Customs broker system outage delays truckers at border

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Commercial truck drivers faced long wait times and delays at U.S.-Canada border crossings in Ontario after Customs broker Livingston International experienced a system outage.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) confirmed that Livingston International experienced a system outage that was preventing it from providing critical advanced information required by the CBSA for the purpose of clearing commercial imports.

A CBSA spokeswoman told the outage has been resolved and “we are working with our partners at the U.S. CBP, bridge commission, the trucking community and the client to clear the resulting backlog of trucks seeking entry into Canada.”

Canada-U.S. border
(File photo: iStock)

Beverley Hudd from Fairway Transport based in Ancaster, Ont., said her drivers informed her hundreds of trucks were parked at ports of entry into Canada. “You can phone the [Livingston’s] contact center, you don’t get anything, they are frazzled,” she said, adding that the problem began over the [July 30-31] weekend.

Livingston International did not respond to requests for comment.

Fairway’s flatbed haulers Norm Carrey and Keith Donner experienced lengthy wait times at the border this week.

On Aug. 4, Carrey arrived on the U.S. side of the Fort Erie border crossing at 8 a.m. An employee at the Livingston office told him to put his phone number on the paperwork and wait in his truck.

There were about 50 drivers waiting for their paperwork, he says. The parking lot was full and the overflow compound three-quarters full. Carrey said some truckers told him they were waiting from the night before.

11-hour wait

He received a call at 6:30 p.m. to pick up the documents, and after clearing Customs crossed the border. The whole process took 11 hours.

“It was too late to deliver my load in Toronto, so I stayed at a truck stop for the night and delivered the freight the next morning. I lost a whole day’s work and my next load,” Carrey said.

Fairway driver Donner, who was bringing a load from Baltimore, Md., into Canada, had to wait at the Queenston-Lewiston crossing for eight hours on Aug. 3. There were about 40 big rigs parked, with drivers awaiting paperwork.

He said the Livingston office was busy with drivers looking for their documents, with some truckers telling him they had been waiting up to 37 hours for clearance. Harold Varbeff, who was hauling a load of batteries into Canada was held up at the Port Huron-Sarnia border crossing for 13 hours on Aug. 3.

He said there were at least 200 trucks waiting, with some drivers saying they had been delayed for 40 hours.

Costs add up

A large carrier’s Customs official who spoke to on condition of anonymity, said the company deals with Livingston frequently, and the outage has been quite the disruption.

The company had to place loads in bond and pay storage fees as well. Customers were upset as their shipments were delayed and they had to bear additional costs.

The system outage created a lot of extra stress and pressure on multiple departments. Staff had to email updates to customers, add extra miles on freight and the company lost trailer space that would have been occupied with other loads.

A spokeswoman from another large carrier that hauls refrigerated freight across the border said operations have been severely affected by the system outage.

A dispatcher at an Ontario-based carrier said it was taking drivers two to three hours just to get through the border because of this one broker. “It’s been horrible this week,” he said.

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Leo Barros is the associate editor of Today’s Trucking. He has been a journalist for more than two decades, holds a CDL and has worked as a longhaul truck driver. Reach him at

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  • Truck drivers need to be paid for delay like this and more flexible hours of service for companies that pay drivers on payroll with overtime after 8 or 10 hours

  • This is not the first time. Had the same problem on Pembina in North Dakota this winter with the same broker. Everyone waited a day and a half.

  • Story seems like this is from Freight Companies relying on Livingston for producing their CBSA E-Manifests for entry to Canada. I know its one of those tasks many companies download to their Customs Broker because they don’t want to do the extra work of creating an E-Manifest themselves and submitting it on the Canadian Government Portal.
    If your relying on your Customs Broker that much, you’re asking for trouble like this if their system goes down
    As a Private Motor Carrier, I don’t give the Customs Broker all the cards on the table.
    I’ll continue to use the CBSA E-Manifest Portal and submit our documents to get our Drivers cleared myself.

  • Why is it the drivers always take the hit in these situations, with today’s technology Customs Officers should have been able to manually release and get the paperwork straighten out after wards. But this would be common sense of which nobody has anymore. Shame on Livingston for not having a backup plan in place, and shame on Canada Customs for not intervening to keep the backup to a minimum.

  • Any driver who has been crossing the border regularly knows that Livingston is the least efficient and most delay prone customs broker and always has been. They buy out good companies and drag down their standards because they can’t grow their business organically due to the poor performance and execution. This goes back literally decades. They must be cheap to use as there would be no other reason to retain their customers. I used to advise my customers to switch brokers out of pure self interest. The same as it ever was.

  • Livingston is a nightmare to deal with, they always have been!! They are the worst customs broker out there! We deal with them everyday, they always say they have max 4 hours to clear a shipment, which is just ridiculous, but they always take way longer than that to clear a shipment and they really don’t care either! They hang up on you when you call them, they are rude as well! I would rather deal with any other customs broker than Livingston!!!