10 Tips for Managing Time-Sensitive Imports

10 Tips for Managing Time-Sensitive Imports

Trade Talk Blog


anaging imports can be challenging, especially when it comes to time-sensitive shipments. When a shipment needs to arrive at its destination quickly, there is an increased risk of damage or loss, and perishable goods may also spoil when shipped traditionally. No matter the size or scope of your business, time-sensitive imports will always require additional preparation and coordination to ensure that goods reach their destination on time and in good condition.

It can also be tricky to manage the import process when you need to juggle multiple steps, deadlines, and suppliers. From identifying applicable regulations to understanding the entire import process from start to finish, a lot of work needs to be completed. In addition to researching freight forwarding services and selecting appropriate carriers, it’s important to plan for unexpected issues that could arise during transit.

We’ve put together 10 helpful tips to help you overcome the obstacles likely to get in the way of successfully importing your time-sensitive goods. By focusing on areas such as organization, communication, and agreements, you can step into the importation process with greater confidence.

What is a time-sensitive import?

A time-sensitive import is one that needs to be delivered faster than regular shipments. In addition to high-value products that carry the risk of damage or loss, time-sensitive imports often include perishable goods that can spoil when shipped traditionally. This type of import guarantees:

Faster delivery

Whether you’re shipping at a busy time of the year or not, regular shipping can take a long time and may subject you to further unexpected delays. Saving time during shipping will cost you more, but it is the best way to reduce additional issues in the long run.

Less risk of damage

Reducing damage is a high priority when it comes to shipping valuable items, such as classic cars. With time-sensitive shipping, the items are stored for a shorter amount of time; therefore, there is a lower risk of damage during the process.

Reducing spoilage

Fast delivery is necessary for items like perishable goods, including food and flowers. These products must be shipped under specific conditions and promptly or otherwise may spoil or deteriorate before reaching their destination.

Guaranteed delivery date

Although time-sensitive shipping comes at a higher price, it is worth it. The service promises a guaranteed delivery date, sometimes even a specific time, which allows you to prepare for pick-up at customs and the following steps.

10 Tips to Better Manage Time-Sensitive Imports

To get started on the right foot, here are 10 tips that every importer should consider when going through a time-sensitive import process.

1. Choose the right carrier

Time is of the essence when it comes to international shipping, and delays are every importer’s nightmare. That’s why choosing the right logistics partner is one of the most important steps. Prioritizing the need to find a reliable shipping company will guarantee smooth logistics and avoid unplanned delays. Before committing to a shipping company, take the time to find one that cares about customer relations and takes the time to answer your questions, take calls, and provide a thorough onboarding process.

A logistics provider should:

  • Understand your specific needs
  • Have the resources to deliver shipments on time
  • Develop innovative solutions to improve overall efficiency
  • Be flexible with changes and unexpected obstacles
  • Have a proven track record
  • Use technology systems that allow for tracking
  • Value customer service

2. Ensure your materials are packaged correctly

Because of the nature of time-sensitive shipments, they cannot afford in-transit damage, which naturally means they should be packaged properly. Poor packaging may set you back financially and affect your sales and customer loyalty.

Instead of wasting time and money on damaged goods, check the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) standards which provide specifications for packaging goods transported by trucks. NMFC standards cover all types of packages and containers and require box manufacturers to signal compliance using a seal called Box Maker’s Certificate (BMC). You can then talk to your carrier to ensure they follow the specifications and handle the proper loading and unloading of your shipment.

The NMFC standards are minimal, and your carrier may choose higher standards to avoid shipment damage. Some standards include:

Fiberboard Cartons

  • Use a durable carton that passes a “bursting test strength” of at least 200 pounds per square inch and does not exceed the weight limit on the BMC
  • Seal the package with water-resistant adhesive
  • Line the inside of the package with materials that fill up empty spaces and surround the items
  • Use cartons with built-in resistance to compression
  • Use anti-theft measures such as palletizing or packing containers in master packs


  • Use a large pallet to keep the package from hanging over the edges
  • Make sure the pallet is dry, clean, and free of protruding nail heads or broken boards


  • Always stack lighter items on top
  • Do not leave spaces between products and stack them in columns
  • Properly align cartons
  • Make sure rows are even and that the pallet has a level surface
  • Strongly strap in the shipment
  • Use plastic stretch to securely wrap the shipment and keep it in place


  • Consider and apply the best storage conditions for items

3. Make sure packages are labeled properly

When shipping items across borders, you must place certain information on the container or package label. The information varies based on the destination and should always be placed in a clearly visible spot. Other things to consider include:

  • Some pharmaceutical and healthcare products being shipped by air may require an International Air Transport Association (IATA) label that states the external transportation temperature range of the products
  • Certain manufacturers apply requirements about label size, placement, information on the label, and package stampings. Refer back to the specific manufacturer to abide by their requirements
  • Shipments leaving the United States must comply with the labeling and shipping requirements of the destination
  • Shipments from Canada must comply with the destination country’s “Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act.” Packaging should also include information in both English and French and list quantities in metric units.

4. Have your shipments ready on time

With time-sensitive imports, you cannot afford additional or unexpected delays. This is why you must ensure your shipments are ready to be picked up by the carrier on time. Communicate with your provider and have a clear schedule of their pick-up times, then choose the one that works best for you. Failing to provide the packages at the appointed time may result in additional charges and even lead to missed connections, further delaying the arrival of your time-sensitive shipment.

5. Take advantage of any special services

Sometimes your shipment may need to be transported under specific circumstances to ensure the package is not delayed or damaged en route. Before signing with a logistics provider, communicate your exact needs and the nature of the package to guarantee that the provider can transport your shipment safely and swiftly.

Special services for packages include:

  • Temperature-controlled units for pharmaceuticals, food products, and perishable goods
  • Lift gate services for heavy products
  • Security services and anti-theft systems for valuable goods
  • Dangerous/hazardous materials
  • Time-specific deliveries
  • Two driver teams to keep the shipment moving at all times
  • White Glove services for valuable, perishable, or fragile items. White Glove services are carried out by trained specialists who can travel with specialized equipment and tools. These services also rely on security mechanisms to safeguard the transported shipments

6. Ensure your goods don’t require an import permit

Failing to acquire a necessary import permit can delay clearance and incur additional charges due to violation of import and export regulations. You will have to research the destination country to determine whether the items you are shipping require an import permit and obtain one to ensure compliance.

Remember that every country has different rules and regulations for imported goods, so conduct research before shipping to ensure your time-sensitive shipment does not meet any delays or non-compliance issues. When importing goods into the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) offers detailed guidelines for goods requiring an import license and how to get one. Canadian customs also provide the same information for importers bringing goods into the country.

7. Research the customs process ahead of time

Clearing customs can be tricky, and you must research the entire process before any import and export. U.S. Customs and Border Protection offers a Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) to help you follow the guidelines and avoid incorrect classifications of items—which can prove costly. Customs clearance will require the shipment to arrive with all documentation, as incomplete, missing, or incorrect documents will delay clearance.

To avoid possible clearance delays, you can:

  • Keep all relevant documentation at hand. Properly store all documents needed for clearance as soon as the logistics provider picks up your shipment.
  • Fully train and prepare your personnel to handle compliance-related documents and work closely with the customs agent
  • Apply for “Trusted Trader” programs that allow for faster clearance. To successfully join the program, you have to guarantee the security of your supply chain and any vendors or suppliers you work with. Businesses that apply will undergo an inspection of all facilities and processes to make sure they meet the program’s requirements.

8. Utilize technology for shipment tracking

Technology has come a long way when it comes to transporting time-sensitive shipments, and you need to use that to your advantage. Most logistics providers offer shipment tracking that allows you to follow up on your packages. Technology solutions will continually track time-sensitive imports from origin to destination and are even used to generate reports and bills. When surveying potential carriers, ask about the technology they offer to learn more about their ability to track and deliver your shipment on time.

9. Only use the level of service you need

Although time-sensitive shipments need to arrive at a certain time, some are more urgent than others. You won’t always need urgent overnight delivery, which will cost you more than you need to pay. When talking to your logistics provider, ask about the different options and choose a cost-efficient method to deliver your package on time without automatically opting for the most expensive and often fastest solution.

10. Seek assistance from an experienced customs broker

Consider hiring an experienced customs broker to ensure your shipment complies with all rules and regulations. Brokers have immense knowledge of the requirements for international trade and will be able to ensure that all documentation, paperwork, and filing are correct. Customs requirements are constantly changing and differ from one country to the other. A customs broker can provide updated information for all your shipments and assure compliance at every step.


Delays, non-compliance, and additional charges are a few of the looming fears of importing and exporting goods across borders. Taking the time to properly plan and execute your time-sensitive imports can save you significant amounts of money and headache down the line. By following these 10 tips, you can avoid many of the common pitfalls associated with importing goods on a tight schedule.

How GHY Can Help You

At GHY, we are committed to helping you throughout every step of the import process. Our experienced team will guide you through the process to help you avoid common mistakes that could lead to delays in your time-sensitive imports. With our services, you can also avoid unnecessary fees that could otherwise be applied to your goods, saving you time and money in the long run.

We also provide full-service solutions for managing, tracking, and filing all required paperwork associated with international trade. This ensures that all processes are handled efficiently and accurately so that your shipments arrive on time and comply with applicable regulations. With GHY at your side, you can rest assured that you’ll receive the best service possible at a competitive rate. Book a meeting with one of our Trade Experts today and we’ll help you import your goods into the United States as smoothly as possible!


Stay in the loop, stay compliant! Get weekly or daily insights into all things trade and event invites, delivered right to your inbox.


Related Trade Talk Posts