Tips to Make Your Cross-Border Shipping Experience Easier

Melton Logistics – 01/18/2024

Cross-border shipping refers to the transportation of goods across international borders. Over $3.02 BILLION worth of products traversed the border between just the United States and Mexico daily in 2022. With that kind of volume, it makes sense that only the most experienced cross-border logistics providers, such as Melton Logistics with our decades of proven success, manage cross-border business frequently. For shippers who are unprepared, customs delays can prove costly, and serve to frustrate customers and carriers alike. 

Whether you’re a seasoned export/import shipper or preparing to ship goods across international lines for the first time, here are some keys to making sure things run smoothly.

1. Check Your Cross-Border Documentation

Cross-border shipping can take anywhere from hours to days depending on factors like the cargo being shipped, the origin of the cargo, whether or not the shipment is classified as expedited, and more. Generally, the quicker that cross border freight can reach its destination, the better. Incomplete or out-of-date documentation is the primary reason shipments are detained at the border. Border control and customs officials can’t do much in the case that you’re missing documentation or provide inaccurate information, so you need to ensure that these documents are accurate, complete, easily accessible and up to date for a stress-free border crossing:

a. Shipper’s Letter of Instruction: A Shipper’s Letter of Instruction (abbreviated as SLI) is a document provided by the shipper detailing the instructions on how they would like the shipment to be handled. This grants a carrier permission to act on behalf of the shipper.

b. Bill of Lading: The Bill of Lading (abbreviated as BL or BoL) is a legally binding agreement between the shipper and the business providing the transportation. It serves as a type of receipt detailing the type of freight being hauled and its destination. This document can be furnished by the shipper or originate from the carrier with copies provided to both.

c. Commercial Invoice: A Commercial Invoice is utilized as a customs document. While there is no internationally standard format, every commercial invoice should include:

      • Name and address of the buyer and seller
      • Detailed description of the goods included
      • Country of origin
      • HS code for the products being shipped
      • Value of all goods
      • Terms of sale

d. Packing List: Similar to a commercial invoice, the Packing List specifically includes an accurate count, weight, measurement and description of the cargo.

e. Certificate of Origin: A Certificate of Origin (abbreviated as CO) serves as proof that goods were manufactured or processed within a particular country. It’s extremely important because some countries will not accept goods produced or manufactured in certain countries, or may have different requirements depending on the country of origin.

f. Carrier Manifest: The Carrier Manifest is a document that serves as a record and inventory of items being transported by a carrier, such as a shipping company or freight carrier. It includes essential information about the goods being shipped, the origin and destination of the shipment, and other relevant details necessary for the transportation process.

2. Have Your Customs Broker (like Melton Logistics) on Speed Dial

One of the best ways to mitigate potential international supply chain headaches is to choose an experienced and reputable logistics provider with expertise and experience with cross-border freight. This offers several advantages such as an established network of contacts, a proven and successful track record and positive customer reviews and case studies.

Logistics companies that maintain good reputations among customs brokers can more easily resolve the occasional delay. Additionally, they can also help point you in the right direction – literally. Knowing which border crossing to take can save you time that may otherwise be wasted at inefficient or out of the way crossings. 

Melton Logistics employee working at their desk

3. Understand Local Laws and Regulations

Understanding trade laws for the destinations to which you plan on shipping goods is a prerequisite for successful cross border trade. Every country has its own set of rules and regulations; preparing in advance to accommodate these unique requirements will keep shipments on track for timely delivery and avoid customs delays at the border. The following are some common border regulations you might encounter.

a. Custom Documentations and Tariffs: Shippers should be aware of any specific tariffs and taxes that may apply to their goods in the destination country, as these can significantly impact the cost of shipping and the time it takes to clear customs.

b. Import/Export Restrictions and Licensing:  Certain items, such as hazardous materials or restricted goods like firearms or pharmaceuticals, may require additional permits or compliance measures before they can be transported across borders.

c. Product Labeling and Packaging: Improper or inadequate labeling can result in customs delays, fines, or even rejection of the shipment at the border. 

d. Security Measures and Cargo Inspections: Many countries have strict security measures in place for cross-border shipments, particularly for high-risk goods or shipments originating from certain regions. Shippers should be prepared for potential cargo inspections.

4. Consider Potential Hazards and Pitfalls

It’s impossible to plan for the unknown, but that doesn’t mean all attempts at foresight should be thrown out the window. Prepare a contingency plan for when the unexpected happens. Consider factors like hours of service, specific consignee requirements and ways of maintaining clear channels of communication. 

5. Choose an Experienced and Trustworthy Transportation Company

Choosing a company with cross border experience makes a tremendous difference when it comes to ensuring an efficient and pain-free shipping experience. Melton Logistics, in business for decades, manages thousands of shipments annually for our valued customers. We also have branches established in Laredo, TX, and Queretaro, MX that allow us to closely manage cross-border shipments in and out of Mexico. How can our cross border shipping services help you? 

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