What Canadian Truckers Need to Know about Driving in the US


Canadian truckers are frequently called on to driver loads to or make pickups in the U.S.–or both. The closeness between the two countries makes frequent border crossing both possible and desirable.  Truckers who are willing to make these trips will find a great way to increase their income.

Your CDL driving school will probably address border crossing during your training, but this article will help you remember some of the key things to remember as you plan your trips to and from the U.S. These are items to think about, and are not intended as legal advice.

Key points on Canada/US Trucking

  • Canada and the United States are major trading partners. Over $544 billion in freight was carried between the two countries in 2016, and trucks carried almost ⅔ of it.
  • Vehicles and parts are the single largest commodity carried by truck across the US/Canada border in 2016–in both directions.
  • Make sure the goods you transport remain in the “stream of international commerce”; you won’t be able to make shipments between points in the U.S.
  • While you are not required to have a customs broker, having one is probably wise.
  • The U.S. is not as strict as Canada on DUI convictions–a single one is probably not a bar to entry into the country.


A willingness to drive long-haul and to cross the border–or both–means that you will make more money. You will also develop a positive reputation with your company. Obtaining a FAST pass, you will save time–and therefore money–at the border–in both directions.

FAST North Cards speed the process of crossing both the US/Canadian and US/Mexican borders (note that FAST South does not help at the Canadian border). Most dedicated FAST lanes at ports-of-entry are in Washington state, Michigan, and New York.

To be eligible for a FAST pass, every entity in the supply chain must be in the Customs Trade Partnership against Terrorism. Membership ensures that cargo is processed quickly at the border.  Members are considered low-risk shippers/companies, and they implement specific security measures to ensure the security of the cargo.

Enrollment in the FAST pass program is done on-line, and a requires a fee of $50 US. As you work through CDL training school in New Brunswick, work with your trainers or internship mentors to build FAST pass into your resume–it will be worth it.

Commercial Driver Registration Program

Canada manages the CDRP–it’s also set up to allow low-risk drivers and carriers to cross the border faster. It’s open to Canadian citizens and permanent residents, and US drivers can also sign up if they meet the requirements for visitors.

The Customs Self-Assessment Program (CSA) in Canada streamlines the process. Membership in the CDRP is part of joining the CSA.  If you are a registered driver working for an approved carrier, you may be able to clearing CSA-eligible goods quickly–as long as importer, carrier, and driver have been pre-approved.

Carriers must make sure they meet several qualifications. One key qualification is the dispatch system–the carrier must own and control their own dispatch system, and can demonstrate they track and record all details of each shipment.

Drivers must make sure they comply with all laws, including carrying the proper personal identification. You may only have registered drivers in the truck–other passengers will delay your border crossing.

You may bring your personal items with youDrivers entering Canada may bring personal items with them. These items are subject to the following restrictions:

  • Declare all goods, including those purchased at a duty-free shop..
  • Do not import controlled, restricted, or prohibited animals, plants, or goods.
  • Follow the limits for alcohol and tobacco.
  • Do not bring in controlled, restricted, or prohibited weapons–firearms included.

CDRP clearance can also be part of your hiring process. Talk with your placement people at your CDL driving school in New Brunswick as part of your driver training.

Firearms and crossing the border

The easy answer to this question–bringing firearms into the U.S. in your truck–is don’t.

The easy answers is–don’t try. The general rule in the U.S. is that non-citizens may not lawfully possess or obtain ammunition or firearms while in the U.S., unless they are heading to a shooting competition or hunting, both of which you would have to prove to the border crossing agent’s satisfaction.

You would also have to have a permit to carry the firearms from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. These permit applications can take up to four months to process–plan well ahead.

If you are planning on going hunting, you must also have a hunting license from the state you will be hunting in.

One of the biggest causes of trouble happens when people forget they have a gun in the truck. We get so used to things that we forget they are there. Failing to declare a firearm will land you in a pot of hot water. Be aware of all things while driving, including the fact that there’s a gun on board.

In addition to crossing the border–which is regulated by the Federal government in the U.S.–you will have to comply with the laws of each of the states you drive in–and many localities have firearms laws also.

You will have to do your research here. Some states, such as New Jersey and Massachusetts are very strict on firearms. Others are fairly open. If you have your firearm unloaded and locked in a compartment inaccessible to the driver, you may be able to have it with you in most places.

But it will be a hassle.

US Hours of Service

The Hours of Service (HOS) rules are different in the U.S. One big difference is that the U.S. has no option on cycles–every trucker follows one cycle, as we outline below. As you plan your trip, you will want to make sure that switching from Canadian to U.S. HOS does not unduly interfere with your trip.

The U.S. hours of service are:

  • No more than 11 hours of driving after 10 consecutive off-duty hours.
  • No driving after 14 consecutive hours on-duty, following those 10 consecutive off-duty hours.
  • You will have to take rest breaks. You may drive only if no more than 8 hours have passed since the end of your last sleeper-berth or off-duty period of at least 30 minutes.
  • You may not driver after 60 or 70 hours on duty in 7 or 8 consecutive days.
  • You may restart a 7/8 day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
  • If you have a sleeper berth, you may spend 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper, and 2 hours off-duty outside the sleeper.
  • If you are on a team, the truck can keep rolling through much of the rest period for one driver, because the other driver is still able to drive.

Wrapping Things Up

Driving in the U.S. is pretty much like driving in Canada. Apply all the skills and knowledge you learned at your CDL training school in New Brunswick, and you’ll be fine.

This guide should help you brush-up on what you need to know to make sure you drive successfully on U.S. highways. Being open to crossing the border will enhance your career and your income.



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