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    Carrier Delays


The insights within this section are based on preparing import & export paperwork, expediting TL and LTL clearances for U.S. & Canadian destined shipments and working as Canadian Customs Broker.   


Today for a carrier to efficiently cross the border it may be just as important to properly manage the paperwork as other aspects of their business.  Gone are the days where the driver could visit a customs broker at the border.  Today it is all about managing risk from both the carrier and customs perspectives!  


General Information

Statics suggest over 80% of the clearances for shipments entering into the United States from Canada are imported into the United States by the Canadian shipper, exporter or a  company related to the Canadian shipper or exporter.  Shipments originating in the United States exported to Canada are normally imported by the Canadian consignee although these patterns are changing with more companies acting as Non-resident Importers, drop shipping and the continued evolution of e-commerce.  Sometimes shipments are delayed because importers or exporters don't provide all the documentation or information required to meet the evolving customs declaration requirements.  This occurs more frequently for shipments destined to Canada because many U.S. exporters / vendors may not be familiar with the Canadian requirements especially when Canadian customers represent only a small portion of their business.  Invoice requirements for shipments being imported into Canada can be found on the Canada Border Services Agency Website under Memorandum D1-4-1  (Please note:  Additional import / documentation may be required to meet other import requirements particularly for other government agencies and departments.)



Security trumps trade!  This is the new reality of international logistics. Risk assessments based on previous terrorist’s attacks and other events around the world have significantly changed customs processes.  Governments have allocated and continue to allocate significant resources towards managing the risks associated with international travel, traffic and cargo than they have in the past.  Customs organizations continue to integrate Partner / Participating Government Agencies and Department requirements into the release requirements requiring customs brokers, importers, international carriers and shippers to provide considerably more electronic information prior to the release decision being made.  The information related to their imports / consignments / equipment / operators etc. is analyzed through advanced targeting systems searching for anomalies especially from a customs perspective the greatest risk is an unknown risk.  In today’s environment customs organizations are partnering with supply chain participants to increase security so they can allocate their limited resources to unknown or higher risks.  Carriers who adapt to this new security reality and work with customs and their supply chain partners will find they will incur fewer inspections, may have shorter prior notice periods and fewer delays.


Paperwork Handling

 Many carriers rely on their Professional Transport Operators to forward the customs documents to the appropriate broker.  Operators may attempt to have the documents faxed from the shipper’s location yet in many instances they are unsuccessful and in some instances operators may not send all of the documents the customs broker may require.  This requires them to stop enroute to forward the documents to their office, a third party service provider or a customs broker.  Sometimes Operators may not encounter a truck stop for hours and in some instances may be more focused in putting miles behind them instead of forwarding documents.  In today's environment with customs declarations requiring additional information best practices continue to be have the documents sent to the customs broker during business hours whenever possible.


Advances in technology can reduce these type of instances through the use of  satellite / cellular systems, document imaging and forwarding applications through an Operator’s smartphone, laptop and scanner.  Document scanning and forwarding services may also be available at some truck stops through providers like Transflo Express.  Some of these systems are pretty advanced offering colour correction, straightening out documents and potentially even improving the document image.  Carriers can have these types of providers convert the documents to PDF format where the documents can be sent by e-mail to the carrier and forwarded to the appropriate importer / customs broker.  These types of techniques will ensure the document quality is maintained or improved which is important especially for the customs broker / importer staff who must rely on this documentation to prepare their declarations.  Maintaining document image quality is becoming more and more important as shippers continue to prepare custom documents using laser printers with smaller and smaller font and document quality is typically degraded every time a document is faxed. 


Even though these types of tools and services are available carriers may still incur customs delays for a number of reasons some within and many outside their control.  Please find below some common reasons for delays and even a few suggestions on how to resolve some.


Reasons for Delays


Customs Outage or Delays

Occasionally CBSA or CBP systems may be down or slow or a connection to Participating Government Agency or Department may not be working correctly.   Sometimes only parts of their system may be down and carriers may have options to submit their declarations using alternative means.  At other times carriers may have to revert to various contingency plans.  For more information on Contingency Planning and signing up for e-mail notifications from CBSA and CBP please refer to the  Contingency Planning page withing the eManifest Info tab on this website.


Customs Broker's Entry In "Transmitted to Customs" Status

On March 5th, 2017 Canada Border Services Agency made programming modifications that suspend the importer / customs broker's declaration from being completely processed until the highway carrier's ACI shipment declaration is accepted.  If the highway carrier's ACI shipment is not accepted by CBSA or the cargo control number (e.g. PARS number) submitted by the highway carrier and the customs broker do not match CBSA will not complete the processing of the import declaration.  When this occurs carriers checking brokers' PARS tracking screens will typically see a status of "Transmitted to Customs".  To address these delays carriers will need to determine if the delay has been created by a mismatch between the cargo control numbers.  Carriers should also note delays could also be caused if their ACI shipment declaration has been cancelled (i.e. not active in the CBSA system) or by electronic data processing delays.

CBSA has also provided an ACI message which carriers can use to determine whether an importer / customs broker has submitted a customs entry associated with their carrier code and the ACI shipment declaration is not on file.  This "Document Not on File" message is available to carriers using EDI and in the ACI Portal within the Trade Documents Tab.  Carriers using EDI and not receiving the messages may need to update their EDI messages standards to include the newest Chapter 11 of the ACI ECCRD standards.

Carriers should note the "Document Not On File" messages will provide the Cargo Control Number / PARS number associated with the importer's / customs broker's declaration and the message is generated by customs after the customs broker's / importer's declaration has been partially processed by CBSA (i.e. has passed the syntax & validation checks).  Carriers should note the customs declaration may still be reviewed by a Border Services Officer and still may be rejected potentially causing delays.  Some carriers may use the "Document Not on File" message to load their trailers yet the RNS "Declaration Accepted" or the ACI "Document Package Complete" messages would be a more reliable.  To obtain these messages some carriers may need to modify their internal ACI shipment / manifest practices to create their ACI shipment declarations earlier in their transportation cycle. 


Incorrect Customs Broker

The customs documents may have been sent to the incorrect customs broker.  There can be many reasons this occurs from being provided incorrect booking information, sending the documents to a customs broker with a similar name or the importer has switched to another broker.  Some customs brokers may take the initiative to forward the documentation to the correct customs broker (if they happen to know who the correct customs broker is), others may contact the carrier where others may wait for the Operator / Carrier to contact them.  Carriers may find some of the customs brokers have limited resources available and depending on the time of day and day of the week it can be difficult to contact them.


Customs Broker has Refused to Set Up the Shipment Declaration

The customs broker has refused the shipment claiming they don’t represent the importer of record.  These situations can be challenging and at times can be resolved by reviewing the documentation traveling with the shipment, reviewing shipment booking information, contacting the load broker when appropriate or contacting the shipper or consignee (Note: some logistics contracts may restrict who the carrier can contact).


In today's environment with more and more third party warehouses, non-resident importers, drop shipments, and internet transactions carriers may be having more difficulty in determining who the proper customs broker is.  One reason may be that drivers and operations staff may not know how to properly read a Canada Customs Invoice.  This may be because staff haven't been trained and the trucking industry's transportation management / dispatch systems revolve around shipper, consignee and debtor.  Field 5 "Purchasers Name and Address" is the key field on this document and names the party who is responsible for the payment of the duty, taxes and GST.  If you are having difficulty in obtaining a customs clearance for your Canadian destined shipment it may necessary to determine who represents the party named in field 5 of the Canada Customs Invoice.  Once you determine who represents the Purchaser it should be easier to obtain the customs declaration.

Sometimes another solution is looking for previous shipment information to find the entry / transaction number identifying the customs broker and then providing them information related to the previous shipment.  This is a more advanced technique and carriers transporting freight into Canada will find they will be more successful if they have subscribed to the Canadian Release Notification system since they will be able to mine their databases for previous transaction number(s) to identify the appropriate customs broker.  Would you like to subscribe to RNS?  (When subscribing click on the green "Show All Services" link and only select the PARS (RNS) option.)


Missing Information

Customs brokers must ensure the customs declaration is accurate and meets all the other government agencies / department requirements before they can submit the release.  Many times the customs broker will encounter invoice lines with insufficient information to properly value or classify the specific commodity.  Brokers could also be missing information related to other government agencies or departmental requirements.  They will reach out to their client for the information and depending on the client’s specific instructions and their own policies they may also reach out to the carrier, exporter, shipper, and / or consignee for additional information.  The challenge in these situations may be actually getting a hold of the appropriate party to obtain the information.  This can even present a bigger challenge when the contact is away, it is close to the end of the work day /weekend or a holiday is approaching.


After-hours Brokerage Fees

Another issue carriers encounter is the importer’s refusal to pay for after-hours brokerage fees. (These fees may be charged to the importer of record when the customs broker receives the customs documentation outside normal business hours.)  Some importers may refuse to pay these costs since they want to minimize or reduce their logistics expenses.  Although not as common today, carriers can easily encounter shipment clearance delays where an importer refuses to pay the customs broker for after-hours costs.  Some brokers in an effort to resolve carrier delays may offer to charge the carriers for the after-hours fees.


Customs Brokerage Office is Closed

This can present a challenge.  Sometimes it may be possible to find a branch office of the same brokerage firm open to handle the declaration.  Carriers may find the customs brokerage office that is open could be at any port. (e.g. A Pacific Highway broker's office could be doing releases for Windsor or a Buffalo NY office could be submitting declarations for Blaine WA).  The carrier may even find that another broker is acting as a sub-agent performing the declarations on behalf of other brokerage firms although these types of arrangements have been declining because of the customs mandate to provide detailed declaration information for each invoice line.  Some of the new initiatives like CBSA's Single Window Initiative is also bound to effect / reduce these types of arrangements.


Specific Brokerage Representative is Not Available

Some importers may use specific brokerage team or representative and the representative or team representative is not available.  These types of situations are a challenge and are not common yet they do occur and are beyond the carrier’s control.  


Controlling The Work Queue and Work Load 

Some brokerage firms process declarations based on the shipment’s estimated time of arrival and their internal work queue.  This leaves many Professional Transport Operators and carriers wondering if there may be a problem and constantly checking the brokerage firms website or calling the customs broker to determine whether the shipment has been declared.  Carriers and their drivers find this challenging and extremely frustrating especially when they occur a delay and determine a customs broker had insufficient resources to prepare the declaration or deal with declaration issues during normal business hours.  They even find it more frustrating when documents are sent days in advance of crossing the border leaving them with essentially a few options, bring the shipments in bond, wait close to the border and charge for detention, return to shipment / load to the dock / yard.


In conclusion, the most effective way a carrier can address border delays is by ensuring the bill of lading and supporting customs documents are forwarded to the customs broker as early as possible.  In some situations, it may be necessary to look for out of the box solutions where documents can be forwarded to the customs broker in advance of the Professional Transport Operator picking up the freight.  In my opinion shippers, carriers, importers and customs brokers can develop some creative solutions if they work together to reduce their border delays.  Sometimes depending on your size and operation you may be balancing the costs associated with additional clerical and administrative expenses verses potential border delays.  There are a lot of hidden costs associated with border delays ranging from operators running out of hours, missed appointments, late deliveries, missed return loads, unnecessary empty miles, operator frustration and even driver turnover.  eManifest Express may be able to assist your firm by reviewing and improving your processes.  Please feel free to contact us to discuss if we can assist you in crossing the border.  


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