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Crossing the Canadian Border with a HDT


RandyA

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We will be entering Canada at the Detroit/Windsor entry point in mid-August and exiting into Maine a week later.  I know about all the firearm, fruit and vegetable, alcohol,  pet papers, dairy, dog food, original packaging and typically published info that we can't take across the border.  Also proof of insurance, registration, driver license, passport.  Those items are not a concern or problem.

But, some of my "friends" (or perhaps now acquaintances?) are beginning to scare me about stories related to vehicle search and the mess often left behind after such a search.  Most are reporting it is worse coming back into the USA than crossing into Canada.

Well, this is our first border crossing.  Between the HDT and fiver there are scores of bags, cartons and boxes of tools, spare parts, and living essentials on board that I travel with.  I cannot even begin to imagine an inspection or search through all of this gear and associated compartments - especially if they must be removed, opened and emptied.  It has also been mentioned there are two entry lanes - one for trucks the other for cars.  Some say go to the trucks lane, others say to cars.  Another concern is our return routing will bring us down through most of the small New England states where trailer length restrictions are much less than we pull.  Just how much of an issue is this?

Any solid advise you can give an old guy that has never done this before - especially with a HDT? 

 

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Randy, Nancy and Oscar

"The Great White" - 2004 Volvo VNL670, D12, 10-speed, converted to single axle pulling a Keystone Cambridge 5th wheel, 40', 4 slides and about 19,000# with empty tanks.

ARS - WB4BZX, Electrical Engineer, Master Electrician, D.Ed., Professor Emeritus - Happily Retired!

 

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Randy, it's been a number of years since we crossed into Canada, but found the experience really easy.  We did have our shotgun with us and had completed to form before we arrived early in the morning.  We were told to park the rig in a specific location and we went into the office to sit and wait.  We gave them the firearms form, and I believe a small fee and waited.  No one was inspecting the rig.  About 20 minutes later they asked us where the shotgun was, and then where the ammo is.  Asked about a gun lock (which we don't have) and was simply told we needed to stop at the Walmart in the first town up in BC and pickup one.  They said because they didn't find anything on us (vetting us) and we were going to exit Canada at a different port, they would not make us store the shotgun in the US.  Pretty easy, and we were on our way.

Now I'm thinking your background might be cleaner then mine, so......

Rocky & Sheri Rhoades
'01 Volvo 770
2016 DRV Mobile Suites, Houston
HERO Makers Ministry

 

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Do NOT go in to the truck lane.  you are not a commercial truck.  

Turn your truck off,

Have your passports ready with your licence plate written down. the cameras may not be able to see your plate if you don't have a front plate.

Do not apply the parking brake.

relax and just answer questions asked and you will not likely have  problems.

Do not take guns, who needs the hassel, if you do make sure you have previously done all the paper work.

2004 Volvo 630, Freedomline, Rear view camera, Max Brake, Jackalopee, 38 ft 4 horse LQ Platinum, 40ft Jayco Talon toy hauler

Http:/www.flickr.com/photos/shallow_draft/

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You are not lost if you don't care where you are!!

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I came through Sweet Grass two weeks ago. I followed Gregg Shields of RVHLifestyles directions and it went smooth, listed below. I did NOT go through the truck line, as it was long and they search every truck. I am not commercial, so I went through the normal line with all the other RVs. Smooth and fast.

I have been going to Canada for 25 years every 2-3 years (wife's fam is from Alberta). I've been searched once, and they emptied out the entire F350 front/back, door panels, etc. Just sit down and watch, be patient. They don't wreck everything, but they do unload it. When they are done, you get to put it back together. That was 15 years ago. 

Prior to the border –

Some cell phones do not have a data plan for Canada - so while you are driving in Canada to our yard, you may want to turn off your cell phones or think about a plan while you are here.

  • What Can I Bring?  http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/information-for-consumers/travellers/what-can-i-bring-into-canada-/eng/1389648337546/1389648516990
  • Dog food – I wasn't sure if you were bringing a pet or two along, please check into this… I seem to recall there is some paperwork (SS: must have original packaging)
  • Fruits and veggies - toss em is the easiest.  It is really nice at the border to answer when asked about fruits and veggies - "none, we threw them out". (SS: anything with dirt on them is rule; they waved us through)
  • Hand guns or hand-gun ammo – don’t  bring them (even if you don’t have the gun with you don't bring ammo)  Don't even have a piece of brass with you if you can avoid it.  If you have long guns, there is a process to bring them, and you need things like trigger locks, and to be aware of how to separately store your ammo.
  • Take off your sun glasses
  • Have your passports ready in your hand.
  • Know your license plate number, or have your registration close at hand if they ask for it.  

Steps at the border booth –

  1. Drive up to the booth, 
  2. Turn off the engine
  3. BUT DON’T ACTIVATE THE PARKING BRAKE!!!  I hang something over the brake as a reminder because it is such a habit.
  4. Hold your foot on the brake pedal.  They get really annoyed because the parking brake is so loud outside the truck.

After the border

Remember you are driving in KM/hr.  Sorry, you can’t go 100 MPH – that is 100 KM Per Hour .

Food – If you can make it to our yard, and get setup, we can send you the 20 minutes back to the city to shop at your leisure for groceries.  We have some options – Costco is quite close, but of course it is large quantities of stuff.  The best value, and greatest selection is the store Real Canadian SUPER STORE.  We also have Walmart. Don’t try to take your rig into either of these two locations.  Honestly, they are kinda tight to get into.

2003 International Eagle 9200i, Cummins ISX, Freedomline

2007 Teton Scottsdale XT4

 

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Some very good advice above. Also, I take my sunglasses off a few miles before border crossings and ask whoever is traveling with me to do the same. They will ask you to do it most of the time and lets your eyes adjust to light without glasses. The parking brake is a no no.....I only did it once when going through the car/RV line and will never do it again. :)  The last time we got searched was by US customs going to the ECR this spring. I was asked to open all the door's on the trailer and get back inside my truck. I did tell them that I had to set the parking brake and asked if that was OK now? This gives them the chance to protect their hearing in advance.  They went through things but didn't really dump stuff all over the place.

Look the person right in the eyes when answering questions , answer yes or no if possible and don't offer or start any conversations outside of the questions being asked. If you have been shopping have your receipts and total dollars spent in the currency of the country you are entering. The last trip home when asked how much I had to declare I told him we had $957.32 based on todays exchange rate of 1.32...he knew I was ready for that question. :) Also, be specific don't say you have been in Canada for "about" 8 days. 

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When we came into Canada in May I did use the truck lane.  If I remember correctly the car/RV lane had a height limit of 12'3". That's too low for me.  I was told to pull over & come inside.  Grabbed my paper work & went in.  One of the first things I remember saying was that I was a private RV, not commercial.  Asked why I pulled into the truck lane & explained that I was too tall for car/RV lane.  Another agent looked at the younger agent that was working with us as though to say, why did you ask these people to come inside.  I did have a long gun, with the required paper work, and paid $25 for that.  Good for I believe 60 days.  Need to pay again if longer than that. Fairly simple straight forward questions after that.  Explained that we were full time RV'ers and we had a "normal" supply of various grocery items & liquor on board.  We were on our way in 10-15 minutes.  Re-entering into Alaska went a little quicker.  We did use a "passport card" rather than just our driver licenses.

I have been searched in the past, both into & out of Canada/USA.  It's been several years & maybe the grey hair helps.

“…nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact with many kinds of people.” – Mark Twain

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Randy 

Send a pm to Ralf "hone eagle" he lives very near Windsor and crosses there regularly.  Going from Canada to the USA there you use the truck lanes because there are no RV lanes and you don't fit the car lanes obviously.  I don't know about going the other direction but Ralf will know.  Also turn down the gain on your electric brake control so it doesn't melt while you are sitting there with your foot on the brake, I believe you are using a BrakeSmart or MaxBrake.  Unless you have drugs,weapons or a criminal past I think the border crossing will be a non issue answer the questions asked and no more.  We have been inspected a few times crossing the border usually looking for meat and produce,  they sometimes don't believe us when we say we have none.  But I find that to be easier than trying to figure out what is allowed and what might be banned this week.  Never had any border person make a mess.  I also suggest having the bag of dog food in the cab so if you get asked you can show it right away, if you have to get it from the trailer you will have to go to secondary inspection.  Chances are you won't get asked but we did once.

Nigel

2006 Volvo VNL 430, 2006 smart cabrio cdi, 2000 Triple E Topaz 30'

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Use the truck lanes, we always used car lanes (we fit fine) until a officer called his union on us.His concern was he could not see into the truck as we were too high.

So after the last rally we went to the commercial side and got "you should be over there"- sigh, not a big deal, play dumb , go where you see the shortest lane ,do not get into the nexus line where the daily commuters from detroit go, bad ju-ju.

Pull up, shut down, do not set brakes ,radio off , cameras off(put your hat over the dash cam) answer questions and be on your way  easy peasy.

They know a lot before you get there you have been photographed and x rayed,dont worry, searches are very rare with out a good reason, they are just working stiffs who don't want to do any more then nessasary.

have a great trip.

2005 volvo 670 freedomline singled
Newmar Torrey Pine 34rsks
woot woot

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A few years ago we went into and out of Canada at the Sarnia entry point North of Detroit.

Both ways we used the RV/ car lanes Going in, we stopped and they asked where we were going and we said to a car show and they asked if we were competing and we said "no it was for a charity event" which was true. We already knew that getting an award could classify you as commercial. They did look in the trailer to verify we had a show vehicle but that was it. Other issue we had was the passenger needs to stand up as they cannot see them from their location.

We did set our brakes ( didn't know that was an issue) and I think we kept the truck running. They never said anything and we were on our way. 

Coming back into the states is another story. We pulled up to the customs station and he was very upset we did not shut the truck off. I quickly shut it off forgetting to put it in neutral but I think I set the brakes again. He asked for the DW to stand up and she had to move close to me to satisfy him. No other searches but he was still mad and quickly closed his window before we tried to refire ( which didn't work and I had alarms going off). Realised I forgot the neutral, quickly got it fired up and headed out before he got mad again!

Since we were just up for the weekend, we did not have any firearms or fruit and had made sure everything else was ok. We may not have had any liquor too just to be on the safe side.

Dave

2005 Freightliner Century S/T, Singled, Air ride ET Jr. hitch
2019 46'+ Dune Sport Man Cave custom 5th wheel toy hauler
Owner of the 1978 Custom Van "Star Dreamer" which might be seen at a local car show near you!

 

Check out http://www.hhrvresource.com/

for much more info on HDT's.

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Dave 

the U.S. side of the ambassador bridge has been reconfigured and all large rv's are usually sent to the commercial lanes on busy holidays ,might be a congestion issue ,its funny to see a mini van with a pop-up in amongst the semis.People in orange vests are manning the approach apron and will direct large vehicles to the commercial lanes .The positive is -no charge- seems the big rigs all have transponders ,so we have never had to pay.

Do not set brakes ever ,the officer will not open the window until you are shut down, if they want a look in the trailer  I tell them 'I will have to set my brakes'....   wait until the window closes.This only happens on the U.S. side ,and they only look in the reefer and a few cupboards -DO NOT FOLLOW THEM  into the trailer , ask 'ok to stand here' about 10' away.

They are ok with you going in after to make sure everything is secure,I have never found it any way but how I had it -very professional.

This is the busiest crossing (6000 trucks a day from memory) I have used the montana and dakota crossing there is no comparison.

2005 volvo 670 freedomline singled
Newmar Torrey Pine 34rsks
woot woot

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Wow.... you can get to the fridge in our trailer with the slides closed but not much else.  Do they ever ask for you to open the slides?  What about the fridge in the HDT?  Just say nothing unless they ask I guess?  Great advice on having the dog food in the truck.  I know pet food cannot contain any beef or lamb by-products.  Did not know about setting the air parking brake issue - thanks!  Yes, I have Brake Smart and electro-hydraulic disc on the trailer.  Not good to hold the brake pedal down too long or the hydro unit can overheat - at least I have a manual and can turn the engine off and leave it in gear.  Now, about the cameras..... I have a total of 5 on the truck not counting the dash cam.  I can turn the dash cam off or pull it off the windshield - it is the only one that records.  I am assuming a blue screen on the two camera monitors or completely off will be OK?  I sure as heck don't want to PO anyone by my ignorance as a newbie border crosser.  I'll try to contact Ralf as suggested.  I do appreciate what has been shared.  Oh, Rocky..... not so sure about the color of my past.  We can compare gray areas sometime.  Fortunately I don't believe any indiscretions of my younger years are are on my "record".

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Randy, Nancy and Oscar

"The Great White" - 2004 Volvo VNL670, D12, 10-speed, converted to single axle pulling a Keystone Cambridge 5th wheel, 40', 4 slides and about 19,000# with empty tanks.

ARS - WB4BZX, Electrical Engineer, Master Electrician, D.Ed., Professor Emeritus - Happily Retired!

 

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Randy, it seems as though you've been fed a line of...You should have nothing to fear, just use courtesy as your calling card. If it comes to opening the slides, etc, you'll be in the Secondary Holding area. Most travellers don't end up there, because it's not very big. It's technically no-man's land, and between the 2 countries. Otherwise, the above info is about as good as you'll find anywhere.

Travel safe.

I have been wrong before, I'll probably be wrong again. 

2000 Kenworth T 2000 w/N-14 and 10 speed Gen1 Autoshift, deck built by Star Fabrication
2006 smart fourtwo cdi cabriolet
2007 32.5' Fleetwood Quantum


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The fridge in truck has never been of interest though they must be fully aware of it ,the trailer get a very superficial look over ,slides never extended my impression is it would be way too much of a bother , the X ray has told them the important stuff.

Really not a big deal.

2005 volvo 670 freedomline singled
Newmar Torrey Pine 34rsks
woot woot

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Randy    That trip sounds like a great time!! Be safe and I hope you can remember all the stuff you have found out here. I would have to get Shirley to take notes so I wouldn't forget. Anyway have a neat trip.   Pat

 

 

The Old Sailor

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I've crossed to canada (and back to the US) multiple times towing race cars for our hobby.

Don't go to the truck/commercial lanes unless directed to.

Our crossing into Canada is always quicker than the return to the US.

2007 Volvo 780 Volvo D12D, 465hp, 1650 ft/lbs tq., ultrashift

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Ok, color me stupid but I don't get the "do not set you brakes" thing...How are you supposed to park your truck safely without setting the brakes??? The air release pesssst sound makes them mad? They would rather your truck be able to start rolling on its own and crash into things then hear the brake pesssst sound? I am so lost!

Chris, Tracey, Aria & Lola

2018 Volvo VNR 400, D13 I-Shift

2018 NH 48' Majestic

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You keep your foot on the brake pedal. You're only there long enough for them to decide if you need a longer discussion. If told to proceed to Secondary, then use the parking brake. Imagine being in a glass booth, with air brakes being set, all day long.

I have been wrong before, I'll probably be wrong again. 

2000 Kenworth T 2000 w/N-14 and 10 speed Gen1 Autoshift, deck built by Star Fabrication
2006 smart fourtwo cdi cabriolet
2007 32.5' Fleetwood Quantum


Please e-mail us here.

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I would check with the insurance company to see if it covers you when crossing the border. mine doesn't. I use to crossed the border every day in a commercial truck for work and the border guards get very upset when you set the brakes when there is a big sign that says don't set brakes. 

2011 Volvo D13 485/1750  Eaton 13 Speed

2016 Montana 3820FK

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Don't freak out.  We cross into Canada all the time and have never had issues.  But, DO pay attention to the height of the lanes.  We always use the car lanes in our Super C.  But coming back into the US at the Carway Border Crossing (just east of Glacier National Park), we got into trouble.  We pulled into the car lane as normal.  FYI, There was a gate across the truck lane, but we never use the truck lane.  We were about to pull under the inspection area roof when we spotted the sign that said the height was 13'2" and we are 13'4".  We had to hop out and tell the customs guy we wouldn't fix.  What ensued was controlled chaos.  Another lane had to be opened to direct the traffic behind us out of our way.  We had to unhook our tow vehicle, back everything out, and then go through the truck lane.  They customs official asked why we didn't use the the truck lane.  Hey, it had a closed gate AND we had never encountered a low roof in a car lane before! While getting out of this mess, we did see a commercial truck pull up to the gate and a customs official simply came out and opened the gate.  So, lesson learned.  If the roof is too low (and pay attention to the signs!) head for the truck lane. We eventually got through (without an inspection), but our hearts was racing for a while.  As others said, you should have no trouble crossing at Detroit/Windsor.

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10 hours ago, Darryl&Rita said:

You keep your foot on the brake pedal. You're only there long enough for them to decide if you need a longer discussion. If told to proceed to Secondary, then use the parking brake. Imagine being in a glass booth, with air brakes being set, all day long.

 

4 hours ago, dan412 said:

I would check with the insurance company to see if it covers you when crossing the border. mine doesn't. I use to crossed the border every day in a commercial truck for work and the border guards get very upset when you set the brakes when there is a big sign that says don't set brakes. 

Ok....I did not understand that there was a sign stating not to as well as it being just for a quick stop. 

Chris, Tracey, Aria & Lola

2018 Volvo VNR 400, D13 I-Shift

2018 NH 48' Majestic

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I re -read randy's post and the advice about american customs in Detroit does not apply, he is coming back another way .

So the only busy crossing is Detroit -Windsor .

It is two lanes on the bridge that reduces to one (for construction)most of the time ,it slows to a crawl near the peak of the suspension bridge ,you have to decide by then what lane you want, trucks/commercial stay to the right all the way down the plaza, if all the trucks move over ...  follow.

The commercial booths are to the right, there are about 10 of them,cars to the left of that(20- 25 more slots), it will be easy to see from your vantage point.

Garrenteed there will be a orange vest on the ground if its busy ,if you are in doubt try and catch their attention and look lost ,get the wife to practice her doe eye , help us !

you will be ok

2005 volvo 670 freedomline singled
Newmar Torrey Pine 34rsks
woot woot

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Don't forget to carry written proof of liability insurance for each motorized vehicle you may want to operate on public roads in Canada. You must produce it if requested by an enforcement officer. This does not happen at a point of entry. 

Enjoy your trip

"Are we there yet?" asked no motorcycle rider, ever. 

 

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I really appreciate all the reply's.  They are extremely helpful.

My vehicle insurance is good in Canada.  My Verizon cell plan is good in Canada.  My bank says there will be a 3% charge added if we use our bank debit/credit card.  I need to check and see what American Express, MasterCard and Discover do.  If one of us has a major health issue we will need to get back to the USA (Medicare for Geezers).  Fortunately, our route keeps us close to the US border. 

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Randy, Nancy and Oscar

"The Great White" - 2004 Volvo VNL670, D12, 10-speed, converted to single axle pulling a Keystone Cambridge 5th wheel, 40', 4 slides and about 19,000# with empty tanks.

ARS - WB4BZX, Electrical Engineer, Master Electrician, D.Ed., Professor Emeritus - Happily Retired!

 

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Randy

Can you buy out of country health insurance like we buy out of province.  We usually go to the CAA, our equivalent of the AAA and the price is usually quite reasonable a few hundred dollars a years.

 

Nigel

2006 Volvo VNL 430, 2006 smart cabrio cdi, 2000 Triple E Topaz 30'

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