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How to avoid customs inspections

When you are shipping freight cross-border, there is always a possibility that your shipment could be inspected by customs. Our customers are usually taken back when inspections happen because they are unexpected and there are extremely high fees associated with the process.


Here are 5 reasons why customs might want to inspect your shipment:


1. You’re a Virgin

Customs inspects first-time shippers to ensure that they are properly declaring their goods. Customs isn’t familiar with your freight yet and they want to make sure you are doing things by the book and will be a model importer. A good first impression goes a long way for future shipments. 


2. You Have a Secret Flag

Canada Border Services (CBSA) and Customs & Border Protection (CBP) have a very large list of shippers and importers that are flagged for various reasons. Incorrect HS import codes, understating the value of the goods and mislabelling the freight are some of the primary offences that can get you flagged.


3. We’re Not Sure About that Country

If you are shipping goods from Colombia, chances are customs is going to take a look. The same goes for countries like Iran, Cuba and North Korea where the US or Canada may have sanctions. We have even seen goods from China receive extra scrutiny due to radiation concerns and manufacturing practices. 


4. It’s Going in, On or Around a Human

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) take pharmaceutical and food import very seriously. This means if your shipment contains something that is going inside the human body, chances of it being inspected are much higher. The good news is that customs is just watching out for your health and safety. 


5. It’s Just Your Turn

Each year, customs select about 5% of shipments for random examination. Even if you do everything right, sometimes it is just your time to shine. A positive customs inspection will definitely help your future shipments. 


The Costly Penalty Box

Each shipping scenario is different, but you should always be prepared to deal with high extra charges if your shipment gets inspected at the border. Handling fees in these situations can range anywhere between $500 and $3500 dollars. Unloading/reloading of trailers, waiting time at the border, trucks being refused entry and re-clearance of freight is not cheap for anyone involved. Remember, when you’re shipping LTL the truck consists of a lot of different shipments, every one of which has to be cleared by customs. In Canada, you could also receive an Administrative Monetary Penalty (AMPS) of anywhere between $150 and $25,000 depending on your previous penalty history. 

A great way to reduce your risk of inspection is by providing your paperwork to your customs broker and carrier in advance. Also, this gives you time to make sure customs is happy with your documents prior to your freight arriving at the border. 

If you do not have a customs broker please reach out to us and we will help you get set up with one of our partners. Moto also has a great relationship with CBP and CBSA so if you are looking for a cross-border carrier for your freight we are here to help. 

Have any more questions? Give us a call at (604) 757-2441 or email us at