Whether you’re an experienced shipping pro or just beginning to put together your business’s initial supply chain strategy, it can be easy to get bogged down in the complexities of the freight shipping process. There are a lot of details and moving parts involved with shipping freight, so having something that breaks it down into a step by step process will take the frustration away and make shipping freight much easier. We’ve broken out each step of the LTL shipper’s checklist below and provided more details to give you a better idea of what you need to do to ship successfully and effectively.
Step 1: Package Your Cargo Properly
Packaging your cargo properly is arguably the most important step in the whole LTL freight shipping process, which is why it is step 1. Remember, when shipping LTL, your shipment is sharing space in the back of a freight truck with other shipments. That makes it even more important to package your freight properly, so it won’t be damaged by other freight and won’t damage anybody else’s freight. Some key packaging tips to remember:
- Pallets are your best friend. Pallets allow forklifts and pallet jacks to easily load and unload your cargo. When measuring the dimensions of a palletized shipment, the length and width should be the same as the length and width of the pallet. Why is this important? Because your cargo cannot hang over any of the edges of the pallet. The height is measured as a straight line from your cargo’s highest point to the bottom of the pallet where it touches the floor.
- Know what packaging materials you need. Having an inventory of internal packaging materials like packing peanuts or bubble wrap and external packaging materials like shrink wrap, carboard boxes, and crates will keep you moving and shipping with more ease. No more scrambling to find the materials you need.
- Download our free comprehensive packaging guide. We created a Guide to Freight Packaging which is a complete dive into the world of LTL freight packaging. Our free guide includes more best practices, helpful resources and information on packaging materials in one place. Keep it handy when you are packaging your freight.
Step 2: Measure & Weigh the Packaged Cargo
After packaging your cargo, the next step is to properly measure and weigh your packaged freight. These details are important because carriers verify all information regarding weight and measurements using their sophisticated equipment. If the carrier’s weight or measurements are different from what the customer originally reported, then the customer will receive a billing adjustment after the shipment has been completed. If there are discrepancies between the customer provided information on the Bill of Lading (BOL) and what the carrier’s weights/measurements are, the carrier will issue a billing adjustment for the difference.
There are vital freight measurements to keep in mind when measuring your cargo. Make sure you understand measurement factors such as actual weight, dimensional weight, density and how they impact the cost of your shipment and what services/carriers best fit your needs. These factors play into whether or not you’ll need an overlength accessorial or what your freight class will be.
When it comes to weight, it is best practice to always weigh your packaged freight on an industrial freight scale at a local junkyard, shipping depot, or warehouse. If you ship freight often, you might consider investing in a personal industrial freight scale. While an industrial freight scale is a large expense, consider the benefits of the investment, such as lowering billing adjustments, getting your freight weight accurate before shipping and having the scale ready for use whenever you need it.
Step 3: Insure Your Shipment
All too often in the freight world, cargo gets lost or damaged. Being covered in the event of such unfortunate cases is important. Every carrier offers a “basic” level of insurance coverage known as limited liability coverage. For some shippers, this is enough, but this level of coverage doesn’t necessarily reflect the full value of your item and is determined based on either flat rates or on the weight and freight class of your shipment.
Purchasing freight insurance provides additional coverage above and beyond the carrier’s default protection policy. These independent policies can offer protection for the full value of your shipment and remove the need of proving liability if any damage or loss of shipment occurs. For many shippers, purchasing an independent freight insurance policy gives them peace of mind because they don’t have to worry about their shipment.
Make sure you have all your bases covered and understand everything you need to know about freight insurance, so you pick the right coverage option.
Step 4: Understand Accessorials
It’s very common for shippers to need or require services beyond the basic curbside pickup and delivery which is SOP for carriers. Most shippers don’t even know they may need additional services, and often times they end up with a surprise billing adjustment after their shipment has been delivered. These additional services are called accessorials, or add-ons, and they come in all shapes and sizes. What you may think is a part of the basic or included shipping services could end up costing you a lot of money.
Ask yourself a few questions, like:
- Is the delivery or pickup location a residential location or limited access location?
- Will the shipment require a liftgate to load or unload from a truck because there is no loading dock or forklift at pickup/delivery location?
- Do you or the person receiving the shipment need inside pickup or delivery?
If you answered any of the above questions with “yes” or “maybe,” then you will need an accessorial from the beginning of your freight quote process. Other types of accessorials include white glove services, first mile/final mile services and special handling services.
We know there are a lot of accessorials, and you may want more detailed information. Download our Easy Guide to Accessorials for a complete overview of some of the most common accessorials.
Step 5: Booking
Paying for your shipment is part of the booking process. When booking with FreightCenter, once payment has been received, your shipping agent generates an email for you with all the paperwork you will need, including:
- Terms and Conditions.
- Bill of Lading (2 copies).
- Shipping labels (2 copies).
Step 6: Attach Labels to the Package
Attach the two shipping labels provided by FreightCenter to your package; one on the long side and one on the short side. Make sure they are clearly visible and easy to read. To make sure they do not become loosened from the package, add a coating of clear packaging tape over the labels. This will also help protect your labels from elements.
Step 7: Be There When the Truck Arrives
Pickup times are requests, not reservations. If you need to have your shipment picked up on a particular date or at a particular time, you will need to book that with your agent. Extra charges will apply. Freight is usually picked up in the afternoon and delivered in the morning. When the truck arrives to pick up your freight, you (or your authorized representative) needs to be there to meet the truck. If no one is there, the pickup will have to be rescheduled and additional charges will be added.
If you are working with FreightCenter, remember: It is very important that you give the FreightCenter BOL to the driver. If you don’t, the carrier will not process your order with the discounts FreightCenter has secured on your behalf.
Step 8: Review Delivery Steps with the Consignee
The consignee is the person or company that will receive delivery of your shipment. Once you have booked your shipment, send photos of your packaged shipment to make it easy for the consignee to check for damage. If the package is damaged, or if less freight is delivered than expected, the consignee should note the damage or shortage on the Proof of Delivery receipt provided by the driver before accepting delivery of the shipment. Even seemingly minor damage like dented, torn, ripped, crushed or broken shrink wrap, boxes, pallets or crates need to be noted. Make sure the consignee understands that they must be there to accept delivery on the date and time specified by the carrier.
Step 9: Download Our Shipping Checklist
If you’re looking for a concise, comprehensive checklist to print out and put on the fridge or have at your desk, we’ve got you covered. Download our LTL Shipper’s Checklist today which is a summed-up version of everything within this article. And to make the shipping process even easier for you, partner with FreightCenter to help guide you step by step through the LTL shipping process. With expert agents who can find personalized solutions for your small business shipping and supply chain needs, a strong network of carriers to choose from, and a powerful transportation management software (TMS) to centralize everything you need into one place, we’re the go-to 3PL for shippers everywhere.