Understanding U.S. to Canada Bulk Shipping

Posted on June 25, 2020 by Andrew Scibelli

While the COVID-19 outbreak has temporarily halted non-essential travel between the U.S. and Canada, shipments between the two countries has been largely unaffected. This includes bulk shipments of liquid and dry bulk products. In this article, we’ll examine the process of U.S. to Canada bulk shipping and tell you what you need to know to get your products across the border.

U.S. to Canada bulk shipping: step by step

As a shipper, the first thing that you will need to do for a U.S.-to-Canada bulk shipment is to contract with a customs broker. This typically occurs even before a carrier or freight broker is selected to transport product. The customs broker is a licensed agent that will guide you in completing the border-crossing paperwork and in the payment of associated taxes and fees. There are many customs brokers that specialize in U.S.-to-Canada shipments.

ACanada bulk shippingfter you’ve contracted with a customs broker, you’ll then need to arrange the transportation with a carrier or freight broker. Your transportation partner must have authority to operate in Canada, along with a driver that is qualified to make the trip (i.e., has a current passport, no criminal record, all appropriate driver certifications). You will want to notify your transportation partner of your custom broker’s contact information and account number.

From there, it’s time to load the truck. During the loading process, the carrier’s Pre-Arrival Review System (PARS) sticker should be placed on the bill of lading. Each carrier that makes U.S.-to-Canada crossings should have a PARS number, typically included on a barcoded sticker that can be scanned at the border crossing. Along with the subsequent paperwork, having a PARS account associated with the shipment allows for speedier entry into Canada.

The necessary information – PARS number, bill of lading information, and loaded truck weight – is then communicated back to the shipper. The shipper sends this information – along with the commercial invoice (needed for taxation purposes) – to the customs broker who will complete an electronic manifest (aka “e-manifest”) online. This e-manifest provides all key details of the shipment to the border authorities in both countries. The U.S. version of the e-manifest is known as Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), while the Canadian version is called Advance Commercial Information (ACI).

After the e-manifest has been created and submitted, the load should already be in motion. While the driver is en route, the carrier or freight broker will check in with the customs broker to confirm that there are no issues with the paperwork and that the driver is free to proceed to a Free And Secure Trade (FAST) lane at the crossing (FAST lanes are essentially pre-approved express lanes for shipments at the border).

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In most instances, the driver’s PARS code will be scanned and the driver will be allowed to enter Canada without delay. In other instances, however, there may be a hiccup such as an issue with the e-manifest, or the border patrol may choose to inspect the trailer. Such extra inspections are rare in the bulk world provided that the trailer’s seals are unbroken and the seal code numbers appear on the bill of lading.

When a hiccup does arrive, however, the driver will have to pull the truck and trailer into a bonded area while he or she waits for the issue to be sorted out. Such delays cost both time and money (including detention and accessorial charges). It is therefore vital that communication between stakeholders and the customs broker occurs in advance, so that any issues can be worked out before the driver reaches the border.


What about Canada-to-U.S. shipments?

Bulk shipments from the Canada to the U.S. largely work the same as U.S.-to-Canada bulk shipments. There are a few minor differences: PARS is now PAPS (Pre-Arrival Processing System) when heading into the U.S.; the Canadian version of the e-manifest (ACI) is used; and there are some additional paperwork differences. All in all, however, the process is very similar.


Turn to Bulk Connection for U.S.-to-Canada bulk shipping

With one of the largest networks of bulk freight carriers in North America, Bulk Connection can match your load with the carrier best equipped to transport it to the Great White North. When shipping with Bulk Connection, you can be assured that your chosen carrier is fully vetted, insured, and qualified to move your product across the border. Best of all, we work with you – and your customs broker – to guide the process every step of the way: from the initial phone call to unloading at the destination. To learn more about the benefits of working with Bulk Connection, contact us today.


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This entry was posted in Bulk Transportation, Dry Bulk Transport, Liquid Bulk Transport by Andrew Scibelli