Moving freight across the U.S.-Mexico border
Shipping to Mexico isn’t just about getting freight from point A to point B. You still have deadlines and budgets that have to be met — all while navigating new situations and processes. From increased paperwork to having multiple parties involved, there are many areas where complications can arise if you aren’t prepared. Understanding the process and having a reliable transportation partner can help you avoid issues and keep freight running smoothly.
How to ship freight to Mexico
Ground freight bound for Mexico travels the same way as any shipment within the U.S. until it reaches a shipping facility near the border. However, because of the intricacies involved with international shipments, preparing for the border crossing process is crucial for timely, efficient deliveries.
Here are the steps to take:
1. Find your shipping partners
When shipping from the U.S. to Mexico, you will need to select a domestic carrier and a freight forwarder on the U.S. side and a licensed customs broker on the Mexico side.
Here’s how these parties work together to move southbound freight:
Your domestic carrier delivers the shipment to your chosen freight forwarder. The freight forwarder then acts on behalf of your Mexican customs broker to prepare your freight for crossing the border.
The freight forwarder acts as a liaison between the Importer of Record (which must be a Mexican entity) and the U.S. and Mexico governments. They offload, inspect, verify and classify the imported product. They also review customs documentation, generate a pedimento (crossing document), and hire a drayage company.
The drayage company takes the shipment over the border, presents it to Mexican customs, and hands the freight over to the carrier responsible for final delivery.
The final carrier delivers the shipment to the consignee.
Partnering with a company that can manage your shipment door-to-door can help ensure a smooth transition between parties and keep you informed every step of the way.
2. Get your shipment details in order
Your broker will need the following documents to clear items through customs:
BOL. Your Bill of Lading must include details about the freight forwarder or broker.
Commercial Invoice. Includes information about the parties involved in the shipment, what goods are being transferred and where they originated. It must also have a statement and signature certifying that the invoice is true.
USMCA certificate of origin. This document is required for all goods valued above $1,000 USD. It needs to include who the certifier is, contact information for the certifier, exporter, producer and importer, the description and HS tariff classification of the good, origin criteria, blanket period, and an authorized signature and date.
Packing list. This is a specific list of everything in each pallet of the shipment.
Pedimento. This is the crossing document your freight forwarder will generate.
Your carrier will need a Complimento Carta Porte before the shipment can be picked up. While they will generate this document, you will need to provide the appropriate information to ensure accuracy.
3. Pack and label the freight
Correct packaging and labeling are essential for keeping your goods safe in transit and for clearing customs. Follow any requirements for packing the type of freight you’re shipping and be sure to use appropriate internal and external materials to keep everything secure. With multiple loadings and unloadings often involved, taking some extra precautions can be beneficial.
When labeling, make sure each package or pallet has the country of origin marked and is labeled with the completed and accurate consignee information. Note any special handling instructions if necessary. While not required, it can be helpful to use bilingual labels (English and Spanish) to help with clear communication.
4. Stay in contact
Due to the complexities of cross-border shipping, staying in contact with your transportation partners can make a big difference in the success of the shipment. It will help keep you informed on where your freight is and when it will be delivered, and it also allows for prompt problem resolution. While your carriers will handle any changes, being available to make decisions can help reduce potential delays.
Shipping to Mexico FAQs
What items can be shipped to Mexico?
Most commercial freight can be exported to Mexico as long you have the proper paperwork, but some carriers may have certain restrictions. Ask about any prohibited items to be sure you’re meeting their guidelines.
What’s the best way to find a forwarder or customs broker?
While most carriers won’t recommend specific forwarders or brokers, they can usually provide a list to help guide the hiring process.
How long does customs clearance usually take?
As long as all the documentation is in order, most shipments will clear customs in Mexico within 1-2 business days.
What happens if my shipment is rejected or needs to be returned?
If customs authorities identify issues or discrepancies with your shipment and documentation, they may stop the freight from entering Mexico. They will typically provide a notice explaining the reason the shipment was rejected, and you can then work with your customs broker or freight forwarder to resolve the problem.
This may mean providing additional documentation, correcting submitted information or modifying the shipment in some way.
Are there fees associated with customs clearance?
Yes, there is a cost for clearing your freight through customs. The cost will depend on factors like the type and value of the shipment, but you may get charged for customs processing fees and taxes or duties on imported goods.
It’s important to remember that the rate you receive from your transportation partner will likely not include these fees. Be sure to discuss the specifics of your quote to ensure you’re budgeting correctly.
ArcBest’s cross-border solutions
With offices located at border-crossing points and throughout Mexico, experienced bilingual support, and simplified rates and invoices, ArcBest makes it easy to get shipments into Mexico. We offer:
- Less-than-truckload services
- Ground expedite transportation
- Truckload services (including flatbed and other specialized equipment)
- Air shipping and hand-carry services
- Drayage services
- Single freight bill rated door-to-door
- Complete shipment tracking from U.S. origin to final destination
- Dedicated trailer pools for priority shipments
- Multiple ports of entry for door-to-door shipping
Want to start shipping? Contact your account manager or connect with sales today.