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 min read

Transportation Management Systems: The Best Choice for Managing e-Manifest Submissions for Cross-Border Freight

Is it worth investing in a TMS to create and send manifests electronically? Let’s break down what an e-Manifest is, how it is used in the transportation industry and how a TMS can significantly improve the e-Manifest process for cross-border transportation companies.

A woman typing in at a warehouse
Jessica Voigt

Jessica is currently the Documentation Specialist at Trans Plus. She has spent the last 3 years learning the ins and outs of the software as a Customer Support Representative and is now using her English degree to create content that showcases anything and everything that Trans Plus has to offer. When she isn’t typing at her desk she enjoys shopping, watching movies and tending to her extensive collection of houseplants.

There are many reasons to consider investing in a transportation management system - not only can a TMS help improve driver retention by putting more control into the hands of drivers, but such a platform can help you organize your company and reduce the data entry errors that can be made while using more traditional methods. However, there’s another big reason why TMS platforms are so valuable to transportation companies – they can be used to create, organize and transmit ACE and ACI e-Manifests. 

What exactly is an e-Manifest and how are e-Manifests important to running a transportation company? Is it worth investing in a TMS to create and send manifests electronically? Let’s break down what an e-Manifest is, how it is used in the transportation industry and how a TMS can significantly improve the e-Manifest process for cross-border transportation companies.


What is an e-Manifest? 

An e-Manifest is the digital format of a traditional manifest that can send freight information electronically to customs before a shipment arrives at a country’s border. e-Manifests are used by transportation companies around the globe and are an incredible asset when it comes to compliance in the transportation industry. In Canada and the United States, an e-Manifest is basically a document containing pre-arrival data that is sent from the freight company to the Canadian Border Services Agency, or U.S. Customs and Border Protection through their respective e-Manifest online portals. The data will include things like freight bill summaries, cargo and shipper information, origin, destination, product quantity, and information about the shipper vessel and crew. 

Most countries have rules and regulations in place to ensure that goods are screened for the safety and health of consumers. To efficiently track and screen shipments that cross the border each and every day, many nations have implemented electronic processes that officials and transportation companies can use to screen shipments before they arrive at their destination, and these processes can also involve hefty fines if the Border Agents determine that an e-Manifest was not received by Customs at least an hour before the driver is scheduled to arrive at the border. 


The Role of an e-Manifest in Transportation 

In Canada specifically, the Advance Commercial Information program (also known as ACI) is used to establish procedures and guidelines for processing foreign freight. The ACI program is divided into three groups – air carriers, marine carriers, and highway or rail carriers. 

Now, e-Manifest technology is being implemented for all cross-border shipments as a requirement for shipment tracking and monitoring. This isn’t just in Canada, either. The United States has its own e-Manifest program called Automated Commercial Environment, or ACE.

In Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency is giving transportation carriers a few months to become compliant with new regulations. Once this grace period is over, e-Manifest will be the primary way that goods are cleared and approved when they cross the border from the U.S. into Canada. Canadian carriers will also need to be well-versed in using ACE to move freight across the border from Canada to the U.S.

This is where transportation management systems can play a big part in minimizing carrier stress and increasing overall efficiency when it comes to cross-border transportation. 


How a Transportation Management System can improve the e-Manifest Process

To manage the requirements for electronic manifest submissions, most transportation management systems have adapted to give user’s the ability to create and send out e-Manifests quickly through built-in automation. This means ACE and ACI modules that are part of a country’s respective e-Manifest portal can be integrated with third-party systems such as a TMS platform, which can give users the opportunity to fully utilize their transportation management system for the purposes of sending ACE and ACI e-Manifests. 

While e-Manifests can be sent via the Border Agency’s ACE or ACI online e-Manifest online portals, many carriers can benefit from the time and value savings of incorporating the process through their TMS. This is especially true if many e-Manifests need to be sent out on a regular basis. If you own an international freight company that transports goods to and from the U.S. and Canada regularly, each shipment will need a thorough and accurate e-Manifest. This could add up to hundreds or thousands of e-Manifests per month, which can quickly become impossible manage without automation in some capacity. 

There are many benefits to using a TMS to improve and automate the e-Manifest process: 

  • e-Manifests can easily be integrated with a TMS, through information and processes that are already built into the software. One can easily enter shipment information, create the e-Manifest for specific freight, and send the e-Manifest to the necessary Border Agency quickly and confidentially using configured SCAC and Carrier Codes associated with your company. 
  • There is little need for constant data entry. A TMS will use information that has already been entered into the system for Drivers, Truck, and Freight details. This automated process makes it much less tedious to include relevant and important information in one’s e-Manifest. 
  • A TMS will save different border locations and port codes for future e-Manifest submissions, cutting down time spent recording information for your more frequently used destinations
  • A TMS will have ACE and ACI submission requirements built into the software and will perform a number of checks prior to sending the e-Manifest. If any required information is missing, it will provide an alert so that your team can quickly make corrections, without risking sending incorrect or incomplete information to the border. 
  • You can access all of your e-Manifest documents, data, and past submissions in one easy-to-access location within your TMS. You can easily access old e-Manifests to check for errors, print out documents that are saved on the platform, and search for relevant information with a responsive search feature. 
  • Cross-border processes can be lengthy and rife with compliance roadblocks, and a TMS can reduce the headaches associated with them by streamlining the processes involved in sending e-Manifests ahead of time. This includes the ability to print out e-Manifest Coversheets with barcodes so that Border Agents can quickly scan and send your Drivers on their way across the border.
  • Visual indicators are available directly within the TMS to show you when an e-Manifest has been received, processed, rejected, or accepted, and it can even provide an Entry/Acquittal Number directly into the TMS. This is incredibly valuable during the freight trip, as one can easily identify issues in real-time and deal with them accordingly before the freight arrives at the border. This reduces compliance issues and makes more efficient use of time and resources. 
  • A TMS can also work with other third-party integrations to make the most of the information you send and receive, such as by providing the ability to send Entry Numbers directly to Driver’s e-mail, cell phones, or satellite units. 

A TMS platform is a must-have if you are an international transportation company that regularly sends freight across different countries’ borders. Once e-Manifests become a mandatory requirement in Canada, transportation companies that ship to and from Canada will need to have the right tools in place to ensure their e-Manifest information is 100% accurate. With most of the tedious data entry already completed in the TMS software, sending an ACE or ACI e-Manifest submission is as simple as pressing a button. There is no other technology that can streamline, optimize, and automate your e-Manifest submissions like a well-implemented transportation management system.


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