INTERNATIONAL TRUCK DRIVING
Many professional class A and B drivers enter and exit the United States each day without being hit. But for a brand-new professional driver, the idea of shipping products to another nation could seem like a difficult undertaking. Your trip crossing the border might be pleasant and quite simple if you are aware of and educated about some of the processes and procedures. You shouldn't encounter any issues as long as you are aware of your obligations, maintain professionalism and patience, and pay attention to instructions.
When moving products to nations like Canada and Mexico, some previous preparation is required. Learning the border crossing procedures and gathering information before you go may take some time, but it will be time well spent. You will be less delayed at the border if you take your time studying and assembling the required paperwork.
You must keep in mind that you are driving abroad as a professional driver who may go to Mexico or Canada. There may be differences in this nation's laws, traditions, poverty levels, and levels of education. There might be many measuring systems, road signs, and safety standards. As a professional, you must ensure that you are familiar with these distinctions before traveling to Mexico, Canada, or any other foreign nation.
Operating truck in Mexico
Before 2007, American drivers could not easily travel to Mexico. Instead, American truckers often unloaded their trailer or cargo at a U.S. warehouse along the border with Mexico. The shipment would subsequently be picked up and transported to its final destination in Mexico by a Mexican-based carrier.
Through the actions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), this is slowly changing and a few U.S. trucking companies are now allowed
to operate in Mexico. As this may increase, you may ﬁnd yourself presented with a load bound for Mexico sometime in the future.
You should also be aware that Mexican laws and practices are evolving as a result of security issues and NAFTA regulations. As a result, the Mexican customs broker you employ for your consignment will be your best bet for up-to-date information on the route, fuel stops, lodging options, restaurants, safety issues, etc.
Mexico’s telephone system — Mexican domestic telephone service provides 12 main lines for every 100 inhabitants. Due to this, while service is normally sufficient for business and government, your phone access may be restricted. Cell phones are often used for the majority of domestic services. To find out whether your service will be available while you are in Mexico, you should contact your service provider in advance.
Reporting an emergency in Mexico — The equivalent of 911 in Mexico is 060, although this number isn't usually answered if you have an emergency while driving. You may get in touch with the Green Angels if you are traveling on a toll road, a cuota, or any other significant route. This is a regular operation of repair trucks with multilingual staff. They may be reached at (01) 55-5250-8221. Pull over and open the hood of your vehicle if you can't reach them on the phone. They are trained to recognize and help disabled trucks.
Holidays in Mexico — Mexico celebrates several holidays that are distinct from those in the United States. September 16th is Independence Day. On November 1st, a different celebration called the Day of the Dead is observed. While traveling in Mexico, it's crucial to be aware of the country's major holidays since they often coincide with company closures and delivery issues.
Hours of Service in Mexico — As of right now, there is no set government restriction on how long you may drive in a single shift while in Mexico. However, keep in mind that you will need to follow all American laws when you re-enter the country, which includes documenting your actions during the preceding seven days.
Basic personal identiﬁcation needed — Basic personal identification is required for admission into Mexico. The Mexican government demands all nationals of the United States provide evidence of citizenship and picture identification. You should always have a valid commercial driver's license and a U.S. passport with you.
Penalties for drug offenses in Mexico — Drug crimes have severe penalties, including high fines and 25-year prison terms for those found guilty. Similar to the United States, a prescription from a doctor is necessary to buy banned substances. Mexico has a different list of restricted chemicals than the US, and its public health regulations governing controlled drugs are murky and often applied selectively.
The U.S. Embassy warns that if Mexican authorities suspect misuse or if there is more medication on hand than is needed for several days' worth of usage, possession of any amount of prescription medication imported from the United States may result in arrest.
Penalties for ﬁrearms violations — It is prohibited to enter Mexico with any kind of firearm or ammunition without the authorities' prior written consent. Even if done accidentally, bringing a gun, certain knives or even a single cartridge of ammunition into Mexico is prohibited. Higher-caliber weapons and ammunition are seen as being used only by the military, and importing them is punishable by up to 30 years in jail. Along all borders, as well as at air and sea ports, the Mexican government vigorously enforces its rules about weapons and ammunition.
If legal problems occur in Mexico — U.S. citizens living in Mexico must abide by Mexican laws and regulations, which can diverge dramatically from American ones. Mexican law does not provide the same level of protection for people as American law, and Americans who break the law are not granted any particular immunity from prosecution by the Mexican justice system. Similar crimes may carry harsher punishments than they would in the United States. Even unintentional lawbreakers in Mexico risk expulsion, arrest, and/or imprisonment.
Prison conditions in Mexico can be extremely poor. In many facilities, food is insufficient in both quantity and quality, and prisoners must pay for adequate nutrition from their own funds.
Operating in Canada
Travel into Canada is relatively common for the professional driver. Because drivers are allowed to operate into Canada without restriction, entry into and operation throughout Canada requires adequate preparation and paperwork. Unlike Mexico, travel by U.S. commercial motor vehicle opera- tors has been allowed in Canada for many years. Border crossing practices have been well established and streamlined in many ways.
Personal credentials/identiﬁcation —Canada demands confirmation of citizenship and identity for entry. Similar to entering Mexico, a valid passport and a commercial operator's license is your finest forms of identification. Check with the U.S. Department of State often since passports are anticipated to be required at some point in 2008. Canada presently accepts a birth certificate in place of a passport.
You will be needed to provide documentation proving your immigration status and your visa if you are a permanent resident of the United States but not a citizen.
Entering Canada with children — The protection of children is a priority for border guards in Canada. As a result, kids must have evidence of citizenship to enter Canada, just like everyone else. This includes a passport, citizenship card, or permanent resident card.
If you are a parent, you must provide written documentation proving your legal right to take the kid abroad and that the other parent has been informed. The other parent must sign a letter containing this requirement.
If you are a parent who is divorcing or separated and you wish to bring a minor with you to Canada, you must have any relevant court documents proving your legal custody rights and/or letters from the other parent confirming that they have given their consent for the kid to travel. Additionally, you need a letter from the minor's parent(s) or guardian(s) permitting you to bring the minor to Canada if you are not the minor's parent or legal guardian and you are entering Canada with the minor.
The address and telephone number of the other parent, legal parent(s), or legal guardian must be included in this letter in all circumstances (s). Any additional person whose name, address, and phone number can attest that the minor is not being taken against his or her will must also be included.
Prior convictions — In Canada, several convictions that are categorized as severe criminal (felony) charges in the United States may be classified as misdemeanors there. Professional drivers may not be allowed entry into Canada if they have a criminal conviction from the United States. This "ban from Canada" may not be final thanks to Canada's rehabilitation program. After five years after the completion of your sentence, if you were convicted of a crime that is regarded as a felony in Canada, you could be permitted entrance.
Depending on the severity of the conviction, rehabilitation petitions might cost anywhere from $200 to $1000. You may submit a rehabilitation request "for information only" if you are unclear if a felony will render you ultimately inadmissible to Canada. This would allow you to postpone paying the associated costs until you are ready to go forward with the formal rehabilitation request.
The Citizenship and Immigration Canada consulate offices in the United States may grant special permission if you have a criminal record and need to enter Canada for a short period on a very restricted basis, but this is not a given.
Declaring personal items — Declaring personal belongings: Certain belongings brought into Canada over the border must be "declared" to the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA). The following personal belongings must be declared:
All animals, plants, and their products
Explosives, ﬁreworks, ammunition
Firearms and weapons (certain weapons are prohibited and may be conﬁscated at the border)
Prescription drugs with a clearly identifying label (if possible, you should also carry a letter from your doctor indicating your prescription)
Prohibited items — In Canada, professional drivers are prohibited from having alcohol in the cab of their vehicle under any circumstances. Other generally prohibited items include weapons, such as mace and handguns, as well as illegal drugs.
Vehicle credentials/safety compliance — You must make sure your vehicle's registration, any necessary safety certifications, fuel tax registration, permits, and operating permission are all in order before traveling to Canada. Carriers often provide their drivers with the required credentials, but the driver must make sure that everything is current and in order.
You will also want to make sure that your vehicle and load meet the vehicle size and weight limits for where you will be traveling in Canada. More information on sizes and weights will be discussed a little later in this chapter.
Border station hours — Some border crossings in remote regions may have restricted working hours, despite the fact that many are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Make careful to call the border crossing office you plan to use to confirm that it will be open when you arrive.
Crossing the Canadian Border
Crossing the border into Canada requires patience and general understanding of the paperwork and procedures required by the CBSA. If you have done your homework in these areas, your border crossing should be relatively painless.
Border station entry — Most border crossing points have designated lanes for the different vehicles entering the station as you approach them. Use the appropriate commercial lanes at the border crossing station, regardless of how lengthy they are. Keep an eye out for signals pointing you in the right direction. It's crucial to keep in mind that entering Canada is a routine, organized operation. Your troubles should be minor if you follow the instructions of the border officers and the signage.
Questioning — Upon arrival at the border, be prepared to answer a series of questions pertaining to your truck, your freight, your purpose for entering Canada, and your background or citizenship.
Customs inspections — CBSA can search your cargo for prohibited plants, animals, weapons, and narcotics. Along with looking for these goods, they could also inspect your truck's cab for unregistered passengers or illegal immigrants. Finally, they may check your cargo to make sure it matches the documentation you have provided.
Paperwork — What kind of documentation you must provide at the border depends on the kind of goods you are transporting. The CBSA releases or clears certain products bound for Canada at the border, while other shipments are released or approved at warehouses or other inland sites. The sort of documentation required to convey a shipment into and out of Canada might also vary depending on how cargo is released.
The following are some typical documents that must be shown or displayed at the Canadian border:
Form 7525–V, Shipper’s Export Declaration. Form 7525–V is actually a form required by U.S. Customs Border Patrol (CBP). This form notiﬁes the CBP that you are exporting goods into Canada.
United States-Canada Transit Manifest, Form A8A. This form is used to record shipments that are passing through the United States and Canada but are not intended for delivery there.
B232, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)– Certiﬁcate of Origin. Form B232 is used by importers to report goods qualifying under the NAFTA.
A bill of lading The property you are transporting is listed on the bill of lading, along with its origin and destination.
Border crossing programs — There are many programs for border crossing that you or your carrier could take part in. These border-crossing initiatives were developed to speed up truckers and shipments through the Canadian border while guaranteeing the safety and legality of the products. Here are a few of these programs:
PARS — The pre-arrival review system (PARS) is an optional program that allows shipments to be released directly into Canada without additional inspection at the border. The exporter/shipper will provide advance cargo documentation to CBSA, who will then look over the cargo documentation for accuracy and validity. When the driver arrives at the border, the driver’s paperwork is matched to the information previously sent by the exporter or shipper. If everything matches, CBSA will then usually release the cargo without further inspection.
CSA — Under the Customs Self Assessment (CSA) program, carriers and drivers may benefit from expedited clearing alternatives for qualified products. Before enrolling in the CSA program, carriers must apply and satisfy several requirements.
FAST — The Free and Secure Trade Program was established by an alliance between Canadian CBSA and U.S. CBP (FAST). This initiative helps expedite shipments over the border and offers a standardized clearance procedure for low-risk products. Drivers and carriers with FAST clearance may cross the border faster thanks to dedicated FAST lanes at border crossings. It is necessary for carriers and/or drivers to pre-apply for FAST either the Canadian CBSA or the American CBP.
FIRST — An alternative called the Frequent Importer Release System (FIRST) enables authorized importers of low-risk, low-revenue commodities to hasten the border crossing of such goods. The carrier must also apply for this program and adhere to certain pre-established requirements.
All of these initiatives were created to speed up the flow of goods between the United States and Canada and reduce the number of times drivers had to wait at the border.
Returning to the United States From Canada
After visiting Canada, you will need to produce identification (such as your CDL) and proof of citizenship when you return to the United States. These things ought to be on hand by now as you need them to enter Canada.
Similar to what was necessary when you entered Canada with cargo, you will also be asked to provide correct identification and documentation for the freight if you are returning with it.
Motor Carrier Safety and Licensing
As was said previously, there are significant variations in the safety requirements that affect professional drivers that you should be aware of when driving in Canada. When doing business in Canada, you must comply with the law just as in the US.
Canada also requires additional items to be recorded in the daily log, such as:
Starting/ending odometer reading and total distance traveled (minus any personal use)
Drivers cycle identiﬁed
Starting/ending odometer reading for any personal use (up to 75 kilometers, approximately 47 miles travel per day)
Home terminal and address
Vehicle trip inspections — Vehicle trip inspections: Canada mandates a pre-trip vehicle inspection, whereas the U.S. mandates a post-travel vehicle inspection. There is a reciprocal agreement for trip inspection reporting between the U.S. and Canada. Before entering Canada, make sure you have documentation of a post-trip examination.
Operating authority/Canadian safety credentials — Operating permission and Canadian safety certificates are issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in the United States (FMCSA). However, there is no federal operational authority in Canada. Instead, Canadian carriers are required to get a safety fitness certificate, and operating permission for safety. The criteria for a carrier to get a safety fitness certificate only apply to carriers with Canadian addresses in the majority of Canadian provinces. However, two provinces—Ontario and Quebec—both demand that carriers located in the United States register there.
It is known as the Commercial Vehicle Operator Registration in Ontario and the Registration Identification Number in Quebec. Both registrations provide Ontario and Quebec the ability to monitor the safety record of American carriers who operate in the two jurisdictions. You could be required to provide documentation proving your carrier's registration with these programs when operating in certain jurisdictions.
IFTA/IRP credentials — IFTA/IRP credentials are required while operating in Canada since the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) and the International Registration Plan (IRP) apply to the lower 48 states and the 10 provinces of Canada. You will have an IFTA license copy and decals on both sides of your cab for this organization.
You will get a "cab card" for IRP that details the weights and regions through which your automobile may go. To visit a state or province that is not included on your taxi card, you must buy a travel permit. Alternatively, the carrier may request that the state or province be added to the card. You will most likely get all the required paperwork and permissions from the carrier.
Canadian enforcement officers are authorized to ask to see your IFTA and IRP credentials at any time.
Vehicle Sizes and Weights
The vehicle size and weight requirements in Canada are different, but similar to, the requirements in the United States.
Each province in Canada sets its own rules for vehicle size and weight. For instance, the size and weight limitations in Ontario could not be the same as those in British Columbia. All Canadian jurisdictions agreed on a "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU) on vehicle dimensions and weights to establish consistency among them.
The MOU establishes the following size and weight limitations:
- Height 4.15 m (13 ft. 6 in.)
- Width 2.60 m (8 ft. 6 in.)
- Length -
Straight truck 12.5 m (41 ft.)
Semitrailer 16.2 m (53 ft.)
Truck-trailer 23.0 m (75 ft. 6 in.)
4. Weight -
Straight truck 25,250 kg (55,667 lb.)
Tractor-semitrailer 46,500 kg (102,515 lb.)
Truck-full trailer 53,500 kg (117,947 lb.)
A Canadian jurisdiction may set less stringent size and weight restrictions for the roadways under its control even when the MOU is in effect. For further information, see the size and weight restrictions of the various countries.
Metric Measurements and Conversions
In contrast to the United States, which utilizes the English system, Canada employs the metric system. The following are examples of common conversions between the English and metric systems:
1 meter = 3.28 feet
1 kilometer = 0.621 miles
1 kilogram = 2.2046 pounds
1 foot = 0.3048 meters
1 mile = 1.6093 kilometers
1 pound = 0.454 kilograms
Canada measures temperature in degrees Celsius. Temperatures in Celsius are translated to Fahrenheit by multiplying by 1.8 and 32, respectively. For instance, multiply (25oC x 1.8) Plus 32 to get the Fahrenheit temperature that corresponds to 25oC: 77oF.
Common Traffic Signs and Rules
The driving laws in Canada are comparable to those in the US. Vehicles drive on the right side of the road in Canada, and traffic signals and signage resemble those seen in the US in many ways.
Many of the signs on Canadian roads are generally self-explanatory. “STOP,” “YIELD,” “DO NOT ENTER,” and “U-TURN PROHIBITED” signs are similar in design and color. Speed limit signs look the same except they are posted in metric units, such as 80 kilometers/hour.
Given that Canada has a large number of French-speaking areas, stop signs may be displayed with the word "ARRET" in place of "STOP" or with both terms on a single sign. In Canada, you could come across signs for towns, structures, parks, and other locations that are written in both English and French.
Many of the changes, similarities, and challenges you may face when driving in Canada and Mexico have been discussed in this chapter. Remember that preparation and professionalism are two of the most crucial things you can do to ensure that your cross-border journey is successful and enjoyable.