. We’ve changed carriers before to save our partners money while still hitting those delivery windows. We’re always open to bringing on a reputable new carrier (or asking our existing carriers to bring rates down to match the current market) because we are always looking to save money and get these products shipped safely and on time.

The right partner can make all the difference when shipping internationally. Get in touch with the First Call team here for a custom quote and a direct line to our logistics experts.

Simplify your Next Cross-Border Shipment with First Call Logistics

Building and managing cost-efficient supply chains is a full-time job. First Call’s rare combination of in-house assets, expert problem-solving and track record of stellar customer service makes us the 3PL of choice for business partners with a wide range of shipping needs.

More Resources for FCL Shippers:

Get the latest supply chain news and updates directly to your inbox.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.