Q: Do I need cargo insurance?
A: Yes, you probably do. Every time you sign a Bill of Lading, you are agreeing to the terms and conditions found on the back of that document. If you ever feel like reading it, you will find that the carrier limits their liability to a very small amount of money (often far below the actual value of the shipment). If your shipment is lost or destroyed, the carrier will be responsible for that amount of money – in most cases about $50. Purchase full cargo insurance if your carrier offers it or arrange to have your CGL (Commercial General Liability Insurance) from your office cover your shipment while in transit.
Q: Why is the Bill of Lading important?
A: The Bill of Lading is a legal document. It is the single most important documentation for your carrier. When you sign the Bill of Lading, you and the carrier are entering into an agreement that will over-ride all other agreements between you. This will indicate how many pieces you are sending, where they are going and how fast they are going to get there. Additionally, it will limit the carrier’s liability if there is a problem with the shipment. The instructions on the Bill of Lading will always over-ride any verbal instruction you give to your shipping company or to the driver.
Q: How can I save money on shipping?
A: In the world of shipping, three factors make up the cost: size, speed and distance. Larger, faster and further cost more than smaller, slower and closer! If you can manage any of these factors, your price will go down. It’s that simple. Consolidation is another way to save money. If you have 20 boxes to be shipped, it is generally cheaper to send a pallet with 20 boxes. This way your shipment travels as one piece rather than as 20 pieces. And remember that last minute changes often result in last minute shipping which exposes you to risk and high costs.
Q: What does it mean when something is “stuck at customs”?
A: Quite possibly the most frustrating aspect of shipping to Canada is to receive some sort of notification that the freight is “stuck at customs”. In fact, there is no physical place that freight goes when it is “stuck at customs”. Shipments are usually still with the carrier – either in a truck or at their warehouse and waiting for some sort of clarification, paperwork or payment. Generally, most issues can be dealt with via email or a phone call and should not take more than a few hours to fix. The key of course is to ensure that delays won’t impact the delivery time.
Q: How can we avoid customs delays?
A: The most common problems with shipments getting “stuck in customs” are paperwork errors and the broker not having enough information. Delays are rarely due to problems with the actual commodity being imported.
Logically then, the easiest way to get the freight out of customs is get the paperwork sorted out. This usually involves talking directly with the freight carrier and the broker. If these delays happen on-site, the client may need access to the original paperwork. Having their paperwork on site will help if your clients need to re-fax forms to the right people.
Tip: Paperwork errors and lack of sufficient information are the biggest reasons for delays. Clients should take original paperwork with them.
Q: Why is the Commercial Invoice the most important document for customs?
A: The commercial invoice is a legal document that gives the customs broker all the information they need to move the shipment into a foreign country. Essentially, it is a declaration by the client telling the broker what they are sending. It involves a complete list of each item they are sending, the country where it is made and the value. Often a list printed on company letterhead with a signature can suffice. Otherwise, your customs broker will have a blank commercial invoice that can be completed. Completing the commercial invoice can take a little time, but it is well worth it if it enables your broker to submit your shipment properly.
Q: Why does the broker need my Federal Tax ID?
A: Your Federal Tax ID number is critical for your return shipping into the United States