A border crossing can seriously delay travel time, and in the trucking industry, time is most definitely money. Fortunately, a well-prepared trucker can usually cross the US / Canadian border with a minimum of delays (barring, of course, heavy traffic through customs).
Do Your Paperwork in Advance
Examine your shipping documents well in advance, looking for any special instructions, including whether or not you’ll have to stop at Canadian customs before entering the US or vice versa.
Fill out your paperwork and send it to your customs broker a minimum of two hours before arriving at the border. This can save you up to thirty minutes at customs, getting you back on the road faster.
Before you enter the US from Canada, you must have an ACE e-manifest. The manifest must be submitted and accepted into the system an hour before you arrive in the primary lane. If you’re FAST-certified, the manifest can be submitted only thirty minutes before arrival.
If all your paperwork’s in order, you may only need to stop in Primary Inspection. If not, you may have to see a customs broker. And, of course, there’s always the chance you’ll be selected for examination anyway and have to go through Secondary Inspection. Pre-prepared paperwork, however, really increases your chances of a speedy border crossing.
Have your own documents in order as well. You’ll need proof of citizenship and two forms of identification with at least one photo identification. If you’re a resident alien, you’ll need to carry your resident card at all times. FAST cards are considered proof of US citizenship.
Be prepared to declare all vegetables, fruit, animals, birds, plants and plant products, meat, meat products and eggs. This includes any relevant items in your cab.
Be Patient, Be Polite
It’s easy to see customs officials as bureaucrats put in your way only to slow you down, but remember these folks are people too, just trying to do their jobs. Be patient and polite, and try to make their job as hassle free as possible. This can be as simple as turning off your radio or cell phone to avoid distractions. Besides, annoy these guys and they can make sure you’re stuck in customs limbo for hours, so you’ve got an incentive to keep them happy—or at least efficient.