Being a first-time shipper can be overwhelming. There are many moving parts to the process, and getting one thing wrong, even something minor, or forgetting one step can be very costly. Below are the top freight shipping tips for first-time shippers to help you avoid common, costly mistakes.
Shipping Tip #1: Packaging comes first
Packaging freight may seem cut and dry, but it's arguably the most crucial part of the shipping process for first-time shippers. Especially if you're shipping LTL freight, your cargo will share the back of a freight truck with other shippers' freight and could move back and forth between multiple carriers and trucks. So, you'll want to make sure to package your freight correctly.
Get to know the different kinds of packaging materials available to you. Of course, the exterior packaging materials are more well-known, such as shrink wrap, cardboard boxes, etc. But internal materials like bubble wrap or packing peanuts keep your cargo extra safe during transit.
Download our free Guide to Freight Packaging for a more comprehensive look into freight packaging materials and best practices.
Shipping Tip #2: Transit times are estimates
This is a big one. Most first-time shippers think that delivery times will always occur when requested. This isn't the case. Carriers provide transit and delivery estimates based on the shipment date. When it comes to LTL freight shipping, there are many factors that can change your estimated freight transit time.
Think of LTL like carpooling for freight, where your cargo will be sharing space with other shippers' cargo on the truck. Sometimes loads before yours get held up for various reasons which lead to your shipment transit time being delay. Understanding some of the most common reasons why your LTL freight transit time estimate might increase keeps your supply chain running smoothly. You can plan for this by building in extra time to ensure your delivery schedule is a success.
Shipping Tip #3: Market conditions
Even for the most experienced shippers, the current market conditions are proving to be some of the most challenging in a very long time. With supply chain shortages aplenty and demand surging, coupled with changing consumer behaviors, understanding how the freight and logistics market operates is a must for first-time shippers.
Beneath all these surprising trends, there is a solid formula for how the freight market traditionally works year-round that will never change. These are known as the four seasons of freight. Many industries see larger-scale busy seasons than others at specific points of the year. Businesses could be busy simultaneously or be struggling to do business at other points in time. Knowing these seasonal changes throughout the year helps you stay ahead of the game and prepared for managing customer expectations.
Shipping Tip #4: Paperwork accuracy is king
First-time shippers often find themselves overwhelmed with the paperwork and documents that must be completed and prepared. The Bill of Lading (BOL) is standard paperwork that provides the customer, carrier, and driver with all the pertinent shipping costs and transport information. This includes:
- Pickup and delivery locations.
- Consignor, consignee, and driver signatures.
- Shipment weight and measurements.
- Freight class.
- Accessorials/Add-on services.
The BOL essentially operates as a sort of contract between shippers and carriers and facilitates freight moving. No matter what you ship or how many times you ship, a detailed BOL will be involved.
The Proof of Delivery (POD) is a receipt that the consignee signs after the delivery of the cargo/shipment. The POD's point is to confirm that the shipment was delivered on time and that there is no damage, including concealed freight damage.
Accuracy is vital on these types of documents. Guesstimating freight class or weight and dimensions could result in a costly billing adjustment post-delivery. Know what accessorials you'll need to fulfill your cargo needs, request them during the quote phase, and include them on the BOL. These are additional services that go beyond the scope of the standard freight carrier services.
Shipping Tip #5: Partner with a 3PL
There's no easier way for first-time shippers to ship freight than to partner with a third-party logistics company (3PL) like FreightCenter. Our expert shipping agents are standing by, ready to guide you step by step through the world of shipping.