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Small Fleet Summit: What happens when your truck is carrying drugs at border

‘It’s incredibly awful especially if you haven’t done anything wrong,’ lawyer says

Lawyer Su Ross, a partner with MSK, says truck drivers are often unaware that they are hauling illegal drugs when they're discovered at the border.

FIRESIDE CHAT TOPIC: What small fleets and owner-operators need to know when trucks get caught with drugs at the U.S. borders.

DETAILS: Drug seizures from commercial trucks have surged at the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico since 2020, when restrictions for nonessential travel took effect in response to COVID-19. The drivers themselves can face arrest and prosecution, while tractors and trailers can be seized for extended periods of time. But in some cases, the drivers are unaware of their elicit loads. Lawyer Su Ross talks to FreightWaves reporter Nate Tabak, co-host and producer of the podcast Long-Haul Crime Log, about how small fleets and owner-operators can navigate this thorny issue.  

SPEAKER: Ross is a partner at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp (MSK), headquartered in Los Angeles.

BIO: Ross specializes in compliance, handling an array of issues related to international trade and cybersecurity. She has represented U.S. and international clients, including trucking companies, in regulatory, civil and criminal matters. She also works with clients on identifying and mitigating risk.


“Can you convince the authorities that you didn’t know? Or can you convince them enough that they don’t arrest you? The more likely thing is you’ll get arrested and everything kind of works backwards from there.” 

“It’s incredibly awful especially if you haven’t done anything wrong. Especially if the truth of the matter is you picked up a load just like any other load.” 

“There are certain basic, due diligence kind of steps you should be doing. And I get that everybody goes with shortcuts, but the reality is: if you’re given a trailer number and you’re given a seal number, it’s in your interest and or the interest of your trucking company that that’s the load you picked up.”

About Long-Haul Crime Log

Long-Haul Crime Log is a podcast about crime in the trucking industry. Reach out at [email protected] or find us on Twitter @LongHaulCrime.

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Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at [email protected]