A Tailgate Exam is a part of the import customs clearance process in which U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers examine shipping containers. The exam goes a step further than the typical X-ray exam. It involves removing the container’s seal, often at the port of entry, and visually evaluating the contents from the container’s rear without contacting the items.
The goal is to identify any anomalies or prohibited items and in case anything suspicious is discovered, the container may then be subject to an intensive examination at a Centralized Examination Station (CES) for a thorough inspection. Importers are responsible for the costs of the examination, regardless of the findings. The entire Tailgate Exam process typically takes a few days and varies due to factors like port congestion.