The eight shipping best practices described below relate to anyone shipping. Every shipper has their own shipping strategy — a customized version of shipping best practice — for getting their freight picked up and delivered at a price that works for them, and with the level of service they need. The COVID-19 pandemic is making shippers reevaluate and adjust their shipping strategies, modifying them where necessary.
At this current time, there are only three things that we, in the shipping industry, know for sure about the COVID-19 pandemic:
- No one can control when it will end.
- At every port and distribution center, on every road and at every turn, the men and women of the shipping industry are doing everything in their power to get emergency medical supplies, eCommerce orders and shelf-re-stocking goods (including toilet paper) delivered as quickly as possible.
- Some shippers may have to adjust their strategies by implementing new or augmented shipping best practices that will help them navigate the pandemic and come out on the other side in good shape (from a shipping perspective) once the economy has returned to “normal.”
We recommend that you give special attention to the following eight shipping best practices:
8. Limit Expenses
Shippers need to control or reduce costs as much as possible. Here are two ways that will help you do that:
- Check prices of several carriers. Some carriers are extremely busy right now with store restocking, emergency supplies and ecommerce orders. Carriers with limited capacity will have higher rates than others. Look for high-quality carriers that still have enough capacity to offer competitive rates.
- Consolidate your shipments whenever possible. If you’re making less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments to the same recipient several times a month, see if you can reduce the number of shipments and send more cargo with each. If the recipient can accommodate the cargo, instead of receiving on an “as needed” basis,” there is likely a carrier that is willing to offer you a lower rate overall.
Businesses could be cutting personnel and changing hours in response to the pandemic. The person who used to receive your goods could be sheltering at home now, and a different employee who is not familiar with your cargo could be the new recipient. In some regions, businesses may have to close by a certain time of day. Make sure there is someone at the other end to receive your shipment when it is delivered.
6. Insure Valuable Shipments
No one likes to assume the worst, but these days it’s not impossible for a shipment to be delayed so emergency cargo can be shipped first. If the cargo is time sensitive, you could be out of luck. Obviously, there are more problems that could pop up, but you get the picture. Many things are uncertain, and carrier liability doesn’t come close to covering replacement cost of a valuable cargo. So, buy freight insurance and have peace of mind.
5. Schedule with Flexibility
Schedule your order early and leave enough wiggle room in your schedule for delivery to be a day or two later than quoted. For example, if you would normally order a shipment on Monday for a Tuesday pickup and a delivery the following Monday, do the following instead:
- Place the order the Wednesday before your usual Monday order day.
- Schedule pickup for Monday, realizing it might not happen until Wednesday or Thursday.
- Notify your recipient that the order will arrive sometime between Tuesday and Friday.
4. Work With Your Recipient
More than ever it is critical that you communicate and collaborate with your recipient.
- Send the recipient photos of your packaged shipment before it is picked up, so they can see quickly if there has been any damage during shipment. Preparing the recipient ahead of time is especially important now, since social distancing dictates that recipients not be asked to sign the Proof of Delivery. They need to be able identify and report any damage they see right away.
- Remind recipients that no deliveries, even for white glove shipments, will be made inside the building and that deliveries may take an extra day or two.
3. Identify Emergency Shipments
If your full truckload (TL) or partial truckload (PTL) shipment qualifies as emergency relief for the novel coronavirus pandemic, be sure to notify your carrier when placing your order. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration of the Department of Transportation has issued a relief order for Hours of Service regulations that limit how long drivers can stay on the road. Also, many states have waived or amended restrictions for emergency shipments. Make sure your emergency shipment receives the special handling it deserves.
2. Review Billing Processes
Take the time to review all of your billing processes, especially those that are not automated, to reduce lag time between shipment and billing. This is particularly important if your company has had any personnel changes due to the pandemic. Track workflows and make sure there are no gaps in the shipment>invoice>collection process. Every revenue dollar is more critical than ever. Make sure you get paid on time.
1. Use a 3PL
Building a strong relationship with the right Third Party Logistics (3PL) provider will help provide stability, flexibility and additional options and helping you get through the pandemic.
The right 3PL will:
- Serve as a partner and make sure you’re getting the right deal for you — one that provides everything you need at a fair price — by listening to your needs and using sophisticated freight-matching technology.
- Help you avoid the steep rate hikes and falls by virtue of their relationships with many highly-regarded LTL, TL and PTL carriers.
- Take care of communication with the carrier handling your shipment, including (if applicable) making sure they know your shipment qualifies as an emergency shipment, ordering Call for Appointment up front and notifying them of any special circumstances they may face at delivery. Communicating with carriers is very limited right now. This is a huge benefit of partnering with a 3PL.
- Help you find reliable freight insurance coverage.
- Assist with other logistics concerns, such as warehousing.
- Become your virtual shipping department.
These are the things FreightCenter has been doing for more than 20 years. We know that if you choose us to be your 3PL, you will soon see the advantages of working with a well-respected shipping partner that combines the benefits of TMS technology with superior on-phone service of our in-house shipping experts.
But before you choose any 3PL as your partner, we recommend that you review these 10 ways to measure their effectiveness.