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Shipping To and From Canada

The Ins and Outs of Shipping To and From Canada

Nathan McGuire
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February 26, 2024
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The Ins and Outs of Shipping To and From Canada
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In terms of geography alone, Canada represents the most logical entry market for domestic companies looking to expand. Its population has demographics and preferences very similar to those of consumers here. But shipping to and from Canada does have particular requirements you should be aware of before deciding to do business there.

Canada is most certainly a critical trading partner. U.S. exports to Canada totaled $352.8 billion in 2023, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database. This was up 36.2% from $259 billion just two years earlier. The average growth rate for U.S. exports to Canada between 1995 and 2021 was 3.1%. Going the other way, Canada exported $429.6 billion in goods to the U.S. in 2023 as its top trading partner.

Canada ranks as the U.S.’s number-one trading partner, representing 17.5% of total exports from 2017-2021. It was followed by Mexico (15.8%), China (8.6%), and Japan (4.3%).

Other than selling into parts of Canada where the French language predominates – like Quebec – there aren’t significant barriers to entry, and many benefits. It’s a sizable market with a similar culture, a stable economy, a fairly affluent consumer base, and a short hop for shipments.

Top Products Exported from the U.S. to Canada

A few of the top B2B products exported to Canada from the U.S. in 2023 were vehicles, machinery, electronic equipment, fuels, and plastics.

Top consumer goods included apparel and accessories, beauty and personal care, household goods and appliances, consumer electronics, home furnishings, toys and games, and sporting goods.

These categories represent a wide swath of U.S. manufacturing output, so many companies are well-positioned to take advantage of trade with Canada.

How Goods Move Across Borders

As of 2022, trucking was the dominant mode of transportation for goods between the U.S. and Canada, representing 55% of all shipments. This was followed by rail (16%), vessels (6%) and air (5%); the balance was in pipeline transport of fuels.

Trucking is favored for its flexibility, efficient door-to-door service, and ability to accommodate a wide range of cargo. It also wins when it comes to time-sensitive, expedited deliveries. Rail’s benefit is cost-effective, efficient service for moving large freight volumes over longer distances. Both modes benefit from an extensive infrastructure along the 5,525-mile border. Air transportation is, of course, the fastest mode, in extremely urgent situations, but also the most expensive.

Because of the complexities involved in booking freight to and from Canada (choice of mode, time in transit, pricing, freight capacity, etc.), exporters on both sides of the border often rely on an experienced logistics partner to help them navigate the process.  

Navigating Canadian Customs

While the U.S. and Canada have a robust, well-established trading relationship, it still involves a border crossing involving customs officials, regulations, documentation and paperwork, and the payment of tariffs, duties, and fees.

Proper documentation, including invoices, certificates of origin, and customs declarations, must be prepared and presented to customs authorities. Import regulations cover product safety, labeling requirements, and environmental regulations. The customs clearance process includes presenting documentation, inspection, and verification of contents for security purposes, as well as payment of duties and tariffs.

In both directions, certain goods may be subject to import/export controls, such as licensing requirements or restrictions on exporting sensitive technologies for national security purposes.

Due to the complexities involved, shippers often rely on a qualified freight broker who handles all aspects of the customs clearance process.

A customs broker prepares and submits all necessary paperwork, including declarations, invoices, and certificates of origin. They also ensure all relevant information is shared among parties. Brokers work to resolve questions on tariff classification, disputes over valuation, or compliance issues. Importantly, they keep on top of regulatory changes, advising clients on changes in trade agreements and tariffs.

While there is no legal requirement to use a customs broker, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) highly recommends it. “They take the burden of filling out paperwork and obtaining a CBP bond off of the importer's hands,” CBP writes in an informational article. “The importer is always ultimately responsible for knowing CBP requirements and for ensuring their importation complies with all federal rules and regulations, but using a customs broker can save you from making costly mistakes.”

Wicker Park Logistics, a tech-forward service provider with years of experience in cross-border shipping, helps simplify the complex process of both exporting and importing across the U.S.-Canada border.

Streamlining Shipping To and From Canada with Wicker Park Logistics

We help shippers navigate the complexities of customs clearance and paperwork. Our technology, driven by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), optimizes every aspect of customs clearance, creating a fast, accurate, and efficient process.  

A homegrown TMS from Wicker Park provides route optimization, load planning, carrier selection, freight audit, and performance tracking to streamline and optimize cross-border logistics. And API connections make it easy for IT teams to integrate our platform with ERP, CRM, and operations-specific software.

We provide services covering a range of delivery modes, including FTL, LTL, flatbed, hotshot, expedited, and intermodal transportation. We also offer freight brokerage and supply chain solutions, for all your logistics needs.

Partnering with Wicker Park Logistics for your cross-border transportation provides peace of mind, knowing your valuable shipments are in good hands, and delivery SLAs will be adhered to.  

O Canada, We Look to Ship to Thee!

Canada represents a natural, rich expansion opportunity for U.S. companies, with trucking the mode of choice. While it may seem like just a drive across the border, the logistics can get more involved than they first appear. This includes navigating the customs clearance process, especially proper documentation.

For shippers seeking a strong, reliable partner to make the leap into Canada, look no further than Wicker Park Logistics. From freight booking and supply chain management to a multi-modal carrier network, you get an end-to-end, seamless experience. Speak to an expert today.

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