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Wrong Freight


The freight that is described on the paperwork is not the freight that is in the truck, and apparently nobody knew this until the Customs Officer discovered the discrepancy while physically inspecting the truck’s contents

The succinct term for this situation is smuggling.

In reality, it is likely that either the wrong freight was loaded by the shipper, or the wrong paperwork was provided to the driver, so that while the situation looks like smuggling when inspected by Customs at the border, that was not really anyone’s actual intention.


  1. The carrier advises us that their truck was detained for further inspection, and that Customs officials have discovered that the freight and the paperwork do not match. If the shipment is LTL, we will ask the carrier to confirm that the mis-match that has been identified is with respect to our customer’s freight.
    • At this point in time, Customs Officers have taken positive control of the driver, the truck, and the freight: No one or no thing will be released until the discrepancy is resolved. This is a serious situation, and everyone involved is potentially under investigation. The matter must be addressed as quickly, as cooperatively, and as transparently as possible.
  2. We will call you, to tell you what is happening, and advise you that a representative of your company with the necessary authority must contact your Customs Broker as soon as possible.
  3. We will ask you to try to confirm both what was loaded on the truck and what paperwork was provided to the driver, and how the two compare. If there has been a loading or clerical error, (which is usually the case in these situations) it will be important to provide this information to Customs officials, via your Customs Broker, as quickly as is humanly possible.
  4. Because this begins as an active potential criminal investigation, and remains so until investigators have a good understanding of what they have discovered and how the chain of events prior to their discovery may have led to the discrepancy, there is usually very little information released, even to the driver, the carrier, or the shipper(s)/owner(s) of the freight. You will find yourself in a mode where the Customs Officers will be asking questions, and you will be expected to provide the answers, quickly. Initially even the driver’s status or whereabouts may not be easily confirmed.
  5. We will keep you advised of the situation, but at some point in the process, you, as the shipper or owner of the freight, will begin to receive news more quickly than us. Your main point of contact will quickly become your Customs Broker.
    • If the matter is not satisfactorily resolved quickly, Customs Officials may elect to seize the truck (tractor and/or trailer) and/or the freight. Often, only the freight is held for any length of time, as it is usually relatively easy to confirm that the driver and truck were not contributing parties to the issue at hand. The freight will be held until credible answers regarding the discrepancy can be provided.
  6. When the matter has been resolved, we will advise the nature of the delivery delays that will occur, and the fees that will be assessed for the detention and inspection.


Customs verification of the accuracy of paper declarations is based on selective and random inspections that are intentionally designed in such a way that the majority of shipments will not be physically inspected. This reduced probability of being inspected is balanced by steep penalties when an inspection does find real discrepancies.

Even if the discrepancies are clearly found to be innocent clerical errors, ‘status’ penalties could be imposed that limit or eliminate the shipper’s, the receiver’s, and / or the carrier’s future access to accelerated, non-inspection clearances.


The freight, the driver and the truck will be detained under control of Customs until such time as the discrepancy has been explained to Custom’s satisfaction. If it cannot be explained, then charges may be laid.

Depending on how the situation evolves, the driver, truck and freight may or may not be released, together or individually. The delay may be only a few hours, or it could be as much as a few days. Costs may be quite significant if the source and cause of discrepancy takes days to be resolved to Custom’s satisfaction.

Regardless of how the situation plays out, there will be fees assessed. These could be significant, and they will be specific to each case, and they could easily exceed $1,000.