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Just how important is packaging in the world of freight shipping? Freight packaging is such a big subject that the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) conducts a 3-part webinar series on the subject twice a year. Each module is 1.5 hours long and the cost to participate is more than $200 per attendee. While we won't attempt to include all the material in that NMFTA webinar series, we’re going to provide you with practical freight packaging guidance that addresses 99% of our customers’ packaging concerns.

Why Is Freight Packaging a Big Deal?

What’s the big deal? Putting a 4,000-pound freight package on a 53-foot semi-trailer for 2,500 miles is not the same as throwing it in the back of your SUV for a short trip. Punctures, abrasions, compression, environmental exposures, shipment handling, shock and vibration can all contribute to your shipment getting damaged or damaging someone else’s shipment on the back of a truck. And in many cases, improperly packaged shipments are outright refused at pickup by a driver who deems the packaging insufficient. These freight costs are a waste of time, money, and energy and lead to unhappy customers.

Practical freight packaging ensures an easier, seamless shipping experience that doesn’t cost a fortune. Following some of the best practices of freight packaging helps your supply chain function properly.

Best Packaging Practices Tips & Tricks

Everyone’s on the lookout for insider shipping advice, and we’d like to provide some. Keeping this list of best practices in mind while going through the packaging process of your supply chain helps you stay ahead of the game.

Internal & External Packaging Materials - One of the most crucial aspects of shipping freight is choosing the right shipping container for your product and the best internal packaging materials for safety. There are many options such as boxes, crates, drums and pails, spools and reels, pipes, and transit cases that keep your cargo safe from outside damage.

But internal packaging is just as important as external packaging. Having the correct materials inside your box or crate will keep your cargo protected on its journey. Some examples of internal packaging include bubble wrap, corrosion protection packaging material, foam cushioning, honeycomb, loose fill, and paper pads. Determine what protection is most optimal for your item.

Pallets are key - Every piece of freight must be movable by forklift, which means much of what you ship can be fitted on a pallet. Pallets are helpful when packaging and preparing your cargo for shipment because they can help consolidate your load. Pallets allow for optimal ease of handling during the movements in between transit, reducing the potential for damage.

Stackability – Think like a driver when packaging. You want everything in the back of your truck to be uniform and safe. Pallet overhang, misaligned column stacks, and incorrect size and weight distribution can weaken container strength and lead to damage. In fact, overhang can reduce compression strength by up to 32 percent.

Interlocked stacking can reduce compression strength by up to 50 percent. That’s why column stacking is preferred — corner to corner, edge to edge. Even a misaligned stack can cause a 30 percent reduction in strength, so make sure the edges are aligned.

Overlength and the Weird-Shaped Stuff – Many carriers have different limitations for overlength freight Some types of freight are odd shapes or lengths. Some oddly shaped items include pipes, lumbar and antenna components. When you have overlength items to ship or need to ship other oddly shaped items, such as drum and pail shipments, or freight without pallets, there are some packaging steps you can take to make sure your freight is properly packaged and secured.

Remember, as we said before, carriers want to maximize their shipping routes, so stackable freight is what they prefer.

Additional Protection - Banding, stretch wrap and shrink wrap are great ways to package your freight for safety and security. Banding is typically used to secure bundled loads to pallets.  Stretch wrap is a great choice because it provides full coverage protection, and stretch wrap can keep your load uniform, preventing loss.  Plastic shrink wrap is another alternative in keeping a load together and uniform, and the more layers you add, the stronger the protection. So, go ahead and shrink wrap a package up to 5 times (just one go-around won’t cut it)!

Protect the top and bottom of your shipment with load-protector pads. The weight of top loaded freight will be distributed properly, while the bottom load will keep boxes from slipping (especially into the slats of the pallet).

Use edge boards to protect the corners of your product, while simultaneously stabilizing the load and increasing stacking strength.

Shipping Labels & Precautionary Markings - While this step doesn’t include packaging at all, it is the one of the most important parts of the shipping process. Improperly labeled cargo could lead to many issues, from the carrier charging a Marking and Tagging fee to an avoidable billing adjustment. To avoid this, you will need to make sure your cargo is labeled properly and easily visible.

Let's Wrap It Up

The ins and outs (pun intended) of freight packaging are a lot to absorb, but we hope our overview will save you time and money on shipping. If you’re looking for comprehensive and detailed freight packaging information, be sure to download our free Guide to Freight Packaging to have on hand when you’re preparing your shipment.

If you have any further questions about packing and shipping, call one of our expert freight agents at 844-212-7447. Ready to ship something? Start your free online quote now.

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