January 12, 2016

Highway and rail carriers face data requirement to enter Canada

Canadian customs launches eManifest penalty stage starting Jan. 11.

By Ben Ames

Carriers bringing freight via highway and rail from the U.S. into Canada will now face fees and penalties if they do not comply with the security regulation called eManifest.

Under the provision, which took effect yesterday, incoming carriers are required to digitally share cargo and conveyance information before entering the country via road or rail, or else face potential fines or denial of entry. Many carriers in North America will be affected by the change, because truck and rail accounts for 70 percent of trade by revenue between the two countries, with about 6 million truck border crossings per year, according to 2014 figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has been asking carriers to share the data since 2010 as it was phasing in eManifest. However, the agency had not levied fines for noncompliance until today.

The eManifest rule is part of the Canadian Advance Commercial Information (ACI) program, which also covers ocean and air cargo. When fully implemented, the legislation will require all carriers, freight forwarders, and importers to send advance commercial information about their shipments electronically to Canadian customs officials, according to the CBSA site.

The goal is to improve the CBSA's ability to detect high-risk shipments—such as drugs, stolen items, or counterfeit goods—before they arrive at the border, while allowing low-risk, legitimate trade to cross the border more efficiently, the agency says.

Generally, truckers are required to file electronic data at least one hour before arrival at the border, including specific data about the buyer, consignee, countries of export and origin, exporter, manufacturer, importer, and seller. The data deadlines are somewhat slower for rail (two hours before arrival), air (four hours), or ocean (24 hours).

U.S. customs regulations already require Canadian imports to share data before crossing the 5,525-mile border southbound, under regulations in the U.S. Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) initiative.

Most large trucking companies are accustomed to ACE filings, have been testing eManifest solutions for years, and will have little trouble complying. But smaller carriers could struggle to keep up, says Glenn Palanacki, product manager for North American customs for Descartes Systems Group.

"If some people haven't been compliant, this is customs' way of saying 'We're going to charge you and it will come out of your pocketbook, and that will hurt,' " Palanacki said.

Companies can file the data through the CBSA's online eManifest Portal, their own in-house electronic data interchange (EDI), or a third-party partner such as Descartes. Descartes said it can help clients comply by integrating its data-filing pipeline with a large client's back-office platforms—such as transportation management systems (TMS), routing files, or bill-of-lading database—and then compile the necessary information and file it directly with Canadian customs.

Clients might need additional services from Descartes as they hurry to stay in compliance with the eManifest regulation and avoid sanctions, according to Palanacki. "They have educated 90 percent of the carriers, but some people had been running just domestic U.S. routes and are now opening a new lane into Canada. So they are definitely finding people near midnight who still aren't ready," Palanacki said.

About the Author

Ben Ames
Senior Editor
Ben Ames has spent 20 years as a journalist since starting out as a daily newspaper reporter in Pennsylvania in 1995. From 1999 forward, he has focused on business and technology reporting for a number of trade journals, beginning when he joined Design News and Modern Materials Handling magazines. Ames is author of the trail guide "Hiking Massachusetts" and is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.

More articles by Ben Ames

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