6 Considerations for Choosing an LTL Freight Carrier

March 13, 2019 at 8:32 AMLeah Palnik
6 Considerations for Choosing an LTL Carrier

The 25 largest U.S. less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers collectively brought in $34 billion in revenue in 2017. That is a staggering number and a 7.8% increase over the previous year. When the numbers are in for 2018, don’t be surprised to see another healthy rise. As the largest LTL carriers continue to command more of the overall marketplace, shippers must be resourceful when looking to source LTL freight services so as to not get squeezed on price due to the number of market players. Shippers should take the following six factors into consideration when finding the most efficient LTL freight services.

  1. Transit Times - How fast do you need to get your shipment to your customer, or to receive your shipment from your vendor? Long-haul carriers tend to have slower transit times in regional lanes, while regional and multi-regional carriers are much faster in these lanes, but may not provide service in longer haul lanes.
  2. Geographic Coverage - Once you get beyond the top 10 LTL carriers, most of the remaining players provide only regionalized direct pickup and delivery services. Understanding carrier coverage areas helps you optimize which carriers are best suited for the service.
  3. Service Performance - On time pickup and delivery performance is not always the same. Often this depends on where your business is located relative to the nearest freight terminals. Long-haul carriers traditionally have been known to provide lower delivery reliability, while regional carriers tend to provide reliability in a higher range. Almost all of the LTL carriers will guarantee delivery or provide deliveries that are "faster than standard" for additional fees.
  4. Liability Coverage - The amount of liability coverage you receive can vary and is set by the carrier. It’s not uncommon to see liability restricted to $0.25 per lb. or less, which means shippers need to be diligent about understanding their options. Especially if the liability coverage doesn’t meet the actual value of the freight.  
  5. Financial Stability - Most of the remaining LTL carriers in the industry are pretty stable from a financial standpoint. However, there are a few carriers that continue to struggle with profitability and debt issues. Anyone who may recall when industry behemoth Consolidated Freightways closed its doors in 2002 will understand the importance of not having your freight in the hands of a financially unstable carrier. 
  6. Pricing Factors - Lastly, and perhaps most importantly for many small business, is price. When working with an LTL freight carrier, there are many factors that will determine your true cost of transportation. These include:
    • Discounts, base rates, and net price 
      Most LTL carriers provide pricing in the form of discounts off of base rates, which will vary by carrier. So, a 68% discount from one carrier might actually be less expensive than a 70% discount from another. The main point to consider when comparing LTL carriers is not what the discount or the base rates are, but rather what is the final net price to you.

    • Minimum charge  
      Generally a flat fee under which the carrier will not discount its price. Some carriers offer big discounts, but set the minimum charge high which may result in less of a discount on smaller weighted shipments than you anticipated.

    • Freight classification 
      There are 18 different freight classes ranging from 50 to 500. These classes are based on the density of your product and will definitely impact your overall price.

    • FAK provisions 
      If negotiated, "freight-all-kinds" provisions may allow you to ship products with different classes under a single class from a pricing standpoint. 

    • Weight 
      How much your shipment weighs will play a significant role in how your rate is calculated. Keep in mind that carriers will use hundredweight pricing, which means that the more your shipment weighs, the less you'll pay per hundred pounds.

    • Accessorial fees 
      Extra services performed by the carrier generally add additional fees to your overall freight bill. The fees that carriers charge for these services can often be radically different so it's important to educate yourself. 

There are other factors not mentioned above that need to be considered when choosing an LTL freight carrier as well, such as equipment specifications (e.g., liftgate, trailer size, etc.), scheduling flexibility, and tracking capabilities, to name a few. It's easy to see why, what may seem like a simple service of picking up a shipment and delivering it, is often more complex than meets the eye.

Generally speaking, there is almost never just one LTL freight carrier that fits every need you may have. Unless you have spare time on your hands, your best bet is to work with an established freight broker like PartnerShip that can do the heavy lifting for you so that you can stay focused on running your business.

Need some help evaluating your freight shipping? Need help finding the right LTL freight carriers? Let PartnerShip provide you with a free, no-obligation quote to get you started.

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Freight Class Explained: Demystifying Density

February 20, 2019 at 8:41 AMJen Deming
Freight Class Density Blog Image So, you've been brushing up on freight class and you're starting to get a hang of how it's determined. In the first part of our freight class series, we learned that packaging, commodity type, and dimensional features all influence the final code that ultimately affects your shipping price. Just when you thought you had a handle on the basics, we're going to throw you a little curveball. Some commodities have an added layer of mystery (and math) when it comes to their class: the density of the overall shipment. Let's sharpen some pencils and get down with density-based freight classifications.

What is density?
First thing's first, density is a method of measurement that relates the weight of your shipment to its dimensions, or pound per cubic foot. Typically, the higher the density, the lower the classification and vice versa. A good example of a high density shipment would be a pallet of bricks. Lower density shipments, or those that take up lots of space but are lightweight, are items such as ping-pong balls. 

Why are some shipments density-based and what are they?
Commodities that are solid, heavy, and take up minimal space are very desirable to pretty much any freight carrier. Using density as a factor in determining freight class and pricing is becoming the new standard, especially as freight demand increases and capacity decreases. Thanks to variables such as a shortage of drivers and strict trucking legislation, carriers are trying to weed out difficult or unprofitable shipments in order to make space for more standardized loads. Time and effort are money in this industry, and carriers are taking control of who they want to ship for

How do you calculate the density of a shipment?
Density is calculated by measuring the height, width, and the depth of the shipment, including skids and packaging. This is multiplied to determine cubic inches. If you have multiple pieces, multiply for each piece and add them together. Then, divide the total cubic inches by 1,728, or the total cubic inches in a foot. The result is the total cubic feet of the shipment's pieces. Divide the weight (in lbs.) of the shipment by the total cubic feet. The result is pounds per cubic foot, or density. 

What is my freight class?
To help you better understand density-based shipments, we will look at a shipment of steel machinery parts, in a crate measuring 42 x 46 x 42 inches and weighing 500 lbs. By using the search function in ClassIT for "machinery parts", we can see a broad grouping for 114000, or the Machinery Group: 

machinery ClassIT Example 1

Through this group, we are directed through sub-articles, where we can find the 133300 group "Machinery or Machines, NOI, or Machinery or Machine Parts, NOI". From there, we can view associated subgroups that refer to density and packaging:

Machinery ClassIT 2 
You may also notice the "NOI" designation for this particular breakdown. "NOI" refers to "not otherwise indicated" and was implemented by the NMFTA for commodities that do not easily fit into existing classifications. Using NOI can be risky, since most products do have a specific freight class. Since "NOI" designations tend to draw attention from carrier inspection teams, it's critical that they are used properly, and that means density must be calculated to determine the subgroup.

In this example, and using the formula listed above, we can determine density using its dimensions and weight.

  1. Multiply the length, width, and height (42 x 46 x42) to get the total cubic inches (81,444).
  2. Divide the total cubic inches by 1,728 to get the total cubic feet (47).
  3. Divide the weight of the shipment (500 lbs.) by the total cubic feet (47). This will give you a density of 10.65.

Looking at the chart, we see that because of our crated packaging type, the top 4 subgroups are applicable. 10.65 falls under the subgroup 3, or class 92.5. In this class example, it is important that dimensions and weight are accurately measured in order to calculate the true density (and appropriate class) for the shipment. It's also crucial to note once more that packaging makes a huge impact. See how high the classes jump if the product is palletized or in packages other than secure crates or boxes.

LTL services are in higher demand than ever before. National freight carriers are in the driver's seat, and doing what they can to limit troublesome shipments - including those with a low density and high freight class. Once you've optimized your shipments for carriers, many shippers wonder about whether a Freight All Kinds (FAK) agreement may be a worthwhile perk. Next, we'll take a look at what goes into that FAK and if it's right for your business.  The freight specialists at PartnerShip can guide the way so you aren't stuck staring at your calculator, and a high freight bill. Call 800-599-2902 to speak with a representative, or get a quote today.

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How to Calculate Freight Density for Shipping

January 11, 2019 at 8:39 AMLeah Palnik
How to calculate freight density

Density is a major factor in determining your freight class and your total shipment cost. In fact, many LTL carriers are relying more and more on freight density over actual weight to determine your rate. That's why it's important that you understand what freight density is and how to calculate it.

Freight density defined
Freight density measures how heavy a shipment is relative to the size of the shipment. The higher the density, the lower the classification and vice versa. A shipment with a high freight density weighs a lot relative to its size, such as densely packed books. A package with a low freight density weighs little relative to its size, such as a box filled with Styrofoam.

How to calculate freight density
Step 1. Measure the height, width, and depth of the shipment in inches. Measure to the farthest points, including skids or other packaging. On shipments with multiple pieces, repeat Step 1 for each piece.

Step 2. Multiply the three measurements (height x width x depth). The result is the total cubic inches of the shipment. If you have multiple pieces, multiply the height x width x depth for each piece. Take the results for each piece and add them together to get the total cubic inches

Step 3. Divide the total cubic inches by 1,728 (the number of cubic inches in a cubic foot). The result is the cubic feet of the shipment.

Step 4. Divide the weight (in pounds) of the shipment by the total cubic feet. The result is the pounds per cubic foot, i.e., density.

  • For multiple pieces, add the weight of each piece together before dividing by the total cubic feet of the shipment.
  • Round fractions to the nearest full cubic foot number.

Calculating freight density will also provide you with a recommended class for your shipment. The freight class chart below is an abbreviated scale you can use to help estimate the freight classification for your shipments.

Freight Density Chart

Helpful tools
There are many factors that determine your freight class, aside from density, so these are estimates only. If you're looking for help to find your freight class, our team is standing by. For a quick and easy way to figure out your shipment density, check out our freight density calculator.

6 Sneaky (But Avoidable) Tradeshow Logistics Costs

December 4, 2018 at 9:32 AMJen Deming
Tradeshow Shipping Blog Image

Anyone who has ever shipped to an event is probably familiar with the special level of stress and frustration involved in coordinating show shipments. Tradeshow logistics is tricky business - not only are you juggling crunched timelines leading up to  the show, but shippers also have to be aware of the many potential hidden costs involved throughout the process. Any misstep can end up costing shippers in surprise freight fees. The good news is that most of these costs are avoidable, as long as you know what to look out for. We've compiled a list of the things you need to keep an eye on to protect your special event freight spend. 

  1. The cost of shipping to advance warehouse vs. show site 

    You have the choice to ship directly to the tradeshow floor or to an advance warehouse where your show materials are held leading up to the actual show start date. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and as an informed shipper you need to weigh what makes the most sense for you. Shipping to an advance warehouse will give you more time to be flexible should anything go wrong or be delayed. Though material handling fees may be slightly higher, it doesn't cost more to ship to the advance warehouse. An added benefit is less worry about whether your shipment will arrive on time, and you get a leg up on the shipments arriving to the show site. Your shipment materials will be ready and waiting for you at your booth space when you arrive the day of set-up. 

    Shipping directly to site can be tempting to avoid these initial material handling costs, but keep in mind that hundreds of other event shipments will be arriving at the same time as yours. If you've never seen a show-site marshaling yard, think of a rush-hour traffic jam during the last weekend of holiday shopping season. It's not pretty, and hold-ups cost lots of money in detention fees. If your shipment arrives late, the team waiting to build your booth will pass on overtime charges. If you're running extra-late, springing for expedited transportation charges will cost you even more. We've said it before, and we'll say it again: plan ahead, and build in extra time. Make your decisions based on what realistically makes the most sense for your business.

  2. Delivering or picking up your shipment in overtime

    The exact time your tradeshow shipment is loaded or unloaded is critical, and meeting your target time will save you significantly. In addition to open dates for both the advance warehouse and show site, there is a window of hours called straight time. These are the hours, and days, your shipment needs to arrive for the show in order not to be hit with overtime fees. This window is usually restricted to typical work hours, 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, for most shows, Monday through Friday. Anything that arrives after those hours, or on the weekends, will be considered overtime and incur extra charges. It is critical to check in your exhibitor packet exactly what hours and dates are safe for your shipment to arrive prior to the show.

    You also need to make sure your specific check-in time is noted on the material handling form, especially if your carrier arrives early. Often, a truck will arrive the night before, ahead of schedule. If there's no time noted, the driver may check in and get loaded on overtime, and this will increase your bill significantly. A great best practice to stick to is writing "load only during straight hours" in order to diminish the likelihood it will be loaded outside of that time, as well as act as documentation to help your case should your freight be loaded during overtime and you want to dispute the extra charge.

  3. The price of damages and how freight insurance can help

    Shipment damage or loss can occur at any time. While carriers do everything they can to keep them from happening, it's just an unfortunate part of freight shipping. With your load moving in and out of several different terminals (especially if your freight is traveling a greater distance), your shipment may encounter a renegade forklift or a heavy-handed loader. That's why it is key to package appropriately and securely. Custom crates are a great idea, especially for furniture and other fragile booth materials. Imagine arriving to a show and your seating is damaged and unusable. Sure, you have the option to rent a couch but it's going to cost you thousands for rental in addition to any repairs you will have to spring for to get things in working order for the next show.

    Because carrier liability is limited, it's always a good idea to look into additional freight insurance as a secondary option. Tradeshow shipment yards, docks, storage rooms, and show floors are all very congested places. Accidents happen, and should they happen to your show materials, at least you know your freight's full value is covered. Just keep in mind that every third-party insurance provider has different terms, so read carefully and make sure you fully understand the coverage you are getting.

  4. Using the wrong NMFC and the risk of re-class

    Did you know that materials being shipped to events have their very own class code? Don't worry, unless you are shipping to tradeshows regularly, most shippers don't either. Instead of calculating your shipment based on commodity type (furniture, signage, etc), any item either coming to or departing from a tradeshow should be rated Class 125. This can very well mean that the class is different than what you may be using on other shipments, and as a result, the price could be different than what you are used to seeing. It is important to get this quoted correctly, so if you are tempted to use a lower code because it's what you are used to, beware the risk of re-class. You don't want to receive surprise charges/fees when the carrier catches on and your shipment is rated higher than you wanted. The good news is that many booth material items such as chairs or desks tend to ship at a class higher than 125 anyway, so using a preset tradeshow-specific class code may save you. 

  5. Material handling and drayage fees

    Material handling and drayage are common fees incurred by event shippers, and often the least anticipated. This type of handling refers specifically to transportation services from your carrier's delivery vehicle, at the dock, to your booth space. These services include unloading at the dock, moving your materials, as well as storing your empty containers for the duration of the show. Once the show is over, gathering the empty containers from storage as well as transferring the freight back to the loading dock will also incur fees. A top recommendation for tradeshow shippers is to crate your loads, rather than sending loose boxes. Some show decorators charge drayage based on how the shipment is packaged. Crating is the least expensive option and also adds protection against damage and loss by keeping your materials together. 

    Completing a material handling form is crucial to setting up your outbound shipment accurately. Shippers know to have an accurate BOL prepared, but a material handling form is what the decorator looks at. The carrier name for pick-up must be noted, otherwise you will fall victim to "forced freight." This means the shipment will be sent with the decorator's carrier of choice, and that can be pricey. If it's a carrier your 3PL works with (for PartnerShip, UPSFreight or YRC Freight) an LOA can be submitted so you will be billed at your discounted pricing. If not, then you will need to pay the bill direct to the carrier. 

    The tough part about drayage fees is that these services will be performed by a specific decorator that is under contract with the show. That leaves no room for shippers to negotiate with other options the way you might with transportation to and from the event location. However, there are ways that event shippers can try to keep these costs down as low as possible, particularly regarding packaging. The biggest factors determining drayage fees are weight and piece count. Each piece may be assessed a minimum charge, so make good use of palletizing or crating those loads! They are easier to transport to and from the showroom. Go lightweight for additional savings. Heavy building materials for your booth items will quickly increase your drayage bill, so stick to lighter more transportable building options for your booth tables and seating.  

  6. Shipping there and back for separate shows

    It pays to put the time in to accurately plan how much product, booth materials, marketing collateral, giveaways, and anything else you may need. Successful event shippers create a strategy for what needs to be done before, after, and during the show. Check into any information regarding the tradeshow traffic from past years. Talk to the event coordinators and point people to gauge what you think you will need. Anticipate and plan for a little extra, but don't over do it. If you are going to be shipping to another show, look into whether it is more cost efficient to move directly to the next event rather than scheduling a return shipment back home. Very often, the storage fees at the next show location's warehouse may be cheaper than it would be to ship home then ship back out. You will have added peace of mind, again, that your shipment will arrive with enough time before the show so that you can concentrate on and prepare for the next show rather than worrying whether it will arrive on time.

Managing tradeshow logistics can wear on the patience of even the most seasoned of shippers. Meeting deadlines and managing the details can be tough, and it can be tempting to step away and just hope everything goes smoothly. But, it pays to be diligent and well-informed, because that's the best way you can protect your bottom line from hidden tradeshow costs. If you're still feeling a little overwhelmed this tradeshow season, don't worry - the experts at PartnerShip can help. Call 800-599-2902 to speak with a tradeshow shipping specialist, or download our free white paper for more information about tradeshow shipping.

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Picking Your Pallet Type: How to Best to Support Your Freight

October 25, 2018 at 11:55 AMJen Deming
Picking Your Pallet Blog Post

Not all pallet types are created equal. While it's always smart to properly palletize your freight shipments, construction style and material can vary more than you'd expect. Some structures are better suited for certain types of loads. Before you can understand the best way to organize and stack your freight on a pallet, it's helpful to know the advantages and disadvantages of each type, so that you can better secure your freight and protect yourself against potential damage and loss.

Pallet Structure Types: Stringer vs Block
A stringer pallet is a pallet structure that uses "stringers" (2x4 or 3x4 pieces of board) sandwiched between the top and bottom decks to help support the weight of the load. Sometimes, stringer pallets are notched along the bottom deckboard to allow for partial fork lift entry on all sides. Otherwise, typical construction can limit mobility via forklift.

A block pallet uses around 4-12 blocks of solid wood or plastic to support the weight of the shipment resting on the top deckboard. Because the pallet construction uses multiple pieces with open spaces at the bottom, there is better allowance for forklift entry on all four sides, allowing for easier lift and mobility.

Now that we've covered the two basic pallet structures, shippers need to understand the differences in construction components  so your valuable freight doesn't get damaged. Different industries and commodities require different specifications based on the load. There are 4 primary material groups when it comes to pallet types: wood, plastic, metal, and corrugated paper. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages regarding cost, durability, availability, and sustainability.

Wood Pallets
Wooden or plywood pallets are the most recognizable and commonly used pallet type for a wide variety of industries.

  • Advantages: These pallets are the cheapest and also easiest to customize for a commodity's specific needs. They are typically reusable and can hold up in multiple transits. If they are damaged in transit, wooden pallets are very easy to repair.  They are easy to stack, and the used wooden materials are popular to re-purpose for mulch, paper, and other project construction.
  • Disadvantages: Wooden pallets become fragile after carrying heavier loads and are at risk to weathering, splitting, and splintering. This pallet type can be heavy and therefore more costly to ship. Wood is difficult to clean and porous, growing both bacteria and mold, so food, beverages, and chemicals aren't ideal commodities to ship using this type of pallet.

Plastic Pallets
Notably more expensive than wood, plastic pallets are a great all-around option for those shippers willing to shell out a bit more.

  • Advantages: While being the most lightweight of available pallet material options, plastic is still super durable and ideal for heavy loads. The material is easy to clean (safe for transport of food products) and are generally stress, heat, and weather resistant. Plastic pallets are easily recyclable and can be quickly ground down and turned into new pallets. Since they are often made of a single piece with no screws or other hardware, they can be safer to handle than standard wooden pallets.
  • Disadvantages: Plastic pallets are pretty inflexible. If they break or crack, it isn't cost efficient to fix, and they have to be melted down and remolded entirely. Because of this, and the effort that goes into making them, they are at a distinctly higher price point than some other pallet types.

Metal Pallets
Strong and resilient, this premium option is one the the least common pallet types, but a very sturdy alternative for certain industries.

  • Advantages: Metal (often aluminum) pallets are a great option used for transporting heavy goods because they are the sturdiest and most secure alternative. They are also excellent for businesses moving foodstuffs because of sanitation and safety. They do not break down or rot easily, and are not susceptible to warping or splintering like wood. They are less easily recyclable, but can still be melted down and reused.
  • Disadvantages: Up-front initial costs for the purchase of metal pallets is very high. While very durable, these pallets are also extremely heavy, so keep in mind the actual transportation cost may be higher as well.

Corrugated Paper Pallets
As the newest pallet type on the block, this environmentally friendly option is becoming more popular across a variety of industries.

  • Advantages: Corrugated paper pallets are lightweight but still strong enough for moderate shipments and typically less expensive than more commonly found wooden pallets. They are completely recyclable and transportation costs are typically lower due to their weight. Because they are intended to be "single use" by nature, they are more sanitary than wooden and plastic pallets.
  • Disadvantages: Paper pallets cannot withstand extreme weather conditions, and they are more easily damaged by forklifts and during loading/unloading. Because they are not very reusable, while they are cheap, replacement costs can get pretty high if you are shipping frequently.

While it's pretty common knowledge that you can better protect your freight by palletizing your shipments, it may come as a surprise to many shippers that there are so many different pallet types. Advances in the construction of the basic pallet have greatly improved both durability and cost. Pallet building materials and the engineering of the structure can literally make or break your load. If you would like to learn more about how to best package and palletize your freight, download our free white paper below!

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How to Reduce Shipping Costs: Are You Sabotaging Your Freight Spend?

September 27, 2018 at 2:45 PMJen Deming
How to Reduce Your Shipping Costs

Shipping expenses are one of the top expenditures for most businesses, which comes as no surprise because it can be extremely challenging to determine how to reduce shipping costs. So far in 2018, US companies spent 6.2% more than they did year-over-year, totaling a record $1.49 trillion in shipping- related expenses. Many common shipping practices sabotage a business's ability to get ahead by protecting their bottom line. What are some important mistakes to avoid when figuring out how to reduce your shipping costs?

It's not always what's inside that counts.

Proper packaging is critical in helping to reduce shipping costs. We are all familiar with the risk of damages - used boxes that have holes or older labels still attached are asking for trouble. Make sure you are using the correct type of packaging materials for the product that you are moving. If you have more than a few boxes, it's a good idea to palletize all of them together, and wrap with shrink wrap. Freight shipments are loaded and unloaded at several terminal stations in route, and palletizing can keep them from being separated or lost along the way. It's also critical to use the right size packaging to help shippers reduce shipping costs. Make sure you are packaging your product with enough space inside to include proper cushioning, but not so much as to allow room for shifting or that make it difficult to handle - a carrier will charge for that too.

You are clueless about your customer's location.

Are you aware whether your receiver has a dock? How about a forklift? Are you delivering to a school, church, or another hard-to-reach area or location that risks being designated as "limited access" by the carrier? Will a 53' dry van be able to maneuver around that location? In addition to that, are hours of operation restricted for pick-ups or delivery? Every one of these variables can make a delivery potentially more difficult and more damaging to your bottom line due to costly accessorial charges. Keep in mind, the more difficult it is to get the delivery completed, the more you need to be prepared for additional fees. Planning ahead and knowing exactly what your carrier will charge for any additional services will help keep your shipping costs where they need to be.

Assuming that delivery estimate is a guarantee.

Shippers have to keep in mind that the estimated delivery day is just that - an estimate. Just as with your everyday postal service provider, business days are those included in a work week - weekends and holidays are not included. A more reliable measure to figure out shipment delivery is to take a look at transit times. When scheduling with a carrier, be sure to ask for this rather than relying on the estimated delivery date. That way, you know if your 5 day freight transit picks up on Monday, and an unexpected storm kicks up along the way, a 1 day transit delay actually results in a Monday delivery. Keep things safe by factoring in a couple extra buffer days when communicating to your customer. If you are truly in a crunch, shop the different expedited service options among different carriers, but be aware anything last minute will cost you, especially as weather worsens as we head into winter and the holiday crunch. Avoiding last minute rush shipments is always the quickest way to reduce shipping costs. 

It's about 500lbs...ish?

The old adage, "measure twice, cut once" isn't just a cute lesson in being diligent - it's a very important rule for shippers to live by. Guessing just doesn't work in an industry where being a few pounds or inches off can potentially double your freight bill. Carriers check weight and dimensions once, twice, and once more just for fun with calibrated scales every time your pallet is picked up by a forklift at a terminal. If the weight of your shipment doesn't add up to what's on the BOL, you can pretty much rest assured you will be billed for the difference. If you've already quoted your customer and billed them on shipping you estimated based on inaccurate measurements, you're playing a risky game. Be sure your warehouse scale is calibrated and reset often. If you don't have a large enough commercial scale at your place of business, measure each component of your load (including pallets) and add them up. Be as thorough and as accurate as possible to avoid any surprises.

Handing the reins to your vendor.

You may love your vendors, but lots of businesses take for granted the cost- cutting potential that's available by managing their own shipping. If you are able to do so, it pays to take a look at what carrier and service your vendor is using to deliver your freight and take control of your inbound options. Some carriers have more competitive lanes in certain regions, while others may offer additional options and less expensive fees for extra services your business may require. If you are responsible for your inbound freight costs, it's worth it to put in the time to measure which carrier and service really work best for you. The additional responsibility doesn't have to be a headache, either. By working with a quality 3PL, you can make sure you are using the correct carrier, correct service level, at the most competitive price. It's a surefire way to be sure you are reducing your shipping costs where you need to.

Figuring out how to reduce shipping costs starts with some simple best practices. Double checking your specs, being knowledgeable about your transit and locations, and researching carrier options help keep you prepared and proactive about avoiding higher freight costs. When you are stuck or simply need some experts on your side, PartnerShip can help make sure you are setting yourself up for success. To speak with a specialist to learn more about where you can cut your shipping costs, call 800-599-2902 or email sales@PartnerShip.com.

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5 Key Things to Know About Shipping Stone

September 12, 2018 at 8:06 AMJen Deming
5 Key Things To Know About Shipping Stone

One of the most common, and most difficult, commodities being moved either LTL or full truckload is natural stone materials. These are used mostly for construction projects, both residential and commercial. The stone can be cut, crushed, blocked, or moved upright in slabs, and each come with different requirements for packaging and handling. As dense and heavy as stone is, it can be very fragile, brittle, and difficult (not to mention dangerous) to transport. Whether you are going either LTL or full truckload for your stone shipping, there's a slew of potential complications you need to be aware of in order to ship safely and securely.

1. Packing and Packaging

First and foremost, proper packing and packaging materials are very important for stone shipping. In the most ideal of scenarios, smaller freight shipments can be packed in custom crates, with built-in foam material for cushioning. The crate shouldn't be too large, and should contain minimal extra space to limit movement of the product inside. Stone material can be separated in bags within the crate for easier removal and distribution upon delivery. Customized crates can be a little pricey, but it's well worth the extra cost in security. This is especially true if you are moving through an LTL carrier. In that case, your stone will likely be loaded and unloaded several times throughout the process, both initially and through terminals during transit.

Palletizing your stone shipments is another recommended option for larger freight loads, and are often stacked with wrapping materials in between to prevent scraping. Ideally, a specialized piece of equipment should be used to transport stone shipments cut into slabs, called an A-frame. Typically, these are made of both wood and steel and include a base with A-shaped bars angling upward acting as a sturdy support for heavy slabs. They can be used for both storage and transport, and many have wheels that can be locked into place or removed. These frames can be loaded onto the truck by either forklift or crane.

2. Trailer Types

There are many truck types that are able to transport stone, and the equipment required depends on how the stone is packaged.a 53' dry van (enclosed trailer) with swing or roll-up doors will work well for most smaller shipments going LTL. Shipments are loaded at the rear, using a loading dock and forklift. If a loading dock is not available, some trailers have lift-gates, but this additional service does come with a fee and makes it more difficult to find available trucks. It's important to note that palletized shipments of stone are generally not recommended to go LTL, unless plenty of corner guards, foam or other packing materials are being wrapped with the product.

There are a few additional trailer-type options for truckload stone shipping. A flatbed is an extremely popular trailer type that is widely used for its versatility. There are no sides so the deck is open, and freight is typically loaded over the sides and the rear. A step-deck or drop-deck is a variation of a flatbed that consists of both a top and bottom deck. The lower part is designed to haul freight that may be too tall to be hauled with a standard flatbed. Additional open deck options include RGN (Removable Gooseneck Trailers), stretch RGN, or low-boys. All of these options are designed to be used for exceptionally tall or long freight loads. These open types of trailers will most likely require straps, chains, or tarps to help protect the freight from wind or weather damage and will need to be requested by the shipper so that the carrier is prepared. A conestoga is a trailer that comes with a roll-up tarp system that creates sides and a top to offer protection of the freight, which is an added benefit to fragile stone shipping. Keep in mind, due to the specialized nature of these pieces of equipment, they may be more expensive and more difficult to find.

3. Over Dimensional Concerns

It's very common for large stone orders or building materials to be over dimensional when going full truckload. Knowing what to expect when it comes to legal requirements and how your shipment may be affected are very important in planning the haul. Every state has different legal requirements for obtaining a permit in order to transport over-sized freight. There are not only restrictions on hours of operation varying by state, but also restrictions on drivers for hours of service - meaning there is less time your shipment can be on the road. As the shipper, it's crucial to plan as much as possible beforehand and to give accurate estimates for transit time. It may be smart to plan an extra day or two when communicating with your customer. Since the load will more than likely go through checkpoints in each state it travels, each stop stop can potentially hold up your load. Make sure your drivers are prepared with the necessary permits, paperwork, and commodity information (likely including product spec sheets and packing slips).

4. Insurance Coverage

Due to the fragility and potential hazards and risk for damage in shipping stone, making sure you have proper insurance coverage is crucial. Carrier liability is typically limited, especially for LTL common carriers. So, if your shipment and damaged in transit, the probability that you will receive full compensation for the value of your product is very unlikely. Usually, in LTL shipments, the payout depends on a dollar per pound amount based on the class and commodity. In order to get this payout, you will need to go through all of the necessary steps to file a claim and prove the carrier is at fault for damaging your shipment. It can be a tedious process with a very limited return. Many shippers find it much more beneficial to obtain additional freight insurance to have more complete coverage of their freight.

Truckload carriers are required by the FMCSA to meet specific primary insurance minimums. Cargo liability is the type of insurance that covers your freight while it is in transit. Typically, up to $100,000 in cargo liability is covered, but it's important to note not all types of commodities are covered. Restrictions can vary depending on insurance company, so it's always a good idea to look into purchasing additional cargo insurance to be sure your freight is covered.

5. Accessibility of Site/ Unloading Teams

Another huge challenge for shippers moving stone materials is accessibility of the pick up and delivery locations. Oftentimes, these loads are being picked up directly at the quarry, and it can be difficult for the driver of a 53' dry van or a flat bed to maneuver in these locations. Delivery can be at construction sites, or even residential lots, which poses even more difficulty for drivers. It's important to know that the driver of your delivery truck typically will not assist in the loading or unloading of your freight. And with thousands of pounds of hard-to-move, bulky product, you need to be prepared and have a well-trained and reliable team ready at your disposal - possibly even after hours. Most truckload carriers charge detention after 2 hours for loading/unloading, which means extra money in fees off your bottom line. The time can go quickly, so have any equipment and areas cleared that are needed for loading and unloading. Being better prepared on the front side can save you lots of money and time wasted later on.

Stone shipping is one of the most challenging and problematic types of freight shipping out there. It's also very common. As both commercial and residential builders are more frequently using natural stone in their designs, the demand for transporting these materials is increasing exponentially. Stone shippers have to equip themselves with as much knowledge as possible about the many issues that may arise both during and before and after transit. Being well-informed is the best way to ship as smart and as  securely as possible while minimizing the potential for costly damage. Working with a freight broker can lend you some expertise from finding reliable and vetted carriers, to knowing just what type of equipment you need to get your freight to its destination safely. Contact PartnerShip for your next stone shipment!

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4 Essential Holiday Shipping Tips for Retailers

September 4, 2018 at 9:53 AMJen Deming
4 Essential Holiday Shipping Tips for Retailers

Holiday shipping is fast approaching for retailers. Though the season of gifting and good tidings seems miles away (and most of us have probably not even begun to think about our OWN shopping lists), it's never too early to start your holiday shipping prep. You may have already brainstormed your plan of action and received some inbound items and supplies, so now's the time to make that yearly best practices list. We've compiled a few holiday shipping tips specific for retails to make sure your busy season passes smoothly.

Tip 1: Prepare your inventory and manage your inbound shipments

As the saying goes, you have to learn to walk before you run. The very first step in great holiday shipping preparation is getting your inventory and inbound shipments from vendors in order. Taking control of your inbound shipping is crucial to being set up for holiday success. Plan ahead by looking at your past holiday seasons' wins and opportunities, check industry trends, and do your best to forecast just how much product you may need to make it through your holiday season. If you feel you will need a replenishment order, communicate with your vendors to make sure they are clear on when you will need the product (and build in some extra time as a cushion). If you are able to, consider managing your own routings by selecting your own carrier and directing your vendors on your precise shipping expectations and needs. This control can give you better peace of mind that shipments are being handled reliably and to your specifications. An added benefit to managing your own inbound shipments from vendors is that you can price shop for the best service level and carrier that fit your budget.

Tip 2: Invest time in planning and budgeting

The elevated cost of shipping during holiday peak season is just a reality for shippers, but most believe it's just the price of doing business.. Budgeting and planning what you can expect to pay during the crunch can make or break your bottom line. Not only will you be spending more overall due to an increase in volume, certain carriers implement surcharges during this period, so it pays to do your research. For the second year in a row, FedEx has announced it will NOT apply a peak season surcharge on residential shipments. UPS, however, will be implementing a surcharge on those shipments from November 18 through December 1 (in line with Black Friday) and again from December 16 through December 22 (last minute rush). The surcharge ranges depending on the service, from $0.28 to $0.99 on most residential packages, which can add up as volume increases. Larger packages will also include peak surcharges by both small package carriers, with the most expensive charge costing $165 per package. Which charges apply will depend on your package dimensions and weight, so make sure to educate yourself before the holiday rush begins.

Tip 3: Take control of setting customer expectations

The best way to ensure your holiday shipping will run smoothly, specifically from the customer's perspective, is to let them know what they can expect even BEFORE they make a purchase. It's a good idea to take a look at how your business performed last year, check through any customer issues for common themes, and adjust where you may need to. Use your website to its full potential - utilize clear and consistent language that addresses shipping costs, delivery times, order deadlines, and return policies, and make sure they are easy to find. Update your FAQ section and any links that may be relevant to holiday shipping time tables or price breakdowns.

In addition to your website, be sure to use email as an additional measure to touch base with your customers. Send out communications to past customers about any new policy changes BEFORE they put in this year's order. Send order confirmations, followed up by shipping confirmations. Many businesses send out notifications for delivery attempts or completions. These added touches not only communicate effectively to your customer but leave a positive impression of your company's reliability.

Tip 4: Make your returns process easy

As we touched on in the last tip, communication with customers is key to keeping expectations realistic and managing the consumer experience during the holiday shipping season. Another area that many retailers tend to overlook during peak holiday boom is the returns process. According to the National Retail Federation, three out of every four holiday shoppers checks the company return policy before committing to making any purchase.

Every retailer can do their best to avoid returns by being sure each product listing is as accurate and updated as possible, in order to avoid most surprises when it arrives at your customer's door. However, despite all of your efforts, returns are going to happen. If your business is going to handle and accept online returns, the more you can automate the process, the easier it will be on both you and your customer. The majority of customers are not willing to pay premium for return shipping. Price is the most significant deciding factor, so don't waste time offering faster, more expensive return services. Providing pre-printed return labels, packaging, and instructions can all improve the customer experience, lessen the returns headache for your operations team, and increase future value for your brand.

Summer may only just be winding down, but retailers are already thinking of what's on winter wish lists. It's never too early for holiday shipping prep, and being proactive is the best way to avoid a stressful peak season. In addition to our tips on planning, inventory, and streamlining your returns process, it's helpful to have the experts on your side. At PartnerShip, we know a thing or two about the peak season boom. We are happy to help you ship smarter, and with less stress, this holiday season, contact us today!

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For Good Measure: How to Avoid Freight Reweighs

July 26, 2018 at 10:08 AMJen Deming
Avoiding Reweigh Fees

LTL shipping requires plenty of diligence and double checking on behalf of the shipper. All may seem in order: you've used proper packaging, paperwork is up to date, shipping addresses reviewed, accessorial requirements checked, and you are confident you are using the proper freight class. Then it happens. Your shipment is delivered safe and sound, but when the invoice arrives, your bill is nearly $100 over what you had anticipated. On further review, you learn you've been hit with a reweigh fee by the carrier. How did this happen?

Freight reweighs are becoming more and more frequent, especially as dimensional and density based pricing becomes more common. It's important to understand what constitutes a reweigh, and what puts your shipment at risk. Many shippers, particularly small businesses, do not have certified scales that are large enough to accurately measure a larger LTL (less-than-truckload) shipment. This means that many of the weights listed on the BOL (Bill of Lading) are approximations, and carriers are pretty vigilant at checking for inaccuracies with their own certified equipment. A freight reweigh occurs when a carrier inspects and weighs the shipment and when the actual weight and the weight listed on the BOL do not match. One of the primary factors used to determine freight cost is weight, and in many cases, affects freight class as well. Often, a carrier will charge not only for the difference in weight, but also a fee for the freight reweigh itself.

To avoid a freight reweigh, it is so important that shippers try to avoid "guessing" their shipment weight. If your business does have a certified commercial scale, you are a step ahead of many other shippers. Be sure to have it calibrated and checked frequently to avoid miscalculations. If you do not have a scale, it is key to obtain accurate measurements and weights for ALL of the materials being shipped. This can be even more challenging if you are shipping an assembled, finished product made up of several separate pieces and different classifications. Add up materials used on product spec sheets, catalogue listings, and product invoices to get as accurate a weight as possible. It can be beneficial to look at any inbound shipping invoices for any pieces of your finished product that were shipped to you as a supply order. In short, don't be tempted to take shortcuts. It pays to take the time to measure individually and make educated and precise estimates.

Another mistake that many shippers make that encourage freight reweighs is neglecting to include packaging/packing materials in their calculation of gross weight. An average 48x40 pallet weighs around 30-40 lbs, and if you are shipping a multi-pallet load, that extra weight adds up fast. While it's always best to avoid guessing your shipment's weight, in the case shippers aren't able to weigh their shipments on a calibrated scale, it is important to factor this figure in the total. Additional materials used to protect your shipment such as molded plastic corner reinforcements, fiberboard, wooden stabilizers, and even foam inserts can increase weight, especially if you have a larger LTL shipment.

It's key to remember that accurate weight is not the only factor that affects your shipment- it helps to determine your freight class, as well. For heavier, denser items that fall into the lower NMFC classifications, total weight of the shipment is used to calculate at price-per-pound. For less dense shipments that take up more volume, your freight class can be higher and your shipping more expensive. If you happen to overestimate the weight of your shipment, and it falls into one of these higher freight classes, you will be charged more at the higher freight class. It is crucial for shippers to know their precise weight, freight class, and your freight density in order to estimate accurate shipping charges.

Even if you feel you've got everything in order, freight shipping can always lead to some surprises. While it's never a good idea to cut corners or knowingly try to mislead a carrier in the hopes of saving a couple bucks, sometimes even thorough shippers can get hit with some unforeseen charges. Don't let freight reweighs be one of them. The freight experts at PartnerShip have your back and can help make sure you are shipping smarter. If you have questions about determining your freight class or how working with a 3PL can help lower your shipping costs, call 800-599-2902 or email sales@PartnerShip.com to learn more.

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Pallet Packing Mistakes to Avoid

June 27, 2018 at 10:38 AMLeah Palnik
Pallet Packing: Common Mistakes to Avoid

Pallet packing isn’t something you can take lightly. One wrong move and the whole shipment could lose strength and stability – risking damage to your freight. Rather than conducting your own experiments, check out these common pallet packing mistakes so you know what to avoid.

Mistake #1: Choosing the wrong pallet
Pallet packing begins at the very foundation of your shipment – the pallet itself. It may be tempting to reuse old pallets for your shipments but if you’re not looking out for structural integrity, you could be in trouble. Avoid using pallets with broken boards or protruding nail heads.

Using an alternative material pallet can also cause some issues. Wooden pallets are the standard, but pallets made from metal, plastic, and corrugated materials have all entered the market. However, not all pallets are created equal. These pallets are good alternatives for certain specialized needs, but issues like weight, movement, and pallet strength make them not suitable for all types of freight. Before you consider swaying from wooden pallets, make sure to do your research.

Mistake #2: Not properly packing individual boxes
Before you can stack your pallet, you need to pack your individual boxes or cartons. Even if your boxes are secure on the pallet, the contents inside the cartons can shift. Leaving excess space and not providing proper impact protection is a common mistake that many shippers make. Start by right-sizing your boxes – leave just enough room for the product and the needed impact protection. Anything more is wasted space that you will need to fill with cushioning like paper pad or packing peanuts.

Mistake #3: Stacking inadequately
You may think that the way you stack your cartons is just about making it fit on your pallet. However, neglecting to follow certain best practices that increase strength can be a fatal mistake. During pallet packing, not evenly distributing weight and not placing the heaviest boxes at the bottom is a quick way to increase your risk of damage. Using pallets that are too small and thus leaving overhang is also a common mistake that will make your freight vulnerable.

The stacking patterns you use when packing your pallet are also extremely important. One of the biggest offenders is pyramid stacking. This kind of pallet packing pattern leaves the cartons at the top at greater risk of being damaged and makes the load less secure. When possible, an aligned column pattern is best. Stacking your pallet in a way that ensures it is level and flat will put you in the best position to avoid damage.

Mistake #4: Skimping on stretch wrap
If you don’t currently use a stretch wrap machine, you want to make sure your manual wrapping technique is up to par. There are a couple common mistakes to look out for. First, make sure you’re wrapping around the pallet enough. You should be making at least 5 wraps around the entire shipment. Second, twisting the wrap is something that is often overlooked. You should twist the wrap every other rotation to increase the durability.

Mistake #5: Not labeling correctly
After you go through all that work of ensuring you’ve packed your pallet in a way that reduces its risk of damage, you don’t want to run into issues just because you neglected to label your shipment properly. One label is not enough. You want to make sure the shipping label is on each side of your pallet, with the consignee information clearly visible.

Pallet packing may seem simple, but these missteps can create complicated issues. If you’ve discovered that you’ve made any of these common mistakes and want to learn more about packaging best practices, download our free white paper!

The Ultimate Guide to Packaging Your Shipments