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How to Ship Freight from the United States to Canada

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Navigating the process of commercial shipping from USA to Canada can be a daunting task if undertaken alone; transportation companies, like CSA Transportation have customs coordinators on staff and specialize in providing on-time cross border trucking services. Partnering with a carrier like CSA will help ensure shipping to Canada is as worry-free as possible.


This guide highlights some important considerations when shipping freight from the United States to Canada. Even experienced cross-border shippers will benefit from this guide as many of the Canada customs rules and regulations have recently changed, such as Canada's implementation of ACI (Advanced Commercial Information) to all shipments moving northbound effective November 1, 2012.


Load Size: Shipping by the Pallet

If your freight travels on pallets you won't need to pay for a truckload when shipping freight to Canada. Shipping freight across the border can loads as little as a single standard pallet (48" L x 40" W x 48”H). A large segment of the trucking industry consists of "less than truckload" (LTL) shipments. These are individual orders consolidated and shipped together to a destination by LTL freight companies.


Obtain a Quote: Pallet Pricing

Shipping companies like CSA Transportation offer set pricing by the pallet which means you will receive a single price for a standard skid no matter what you ship (usually for weights up to 1650 lbs). This easy to understand skid pricing method is desirable for many cross border shippers as it simplifies the process and allows for easier cost control when compared to the class and per hundred weight pricing system. Many pallet rate carriers offer free online forms for obtaining rate quotations where you simply type in the required information (pickup and delivery cities, freight weight, dimensions, and commodity description).


Insure Your Freight

In many instances, shipping companies will include standard liability insurance in their base freight rate. For example, CSA Transportation's standard insurance pertains to the information documented on the front of the Bill of Lading and applies to the lesser of: $2/lb calculated on the weight of missing or damaged pieces of the shipment; or, the replacement cost of goods at the place and time of shipment. It is also good practice to check your own business insurance policy to see if it covers goods in transit.


Additional insurance is easily available for shipments requiring more extensive coverage and may be purchased independently, in many cases, through your freight shipping provider.


Package Your Shipment

Worry-free transportation is made easier when shipments are properly packaged. Though all freight shipping cross border may be subject to inspection, ensuring your shipment is traveling on customs compliant wood packaging materials will make the border crossing process smoother.  Compliant wood packaging materials will either be heat treated or chemically treated with methyl bromide, and marked with the appropriate ISPM 15 stamp. This initiative was implemented to avoid potentially importing live wood-boring pests or seeds which can be harmful to new environments. In some situations, materials shipped on unacceptable pallets run the risk of being destroyed if it is deemed the product itself has been contaminated.


Despite proper packaging, Canadian customs officials do retain the right to deny entry at the border for any shipment.


The Customs Process

To avoid delays in transit it is important to make sure that all of your customs documentation is in order and sent to your trucking company before the freight is picked up. Items exported to Canada are required to have a Canada Customs Invoice (CCI) as well as a Bill of Lading (BOL).

A Canada Customs Invoice will include the origin of the product, a complete product description, and an accurate value of the goods being shipped. Information on how to correctly complete a Canada Customs Invoice can be found here.


Cross-border LTL freight companies like CSA Transportation require that you use the services of a customs broker to coordinate the clearance of your freight. This will assure that all of the necessary documents are assembled (CCI and BOL) and submitted to Canada customs.


Recent changes at Canada customs require the receipt of dispatch and shipment level information prior to freight arriving at the border so it can be "pre-screened" and then be given an "acceptance to cross" by customs officials. This helps speed up border wait times and means that drivers only need to present Canadian officials with an "ACI eManifest" number that relates to all the shipments in their trailer. Freight in the truck must exactly match the "ACI eManifest" which must also match information submitted by your freight company and your customs broker. Because of this, most LTL Carriers must receive your required customs documentation prior to loading the freight onto a truck.


Shipping the goods

Once you have and agreeable quote and your customs documents are organized you can submit a pick up request either by phone or online. Once your order has been entered you should receive a confirmation/tracking number. It is good practice to mark this number on all customs documentation submitted to your trucking company and to your broker.

Tracking a shipment

Many major shipping companies offer online tracking services. Good companies, like CSA Transportation, also provide email notifications that will alert you of any changes in your shipment's status.

Until you're ready to fill entire fleets of trucks with your own shipments, businesses with growing freight volumes looking to take advantage of selling into the Canadian marketplace can utilize LTL freight companies. No matter how big your order, follow this guide to get a great experience when your company is shipping from USA to Canada.



- Chris Gaffney

CSA Transportation is one of the leading LTL freight companies involved with shipping from USA to Canada with over 26 years of experience operating in both countries.

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