There are a lot of regulations that apply when moving freight between countries. It’s a dynamic environment, with frequent changes to regulations and other requirements. Just when you think you have a handle on the process it can change, and then change again.


While it’s not a requirement that you use a customs broker, the convenience they provide carries a lot of value: completing the proper paperwork and working with Canada and US Customs and Border Control agencies on your behalf. If you’re responsible for managing cross-border LTL shipments for your company, it’s good business to partner with an experienced customs broker. This relationship can be the difference between costly delays and smooth border crossings.


Here are five things to look for when selecting a customs broker for your cross-border LTL shipments:

1. A customs broker that fits your specific needs will deliver more value


The broker should be a true partner to your company by matching their capabilities to your expectations. Ask what they bring to the table to make them the best choice for the services you require. Also:

  • Are they accessible when you need them? Will they be responsive to you, and do they have the tools to communicate in the way you need?
  • Do they have all the software and other technology to manage your shipments and support your account?
  • Is their focus on customs compliance? This should be their specialty.


Allow time to research different brokers and find the best fit for your company. Shop around, get references and make sure their strengths align with your needs.

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2. Find a broker who knows your industry and can handle your shipment volumes


Each industry has its own set of rules and regulations for cross-border shipping. Choose a broker who’s experienced with your industry and its regulations. Industry-focused brokers will keep up with changes in policies and regulations, and ensure that your shipments are in compliance.


Don’t assume a broker is knowledgeable based on their size or what they say they offer — ask them for details about their experience and resources to gauge whether they really know your industry, can manage your shipment volumes and facilitate on-time clearance within budget.

3. Align the custom broker’s locations with the ports you ship into


This is especially important if you ship through multiple ports. Select a broker with offices in the ports you ship into, and ensure they operate on a 24/7 basis. Freight doesn’t stop moving when we sleep. If you only ship through one port, then a smaller broker at that port may be right for you and can provide more personalized service.

4. Ask the broker about their relationships


Verify that the customs broker is registered and licensed in your jurisdiction and has a good reputation. The most successful brokers have strong relationships with local, regional and global government authorities. How a customs broker interacts with these officials can mean the difference between a smooth border crossing or a costly delay.

5. Use an LTL carrier that offers customs broker services


You’ll find that some LTL carriers, like XPO, offer customs broker services to their customers. This is worth exploring, because the single carrier relationship gives you one point of contact, one invoice and one expert resource for cross-border paperwork, helping you realize time savings and potentially cost savings as well.


Shipping cross-border between the US and Canada doesn’t have to be a headache. These five recommendations will help you select the customs broker who can best navigate the cross-border landscape for you.


When you need reliable, secure and on-time service performance, XPO is the solution for all your cross-border LTL shipments. Learn more about our customs broker services and our cross-border services between the US and Canada and the US and Mexico.