Customs interactions

Interacting with Canadian or American customs is something almost all of us have to do as part of our jobs. For the most part, the border agents are pretty much the same as we are, just doing their jobs protecting their country. It’s a safe bet that when there is an issue at customs, 99% of the time it’s the driver’s attitude that determines how quickly and painlessly it gets resolved.

If you’re polite, and honest and act professionally, chances are your experience will be fairly painless and inexpensive. If you storm into the office all gun blazing, as the saying goes, you’re in for a very bad experience.

First off, when you present yourself to the customs officer, you have very few human rights. For example, when entering the US, until the customs official says you cleared or places you under detention, you are not protected by either the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, and they can turn you back and refuse you entry for any reason, or even no reason at all.

If he simply doesn’t like the color of your shirt, he can refuse you entry, and there is nothing you can do about it. You are guilty until proven innocent. If they place you into custody, you are then afforded all the rights under the Constitution. The same applies to entering Canada and probably Mexico. As a Canadian, I will not drive into Mexico. On top of the other potential issues, I don’t want to run the risk of US customs on the southern border taking issue with something and denying me entry into the US.

With the import restrictions for personal goods changing daily, what was legal to bring in last week may be illegal this week, so be sure to always claim all personal items you’re bringing across the border, especially food items. As a rule, cooked or otherwise processed foodstuffs are legal. Fresh fruits and vegetables are never allowed, but jams and jellies are, as are most canned vegetables. Bringing in raw meats is almost a wild guess.

Sometimes it’s okay, other times for whatever reason it’s banned. Same with raw eggs. Sometimes okay, other times not. Your best bet is to only bring cooked or otherwise processed foods. If you want to cook from scratch, most Walmarts allow truck parking for shopping purposes.

So when dealing with customs, always be polite, honest, and respectful. Whether you have a pleasant border crossing or a miserable one is almost always in your hands.

Don Taylor has been a professional driver since March 1985.  In 1994 he made the jump to driving tractor trailers, and has accumulated over 3.5 million miles, including over 4 years of driving turnpike doubles in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.  He is currently hauling flat decks across North America.