Ranking the Top 3 Retail Shipping Mistakes

May 5, 2022 at 11:14 AMJen Deming
Top 3 Shipping Mistakes Blog Post

Successful retailers have to be next-level multitaskers. However, with so many operating as small businesses, a large portion are running things without a dedicated shipping department. Doing this may be necessary, but it’s easy to make costly mistakes. By looking at what errors are the most important to be wary of, retailers can better sort out the correct way to manage their small package shipping. Let’s take a look at the top three retail shipping mistakes to avoid, starting with #1.

Mistake 1 - Giving inbound shipment control to your vendors 

When you’re receiving inbound shipments, oftentimes the shipping is arranged by vendors. This may seem like the easy way to go, but you could be overpaying on each shipment from every vendor, compounding cost and other challenges that may affect your business. When the vendor arranges your shipping, they choose the carrier and control the cost of transportation, making this a very common retail shipping mistake.

Why choose inbound collect over vendor prepaid?

Choosing inbound collect shipping over vendor prepaid can give you better control over what you’re spending on your shipments and which carrier is used. You can also control which services your business needs, such as specialized equipment or accessorials like liftgates. Additionally, being invoiced directly by the carrier may eliminate any handling or markup fees your vendor could add into the total charges. 

PartnerShip can help simplify the process

While managing your inbound orders may seem like a lot of work, partnering with a 3PL can help reduce the amount of effort you have to put in. A quality 3PL like PartnerShip can provide you with competitive pricing and determine if switching from vendor prepaid to inbound collect makes for your business. Inbound experts at PartnerShip can also help create routing instructions and review and enforce vendor compliance. 

Mistake 2 - Ignoring DIM weight pricing

Dimensional (DIM) weight pricing is a strategy implemented by carriers to offset the cost, time, and energy spent on moving large or bulky shipments through the small package network. This pricing structure focuses on the amount of space your shipment takes up in relation to its actual weight. Overlooking the impact of DIM weight pricing on your total costs is a crucial retail shipping mistake.

Your DIM weight is determined by the dimensions of your shipment. To cut down on time wasted in your already-packed schedule, we have created a DIM weight calculator. If the figure you calculate is higher than your actual weight, then that is what you will be billed on. 

Luckily, there are some strategies that retailers can use to help limit DIM weight charges:

  • Right-size your packages by minimizing wasted space inside boxes
  • Consolidate orders to reduce the total amount of packages being sent

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Why retailers need to be mindful of DIM weight

Retailers ship a lot of small packages, whether you’re receiving orders from suppliers or shipping purchases out to customers. In fact, a large component of retail sales are comprised of ecommerce. Due to the sheer volume of packages being shipped, costs can multiply rapidly, especially if your packages are subject to DIM weight pricing. Retailers must be strategic about how orders are packaged.

Mistake 3 - Not taking advantage of shipping discounts

The worst shipping mistake that retailers can make is assuming the current rates you’re getting are the best available to you. While large retailers may be able to negotiate substantial discounts directly with FedEx or UPS, it’s more challenging for smaller businesses, especially when many of the discounts are based on volume or may just be promotional. 

Small businesses can succeed

Smaller retail businesses can still obtain discounts through their affiliations. Trade associations, chambers of commerce, or other organizations will oftentimes offer discounts to businesses. By partnering with a variety of service providers, your membership dues can be offset by the benefits and discounts you receive.

PartnerShip works with over 130 trade associations and other groups, including several well-known retail organizations, like NSRA and NAMM. By leveraging carrier relationships and industry connections, we help make exclusive FedEx discounts available to retailers, no matter the size of your business or shipping volume.  

Avoiding mistakes is the first step to successful small package shipping

Small package shipping can be challenging for any team, especially for smaller retail businesses who may not even have a dedicated shipping department. Retailers must keep in mind that they have a few extra important shipping mistakes to avoid that could cause you to pay more for shipping than necessary.

No matter the size of your retail business, avoiding these common pitfalls can ensure smooth shipping and lower costs. PartnerShip can help with every one of these challenges, including obtaining competitive pricing. Get in touch with the small package experts at PartnerShip to learn more.

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Key Considerations for Shipping High-Value, High Risk Freight

April 27, 2022 at 1:25 PMJen Deming

If you're shipping high-risk freight, you know that your load is valuable and easily-targeted by cargo thieves.  Understanding which factors can impact the security of your freight is the first step in protecting yourself against theft. In our newest video, we take a look at the three most important variables smart shippers must address to safeguard their high-risk loads and minimize loss.

How to Save on Shipping While Reducing Packaging Waste

April 11, 2022 at 11:22 AMJen Deming
Packaging Waste Blog

We love shopping online. Nothing beats the convenience of delivery, variety of product options, and satisfaction of adding things to a virtual cart and clicking ‘buy now’. Unfortunately, the perks of ecommerce do have a flipside - the environmental impact of shipment packaging waste. Ecommerce shipping actually has about four times as many touch-points as regular retail. This means more packing and unpacking individual orders to customers – leading to even more packaging waste. Savvy e-retailers are minimizing their environmental impact by using eco-friendly shipping tactics and by using less wasteful packaging procedures. Even better, reducing your shipment packaging waste is a sustainable practice that is both eco-friendly and a smart way to lower shipping costs, through these three easy tips.

Online order touchpoint graphicTip 1: Reduce the amount of your packaging 

If you’re a shrewd retailer, you know that your choice of packaging can protect your product, prevent damage, and enhance the value of your brand through the unboxing experience. But not every product ordered online needs to be shipped within layer upon layer of branded boxes and plastic packaging. Taking a “less is more” approach can help balance both cost and structural integrity, in addition to lowering packaging waste. 

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When you’re considering what types of shipment packaging to use, retailers have a ton of options. Packaging materials include paper, plastic, or chipboard boxes, foil or poly envelopes, bubble mailers, jute, vinyl, or cotton bags, and many other options. Dunnage, or the internal “protective” material inside the shipment can be Styrofoam, cardboard, kraft paper, soft or rigid plastics, and bubble wrap. Each option has its own cost, key benefit, and impact on the environment. Research what types of shipment packaging make the most sense to adequately protect your product, and then eliminate the use of unnecessary extra materials. Always keep in mind that you can reduce your initial cost and environmental impact by choosing simple, but effective shipment packaging that makes sense for your product and consumer.

Tip 2: Reduce the weight and dimensions of your shipment 

It’s clear that wasteful packaging procedures can drive up initial costs, but keep in mind that any unnecessary materials can also affect your shipment rates due to weight and density. Your parcel rate is determined in large part by region, distance traveled, and weight. Heavy shipments put more strain on trucks and utilize more fuel when hauling loads. As a result, carriers will charge you more for added weight.Trucking C02 emissions graphic

Another factor that can affect your shipment cost is dimensional weight. DIM weight pricing is used by carriers to offset the cost of moving large and bulky shipments in their network. This pricing strategy focuses not just on the actual weight, but also the amount of space your shipment takes up. Your DIM weight is determined by the dimensions of your shipment. If the calculated DIM weight is higher than the actual weight, your shipment will be rated on that.

Elaborate packaging with multiple components inside runs the risk of wasted interior space, so making sure that you right-size your package is important. Ensure that there is no empty space within your shipping box after the product and protective materials are added in. Reducing wasted space within your shipment can lower your final bill, and greatly reduces packaging waste that can be harmful to the environment. 

Tip 3: Encourage your customer to use your packaging for returns 

With more people preferring to shop online, the need for convenient returns options increases. Being intentional in how you approach your returns can help lower reverse logistics costs while remaining environmentally conscious.

Every online shopper knows that preparing to ship a return can be a pain.  No one loves rummaging through a garage of broken-down boxes hoping to find one adequate for use. It’s not as simple as grabbing an empty box - the package must be structurally sound and free of pre-existing labels to avoid hiccups on the road. 

Do your customers (and yourself) a favor, and make this process even easier by utilizing return-ready packaging for your orders, including resealable boxes, envelopes, and mailers.  Include pre-printed shipping labels with return addresses and packing slips to help make the process even simpler. By providing return-ready packaging, you’re ensuring that the package is right-sized for pre-paid shipping labels and services. As a retailer, you’re taking steps to avoid possible damages or loss by providing packaging options that securely protect your product while in transit. 

In short, by providing return-ready packaging, you’re taking back control of return shipments by managing several variables that may lead to costly surprises and packaging waste. 

Reducing packaging waste benefits everyone

Retailers have a unique opportunity to improve the eco-footprint left by their businesses. Environmentally friendly shipping practices can help lower emissions on the road, reduce packaging waste headed for landfills, and lower costs. To further improve your environmental impact, consider working with a sustainably minded shipping provider, like PartnerShip. We elect to work with carriers that prioritize energy efficiency in trucks and facilities, minimize air-pollution, and offer transparency through data about fuel usage and impact. Optimizing your packaging is a smart place to start – learn how with our downloadable, free white paper.

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5 Freight Broker Benefits You Can’t Afford to Pass Up

March 23, 2022 at 9:45 AMJen Deming
5 Freight Broker Benefits You Can’t Afford to Pass Up

If you’re shipping freight, then it’s likely you’ve heard the term ‘freight broker’. But maybe you’ve wondered what they actually do or why you should bother using them. A freight broker acts as an intermediary between a shipper and a carrier - they help shippers find quality transportation providers for their loads. Brokers, also known as 3PLs, can manage every step of the shipping process and help alleviate some work, especially if you’re low on time and manpower. Whether or not you consider yourself a seasoned freight shipper, here are five freight broker benefits that will help level-up your shipping procedures.

Benefit #1 – Freight brokers offer guidance if you’re just getting started

If your business needs have shifted recently, and you need to start using services for larger loads, your shipping department may be a little stuck getting past the basics. Stepping up from shipping small packages to shipping freight is an entirely different ball game. Packaging and pricing strategies differ, as well as the amount of work your team needs to put in during loading. Now is the time to look for assistance from experts, because by going in blindly, you may encounter a variety of pitfalls that result in damaged shipments or expensive bills.

Freight brokers can help get you started off on the right foot by getting to know your business and what you need to ship. They can assist by researching freight classes and determining any special equipment or packaging needs. A great broker can also help with quoting and booking procedures, by scheduling pick-ups and getting all parties any necessary paperwork. After pick-up, they will proactively track your shipment and provide updates, so you can stay on top of your freight’s progress. 

New freight shippers can be surprised how many checkpoints a load will encounter throughout transit. And with that, how many chances something may go wrong. For issues along the way, such as transit delays, inspections, or missed deliveries, freight brokers can troubleshoot quickly. Fixing these obstacles can take a lot time, a bit of run-around, and quite a few phone calls, so working with a broker can help shippers avoid that stress entirely. Many freight challenges stem from a lack of communication between shippers, consignees, and carriers, so brokers can act as conduit between the three and clear up matters quickly.

Benefit #2 – Brokers are your inside access to better freight rates

If you could save money on your freight shipping, you’d do it right? Better prices sound appealing, but it can be hard for small and medium-sized businesses to have enough clout with a carrier to get great discounts. 3PLs have strong shipping volumes, and working alongside one can be that extra boost you need to access better pricing. Freight brokers can both leverage carrier relationships for discounts (passing them on to you), and may have a broader pool of carriers that offer budget-friendly options. 

To really evaluate where you are at with your freight spend, brokers can also conduct audits on your current procedures. By looking at your past invoices, brokers can identify any areas that you may be spending more than average and check for opportunities to cut costs or increase efficiency. For example, by reviewing accessorial charges like recurring liftgate fees that are being implemented by the carrier, a quality 3PL can help identify potential solutions to eliminate or offset those costs. This may mean suggesting equipment solutions at your warehouse, or looking into alternate carriers who charge less for extra services. There are many ways you can manage your freight budget, but without expert assistance, you may be stuck wasting money while trying to find solutions.

Benefit #3 – Brokers are your advocates in the case of freight claims

Freight claims are a dirty word in this business, and a top stressor for any shipper. Should you find yourself in that predicament, however, working with a freight broker can give you a leg up during the claims process. Freight carriers can be difficult to work with – their primary goal is to limit payouts whenever possible. Because there are so many steps and policies you have to follow, it’s best to have an expert on your side who’s done this a few times before.

A broker can often help set you up for success by making sure you have as many pieces of documentation backing up your claim as possible. They can educate you on the process and make sure you’re submitting the proper paperwork and adhering to any necessary deadlines. A qualified broker can help you understand the differences between carrier liability and freight insurance, and be your advocate during any negotiations and follow-up. 

Benefit #4 – Freight brokers give you access to more quality carriers

Freight brokers work with many different carriers, and by using a broker, your pool of shipping options broadens greatly. This is a great benefit on a variety of levels. For example, if you’re experiencing consistent issues like damages, timeliness, and reliability with one of your carriers, having access to some new options could be just what you need to eliminate the problem. 

With the worldwide freight crisis hanging overhead, it’s also a smart move to have as many carrier options available as possible. Many shippers have found it challenging to secure a quality carrier that meets their needs and budget. The more options you have, the more likely your freight is going to be picked-up and delivered on time. 

Benefit #5 – If you’re stumped on a load, they’ve got options

Freight brokers are experts at putting out fires - they’ve seen it all. If you have a shipment that needed to be delivered yesterday, brokers can help navigate expedited options that balance service level and budget needs. Or maybe your load needs a specialized piece of equipment like a box truck or flatbed. A freight broker will be able to quickly access a large pool of carriers to ensure you have the coverage you need. For any kind of tricky freight loads, a quality broker can help guide you through the process. 

The case for using a freight broker

Gaining the benefits associated with working alongside a freight broker can be a game-changer for your business. The ins-and-outs of freight shipping can be complicated, and while you can try to navigate them on your own, it’s always better to have an expert on your side. PartnerShip can help guide your team and help answer any questions you may have on whether working with a broker is right for your business.

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Why Carriers Hate Difficult Freight and How to Fix It

February 18, 2022 at 2:49 PMJen Deming
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Have you ever thought about whether your LTL freight loads are worthwhile for the carrier? Your freight shipments must be worth the amount of effort that’s invested in moving them. If the payoff isn’t there, your loads will be regarded as “difficult freight”.  This can lead to declined loads, infrequent pick-ups, or a tense relationship with your carrier. To get your freight prioritized, the first step is determining whether you have difficult freight, then taking the steps needed to become a shipper of choice. 

Reason 1: Your pick-up or delivery location is tough to access

One way to determine whether your freight is cringeworthy can be as simple as walking through the door of your business and scanning the surrounding lot. Ask yourself, are my freight pick-ups a pain to complete? Maybe you don’t even have a lot, but your business is located on a side street or an alley in the city. A standard LTL dry van being dispatched by the carrier is 52 feet long, which definitely takes skill to maneuver safely. If your business location is in a challenging place, such as a cramped area that restricts maneuverability or doesn’t have a dock, pick-up is tough for the driver to complete. 

On the other hand, maybe you have the space to maneuver, but it’s such a rural location that the carrier only services the area infrequently. If you’re in an isolated region that doesn’t have many other local businesses moving freight, the work to payoff ratio is pretty unbalanced. Either way, carriers have a term for these hard-to-reach locations. High-traffic metropolitan areas, remote construction zones, and extremely rural regions all fall within the definition of limited access.

The best thing you can do to avoid this particular pitfall is to create as much flexibility as possible for the carrier. You might not be able to move your business, but if the physical location of your pick-up has some structural challenges, you need to communicate that to the carrier beforehand. Informing the carrier allows them to plan for the proper equipment, such as dispatching a smaller box truck for arrival. If you can swing it with your warehouse team, consider shipping to or from a freight terminal, rather than your business. Busy freight terminals are located in desirable geographic areas that you know the carrier will visit regularly. This helps ensure your shipment gets moving and will spare you extra limited access fees. 

Reason 2: Your freight is a prohibited commodity

Want to know another reason that your shipment may be marked as “difficult freight”? The commodity you are shipping may be prohibited by the carrier. This is usually due to liability, governmental regulations, or company policy. The act of prohibiting certain items exists for two main reasons: 

High risk/high value - These types of products can be difficult to put an exact value on, or may be easily damaged or stolen. Commodities include bank bills, credit cards, gold or precious stones, currency, original artwork, furs, or other high-value items. Your chosen carrier may be willing to accept certain items, but you must prove you have the appropriate insurance coverage.  

Regulated – These shipments may be excluded due to government regulation or may be hazardous in nature. This may also include perishable items that require controlled storage requirements. Items in this category include aerosols, chemicals, assembled guns, alcohol, combustible materials, hazardous materials, and live plants and animals.

So, since this type of “difficult freight” can include so many different commodities, what can you do? Your first goal should be to learn just how your carrier views these products. Evaluate your carrier’s terms and conditions  before you even start planning your pick-up. Restricted or prohibited items will be listed there, as well as any liability and claims information. Inspections regularly occur during transit, so if you aren’t sure if you’re safe, call the carrier and find out their policy.

If you are consistently moving these types of risky shipments, make sure that you are working with carriers that are properly certified. Many carriers specialize in these types of loads, so you can ensure your shipments are moving safely and legally. For some types of cargo there may be state-mandated regulations, as in the case of transporting alcohol. Be sure to have the proper permits and to adhere to the necessary policies. Any type of shipment that has restrictions will likely have very specific packaging requirements and requisite paperwork.  

Reason 3: Your warehouse hours don’t mesh with the carrier

Maybe the location of your business isn’t the thing preventing a carrier’s arrival, but your facility’s operating hours are what create further problems. Due to the nature of certain establishments, arrival times may be heavily policed or limited. Places like schools, prisons, or storage facilities often have restricted hours for arrival and loading – and sometimes they’re after a carrier’s business hours. 

All a driver wants to do is arrive onsite, get loaded quickly, and then to get back on the road. Having to work around odd hours can complicate the daily schedule. To make matters worse, some locations may require an appointment for arrival. If you have a small loading window that requires the driver to stick to a very fixed schedule, this is going to present some issues. Traffic issues or detours can throw off an entire day’s work. If a driver arrives just short of the appointment time, the shipment may need to be put back on the board for the next day.

Create flexibility in your loading hours whenever possible. If you must require delivery appointments, make sure your loading team is efficient and organized so that you don’t run over. Allowing weekend arrivals, extended hours for pick-ups, and having a team “on call” can greatly reduce the stress a driver will experience and boost the chances the carrier will work with you again.

Reason 4: Your reputation proceeds you 

When you are auditing carriers, and measuring up how well they’re working out for you, realize that carriers are doing the same thing. With capacity as limited as it is, freight carriers want to work with customers who have their shipping processes down pat and are pleasant to do business with. If you are anything but that, they will take their business elsewhere.

One major disruption for carriers is the subject of detention. Carriers usually allot two hours for loading, and any time it takes over that is considered detention. Detention holds up drivers, wasting time and preventing them from moving on to the next load. It’s pricey too, as most carriers will pass on a detention fee to offenders. Keep in mind, drivers are not going to help you load your cargo. Some may assist, but be warned, that will rack up some hefty fees too.

In order to avoid these fees and stay in good graces with the carrier, you need to have a well-trained and efficient warehouse team that also has the proper loading equipment. If you don’t have a dock for loading, that’s okay, but you should have a forklift or another alternative ready and working at pick-up. 

Be helpful and accommodating to the driver. Amenities like accessible parking options, a comfortable resting area, and food and coffee will be greatly appreciated by the driver. Keep in mind, when it comes to difficult freight, your reputation is the one factor you can truly control. Becoming a shipper of choice takes planning and a little bit of thoughtfulness, but it goes a long way in helping the carrier look forward to your loads.

Reason 5: Your business has above average claim submissions 

It probably seems pretty obvious, but if you’re submitting a lot of claims, the carrier is going to be wary of your cargo. Freight claims cause headaches for everyone involved. While the burden of proof is on the shipper to prove carrier negligence, claims submissions take a lot of time, research, and possibly loss of revenue for the carrier. Whether you win the claim or not, damage and loss claims mean the carrier will think twice about moving your shipments.

If your company has a history of damages, your freight carrier is going to evaluate a few risk factors. It may be possible that you are shipping extraordinarily fragile, or perishable, commodities that create a lot of risk. For example, a landscaping business shipping live plants may want to use LTL services for smaller freight loads. While possible, doing so is hazardous. Any delays in shipments or extra handling may cause an above-average risk to the integrity of the product. 

The other issue may be with your packaging. A business that is shipping built furniture may experience increased risk of damage to their product. Custom crating your product can help avoid some damages, but the risk may still be too high, and standard carriers may decline to move your loads at all.

If you are shipping any sort of fragile or high-risk shipment, your first step should be to perfect your packaging procedures. It may be costly to invest in custom packaging, but using standard pallets and shrink wrap is not going to be enough to protect your freight. It’s more important to consider whether specialty shipping services may be the right option for your cargo. White glove shipping services can be pricey, but they prioritize safe handling and security. Refrigerated options or even using dedicated truckload services will limit the handling of your product, and may speed up transit as an added benefit.

Reason 6: Seasonality is shifting carrier priorities

During certain times of the year, there are huge spikes in available freight shipments for carriers to move. Depending on the industry, these periods vary by region and season, and sometimes there may be some cross-over. Some examples include produce season in places like Florida, the Midwest, and California, construction season in the spring, or nationwide during the winter holiday season. Because there are so many available loads to choose from, carriers will prioritize the loads that, you guessed it, have the highest payoff for minimal effort.

If you’re shipping during these busy seasons, you need to be flexible. LTL rates will go up and transit times will increase. You should always be practical about your budget, but consider the long-term goal. It’s not the time to tighten the belt on your budget during busy seasons - aim to lower costs year-round so that you have room when you need it. Since transit times will be longer, consolidating loads whenever possible will decrease your overall risk for late deliveries. Expanding your pool of carriers by working with a freight broker will increase the likelihood your shipment gets moved. As always, make your freight as appealing as possible so that when carriers are frazzled by the seasonal onslaught, they can count on your shipments to be fast and easy.

Make difficult freight a thing of the past

Nobody wants to be seen as a “problem shipper”, but the good news is that with time, and a little foresight, you can turn the situation around. It all starts with putting yourself in the carrier’s shoes. Would you want to work with your business? It’s your responsibility to make your cargo desirable, and encourage a strong relationship with your carrier. PartnerShip can help, by guiding your business to make the right choices for your loads, and connecting you with the right carriers who want to move your freight.


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6 Surefire Ways You Can Overcome Freight Capacity Challenges

January 18, 2022 at 9:08 AMJen Deming
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Sometimes, it’s just hard to find a truck. With a capacity crunch that’s been ongoing for as long as we can remember, the struggle to get your LTL loads covered is old news. But, it’s still relevant news. In fact, it seems like things are projected to get even tougher as more freight enters the network. So, while the capacity challenges continue, how can you get your loads covered without breaking the bank?

Why are there capacity challenges?

First, it’s important to understand why capacity is so tight in the first place. It all boils down to an oversaturated freight network – there’s simply not enough trucks on the road available to move every existing freight load. More money is being spent on goods than services, we’re looking at a 6% year over year growth in demand, and this shift in consumer spending is really tightening things up. While the trend has existed for years, the effects of COVID further propelled a push in consumer spending. Due to a diminished staff, freight is being held up within transit at distribution centers and terminals. All of these factors create the perfect storm that make it harder to find trucks for your freight

Why should you care?

While the effects of a capacity crunch can seem pretty obvious, there may be more challenges than you expect. The immediate issue is getting your freight shipment covered at all. LTL freight carriers are becoming more particular about the loads they want to move and locations they want to visit. Pick-ups may be infrequent, and if your shipment is particularly challenging, like oversized, for example, it may be refused. 

Transit times are becoming longer, with 87.9% of shippers reporting a delay in deliveries. Some carriers are also suspending or amending time-critical and guaranteed options. Base rates are higher than ever before, and LTL carriers are now charging detention fees in some cases when loading is delayed. This accessorial fee is typically just associated with truckload shipping, but with a driver’s time being a vital commodity, carriers are pushing back and using it for LTL shipments as well.

What Can You Do to Overcome Capacity Challenges?

  1. Expand your current network

    One of the first things you should do to increase the odds that your freight will get covered, is taking a hard look at your current carrier options to see where you can improve or expand. Conducting a freight audit can help determine if your business needs are truly being met. Look for reoccurring challenges like missed pick-ups or high accessorial fees. Some carriers may visit locations where demand isn’t as high only one or two times a week, which can create a big issue with your shipping schedule. Accessorials like limited access can vary by carrier and it’s possible the one you are currently using may be charging more than a competitor carrier would. Exploring alternative carriers to review service levels and pricing is a great place to start. If you are finding several carriers that may fit your needs, keep them on file so you can rate shop between them and choose accordingly as back-ups.

  2. Build in extra time for everything
  3. Time is the name of the game in shipping. One of the smartest things that you can do to combat freight capacity challenges is building in extra time at every step of the shipping process. When you get an idea of a project or order you will be working on, start quoting as soon as you know details. If you have reoccurring orders for an established customer, approach carriers with the opportunity to explore contract pricing and get commitments for the length of the project. Carriers are looking for reliable, predictable loads that are going to guarantee business while creating minimal headaches. If you can prove your business can meet these expectations, they are going to be even more willing to commit for the long-haul. An added bonus - they are likely to negotiate terms and better pricing for your business as well. Packing and staging your shipments early so that they are ready for pick-up and will be loaded smoothly is going to go a long way in the eyes of the arriving carrier.

  4. Review alternative services for applicable shipments
  5. While choosing alternative freight services for your loads won’t always work to combat freight capacity issues, it’s a valid option for certain shipments. If you have a large LTL shipment that could benefit from truckload services, this could be a great back up choice. Using a dedicated truck can increase security, minimize damage, and expedite your transit. 

    While truckload moves typically consist of 8-10 pallets or more, some truckload carriers will offer a partial option where your load will share space with another shipper’s freight. This can add some perks of truckload shipping like added security, while benefitting from a more competitive price than paying for the entire truck. It’s important to note, however, that in partial truckload shipping, it’s possible your shipment may encounter delays due to the other customer on board. Depending on the order of delivery, you may end up waiting on the first delivery location if they don’t have everything in order. Building in extra time is still a good tactic to take here, but knowing you have alternative freight service options for your larger shipments is good to know if you are in a crunch.

  6. Consolidate your shipments
  7. The less often you ship, the less you risk not finding a truck for your loads. By consolidating your freight shipments, you create an efficient way of both lowering costs and ensuring you have LTL truck coverage. It may take a bit of communication and working with your customers, but reworking replenishment schedules so that you’re shipping larger, less frequent loads can be a smart long-term strategy. Moving your shipping to off-peak periods, if possible, also takes extra stress off of a carrier network that is already stretched thin. This not only allows for increased truck availably, but it also helps you avoid seasonal closures that will affect your shipments.

    When receiving inbound orders, collaborative distribution is also an option. Collaborative distribution combines vendor orders from different shippers at one common distribution center and channels them into a single-truck delivery. This option is a type of consolidation, but happens much earlier in the supply chain. Finding the balance between identifying which shipments can be consolidated over a more flexible length of time while meeting delivery deadlines and customer expectations is key.

  8. Utilize regional carrier options
  9. Most shippers are familiar with the large, recognizable national freight carriers, but regional freight carriers can also be a great option for coverage. Regional carriers specialize in concentrated geographic areas, usually within state-lines or city locales. In addition to adding them as options within your existing freight network, there are important advantages to working with regional carriers. Regional carriers have in-depth knowledge and first-hand experience navigating these areas on a daily basis and can speak to potential challenges like traffic trends or limited access issues. While a national carrier may be unfamiliar with these hang-ups, a regional driver’s knowledge of the area means increased transparency with the shipper regarding these obstacles, so precautions can be taken. 

    Oftentimes, regional carriers charge less for the same services that national carriers do. Regional carriers don’t have delivery area surcharges and costs for liftgates and accessorial fees are lower. Because regional carriers travel shorter distances, expedited or guaranteed services are generally less expensive, as well. 

    Finally, because these are smaller companies, they tend to offer more personalized solutions that emphasize customer experience. Relationships with these carriers tend to be less transactional, and place importance on problem resolution and service. Adding a regional carrier to the pool is an underutilized and potentially game-changing way to ensure your LTL loads are getting covered.

  10. Become a shipper of choice

    Want to know a surefire way to combat freight capacity issues? Become a shipper of choice. This means to do everything possible to leverage your relationships with carriers to make your shipments as desirable as possible. The freight load itself, your location, and your business practices combined should create an easy, efficient, and positive experience for the carrier.

    A good way to start is making sure your shipping location is set up for easy navigation. Signs and directional assistance, communication, and a safe, clear dock location are all things drivers look out for. Flexible delivery times and plentiful parking options help eliminate some extra stress for the driver, as well. Above all else, doing what you can to eliminate potential detention time is critical. Staged shipments that are primed and waiting with a well-trained and ready-to-go loading team help ensure the truck will be loaded within the 2-hour limit. That way, the driver can get back on the road to the next location with minimal delay. Nurturing these carrier relationships by improving the experience for the driver is important, and it matters. When there’s lots of freight waiting to be picked up nationwide, be the one that the carrier wants most.

Final thoughts



Freight capacity is a challenge, and it’s not changing any time soon. The best thing that you can do is create a plan of action that tackles these challenges before you have freight waiting on the dock. Working with a 3PL like PartnerShip can help audit your current shipping procedures and identify areas of improvement that go beyond getting your loads covered. Contact our freight experts to help get your freight where it needs to go.

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5 Foolproof Ways to Take on Manufacturing Shipping Challenges

January 11, 2022 at 3:07 PMJen Deming
5 Foolproof Ways to Take On Manufacturing Shipping Challenges

The manufacturing industry is vital to our economy, but producing components and materials is just the first step in the fulfillment process. Manufacturers have to make sure products are shipped efficiently, arrive on time, and don’t experience damage. In addition to rising costs and other issues we’ve seen across all industries, manufacturers face a unique set of logistics obstacles. You may be shipping large, fragile shipments that are expensive and hard to handle. Services and equipment needs can vary day-to-day, so it’s important to find the right shipping solutions that meet your specific needs. Read on to learn five foolproof ways to take on manufacturing shipping challenges.

  1. Prioritize the safety of your loads

    Manufacturers ship a wide variety of commodities, from small parts and components, to fully-assembled heavy machinery. For any-sized load, you need to take the safety and security of your shipments into consideration in order to limit damage and other issues. Start with regularly auditing your parcel and freight carriers to ensure their service levels meet your business expectations. Spec out your shipping safety “need to haves,” such as security during transit, carrier reputation, and damage statistics. Keep track of what’s working, as well as any issues you are experiencing with current carriers. If they aren’t making the cut, do some research. Who do your customers and colleagues prefer working with and why? Try out new carrier options and look into alternate service levels that may better offset your shipping challenges. Most importantly, ensure that your preferred carriers are communicated to your shipping department and warehouse team as well as any outside parties such as suppliers who may be arranging your shipping.

    Because security is of the utmost importance, ensure that your packaging is perfected, whether you are shipping small parts via parcel services or large freight orders. You should use quality materials and keep some basics in mind:

    • Don’t reuse packaging to ensure structural integrity
    • Limit extra space to avoid shifting and breakage during transit
    • Use pallet wrap to keep loose components together
    • When shipping assembled machinery, consider using custom crates rather than pallets

  2. Double-down on service options that encourage timely delivery

    Manufacturing any type of product typically involves several different parties who tackle specific steps during fabrication, from start to finished product. If anything goes wrong logistically during that process, it can disrupt the entire supply chain and lead to more shipping challenges. It’s crucial that your business is utilizing shipping providers and services that prioritize timely, expedient delivery. 

    Both FedEx and UPS offer different service levels depending on the urgency of your parcel shipment. If you’re in a crunch, FedEx can help make a speedy delivery with options like FedEx Priority Overnight® or FedEx 2Day A.M®. UPS also offers expedited services, such as UPS Express Critical® and UPS Next Day Air®. 

    If you have a true freight emergency, take a look at estimated transit times between carriers and their services. It’s probably not the time to use low-cost or asset-light carriers, as they typically have longer transit times. Many LTL freight carriers offer time critical, expedited, and guaranteed options. Just-in-time delivery options can also ensure your shipments are delivered as soon as possible. Because these services often use dedicated trucks or air/ground solutions to maximize efficiency, they can be pricey. Be mindful of your budget, and stay on top of any emergencies when you can. If expedited services are necessary, make sure you quote with several carriers and explore all options in order to keep costs low.

  3. Confirm your freight class before you ship

    Manufacturing businesses ship diverse products or commodities to any number of delivery locations. Whether your business is in the field of precision medical equipment, mold builders, automotive engineering, or any other specialty field, a major manufacturing shipping challenge is being an expert on your products’ specific freight class and NMFC codes.

    The challenge with not knowing these codes can affect everything from your total freight cost to the result of any claims filed. A common mistake many shippers make is using an outdated or blanket NMFC or class code. For example, the ‘machinery’ group NMFC code is 11400. There are over fifty major categories that specify exactly what type of machinery, and they range anywhere from class 55 to 500. That’s hundreds of dollars difference in a final bill. The class for your specific shipment is determined not only by the product itself, but also density, dimensions and weight, packaging type, whether it’s assembled or in parts, and other factors. On top of that, these designations and codes are updated regularly. If you haven’t shipped this product very recently, you need to check it again, especially if any packaging specs have changed.

    In the event that you enter the incorrect class code on your BOL, your freight will likely be flagged by the carrier. This will lead to an inspection, and some additional fees that are going to both inflate your bill and delay your delivery. Because freight class can be complicated, especially for manufacturers, it’s important to have more than a basic understanding of how LTL freight rates are determined. If you have any trouble finding the most accurate class code for your shipment, and you probably will, don’t hesitate to call the carrier or work with a freight broker who can help you.

  4. Make sure the value of your load is covered 

    Damage is a huge concern, especially based on the types of products being shipped. Freight shipping involves tons of handling and frequent stops at terminals. As a result, it’s probably not a matter of if, but when, you’ll get hit with damages. We don’t want to jinx your shipment, but let’s explore the event that your load encounters some damages or loss while on the road. 

    Freight damage is frustrating from the start because it’s expensive, can hold up the fulfillment of an order, and potentially complicate relationships with your customers. Because many manufacturers’ shipments are extra fragile, hard to maneuver, and worth a lot of money, the problem can be compounded. It’s the shipper’s responsibility to prove the carrier is at fault if damage occurs, and frankly, a freight carrier will do everything they can to avoid responsibility. Even if you do win a claim and receive reimbursement, there are limits to carrier liability coverage and payouts. They may not meet the entire value of your load.

    To avoid extra headaches, make sure that you have your own freight insurance that will fully cover the value of your load. It also does not require that you prove the carrier is at fault for damage or loss, just that the damage occurred. While there is an extra charge for the insurance, it’s usually based on the declared value of your freight, and it is extremely worthwhile should damage occur.

  5. Use a freight provider that offers custom shipping solutions

    There’s not always enough time in the day or people in your shipping department to stay on top of the many manufacturing shipping challenges. Let’s face it, a one-size-fits-all approach is not going to work for an industry that has to constantly reinvent itself and adapt to consumer needs, tech advancements, and other changes. A third-party freight provider can help identify the unique needs of your business, without cutting any corners. 

    Cutting costs is always at the top of the priorities list, and taking a fresh look at your shipping procedures can be a fruitful place to start. A 3PL can help leverage carrier relationships and buying power to acquire better shipping discounts for your business. PartnerShip is connected to many manufacturing and industrial trade associations, like NTMA and PMPA. As a benefit provider to members, PartnerShip helps manufacturing businesses save on shipping costs with competitive rates with carriers who prioritize safety and better shipment handling. 

    Working with a freight provider can take on several of your shipping challenges at once.

    • Conducting carrier audits for better pricing and service. 
    • Managing claims and acting as your advocate, by touching base with carriers and making sure proper documentation is in order.
    • Determining if and when you may need to use expedited freight services, and helping to quote and schedule your day-to-day shipments.
    • Finding special equipment options that will balance cost and safety if you have an extra special load.

Turn your manufacturing shipping challenges into full-scale improvements

There are a lot of shipping obstacles to keep track of, and they can be a burden to navigate. Depending on your business size, your budget, and the time you have available, it’s not always possible to become an expert on your own. PartnerShip has the experience and proficiency to help take on your greatest shipping challenges, so you can get back to business. Download our all-encompassing guide to freight claims to learn more about how you can effectively resolve a top shipping obstacle for manufacturers.  


Freight Claims White Paper

Types of LTL Carriers and When You Need Them

November 10, 2021 at 11:04 AMJen Deming

Working with a less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier is a great way to move your larger, palletized loads efficiently and often with some cost-saving benefits when compared to other services. But, even within the LTL service category, there are a few different business models - each offering a different mix of security, speed, and cost. Understanding the benefits of each will help you choose what works best for your business.


Types of LTL Carriers Infographic.

Freight Carrier Closures for the 2021 Holiday Season

November 3, 2021 at 4:25 PMJen Deming
2021 Freight Carrier Closures Blog

2021 has been another challenging year. The freight market continues to be oversaturated with available loads while simultaneously suffering from a capacity crisis. Transit times are delayed, so to ensure timely delivery (you can't count on eight tiny reindeer), you must plan ahead and create a flexible shipping schedule. You'll also need to be mindful of carrier closure dates. We've compiled a list to keep on hand when you're executing your holiday shipping strategy.

Freight carrier closures

  • Saia LTL Freight - will be closed November 25-26, December 23-24, and December 31.
  • YRC Freight – will be closed November 25-26, December 24, and December 31.
  • XPO Logistics – will be closed November 25-26, December 23-24, and December 31.
  • ArcBest – will be closed November 25-26, and December 24.
  • R+L Carriers – will be closed November 25-26, December 24, and December 31.
  • Estes – will be closed November 25-26, and December 24.
  • Dayton Freight – will be closed November 25-26, December 23-24, and December 31.
  • PittOhio – will be closed November 25-26, December 23-24, and December 31.
  • AAA Cooper – will be closed November 25-26, December 23-24, and December 31.
  • TForce Freight - will be closed November 25-26, December 23-24, and December 31.

Santa has his elves, you have a team at PartnerShip

With extra challenges facing your business this year, keep in mind that the freight experts at PartnerShip can help you successfully manage your holiday shipping. Our office will be closed November 25-26, December 24, and December 31 so that we can spend time with our families. Happy Holidays!

7 Strategies to Conquer Peak Season Returns

October 25, 2021 at 2:01 PMJen Deming
7 Strategies to Conquer Peak Season Returns

Shipping during the holidays can be a quite a challenge. Getting packages delivered on time is tough enough, but peak season returns can be an even greater headache. Return shipping is just a part of the retail experience, but with proper planning it is possible to control. Review these seven strategies before you create that plan to help to ensure a more seamless process for your peak season returns.

Strategy #1: Commit to full transparency regarding your return policy

When you think about your own shopping preferences, it becomes clear that reviewing a return policy before purchase is standard procedure. This is especially important if your peak season return policy is different than the rest of the year. Shoppers want to know what they’re getting into before they click “place my order.” When a retailer makes return information easily accessible, the buyer is more likely to make a purchase because there is less risk. 

Proactively communicate the policy in places like order confirmations and follow-up emails. It’s also key to stay in contact during all stages of the buying process. Send order tracking links in emails, send delivery notifications, and create a clear FAQ section on your website that includes contact options. The more information you have readily available for customers, the more confident your buyers will be.

Strategy #2: Optimize your packaging procedures

Shipment volume is alarmingly high, and will be compounded during the holidays. During peak times, your packages will spend more time in transit and encounter more stops along the way. That means more handling at service terminals, which can result in added damages. Take a hard look at your return rates related to damaged shipments. If you’re seeing an above-average trend, consider whether your packaging procedures need to be adjusted. It may make sense to use boxes rather than mailers, for example. Minimizing extra space and adding more bubble wrap or packing foam can better protect your products. If you’re sending out large items, consider breaking them down for transit rather than shipping them assembled. Don’t underestimate how much your packaging can affect your return rate due to damages. 

Strategy #3: Limit returns that are caused by late deliveries

There are always last-minute holiday shoppers — you might even know a few. Late deliveries often lead to returns during the peak season, since they didn’t arrive in time for the big date. Ensure that you make it very clear for customers what the cutoff dates are for their order to be shipped in time for Christmas. An easy-to-scan reference table of this information will help your shoppers avoid late arrivals. 

To determine those cutoff dates, be sure to review the deadlines published by your carrier. You may also want to add in some buffer days in case of any unforeseen delays. During the peak season when demand is high, unfortunately there can be a higher risk of your orders not being delivered in time. 

Make sure you’re also offering expedited options at check-out, to provide a solution for shoppers who need a quicker turnaround. For serious stragglers, offer in-store pick-up if you have a brick-and-mortar option. 

Strategy #4: Improve your returns plan by auditing your process yearly

It’s never a good idea to assume this year’s peak season returns strategy should be the same as last year. Every year, your returns plan and options need to be reviewed. Your first step should be to take a look at your returns rate and the reasons for the returns. Find out whether items are being returned due to product performance, or other issues like damages or late delivery. If it turns out that you have a shipping issue, make sure you’re following our tips mentioned above. 

After you take care of any shipping challenges, look at what returns options measure up with what you can feasibly afford. Free shipping of any kind is a perk, but you need to be mindful of your budget and compensate for that expense. Consider a flexible policy, such as free returns on full-price items, or within a certain window of time. Think about charging for delivery, but keeping returns free. When you’re reviewing whether these options will fit your budget, don’t forget to check carrier rate changes and peak surcharges, both of which affect your shipping costs. From there, you can adjust your returns plan as-needed. 

Strategy #5: Consider on-demand warehousing to simplify orders and returns

The overhead costs involved in setting up and maintaining a warehouse are expensive. Due to the cyclical nature of the industry, many retailers don’t find it worth it to use in-house solutions. On-demand warehousing is a great opportunity for businesses that need short-term fulfillment options but don’t want to be under contract. This strategy helps increase flexibility by housing inventory only when needed. If you have seasonal inventory overflow, on-demand options can help eliminate long-term commitments. For businesses that do not need a warehouse year-round, on-demand warehousing is the way to go. 

Strategy #6 Give your customers a variety of return options

Consumers want return options that fit into their busy lives. Don’t complicate the relationship you have with your customers by making an already disappointing situation even worse. Offer methods that fit preferences and convenience, such as a choice to return product online and in-store. In-store returns give retailers more facetime with the customer and offer a better chance of turning the transaction into an exchange. However, many shoppers want the convenience and time-saving choice of shipping back their order. Consider using carriers like FedEx that allow drop offs at a variety of locations, including FedEx Ship Centers, drop-off boxes, Office Depot, Walgreens, and more.

Strategy #7 Make shipping peak season returns as easy as possible for your customer

While you probably want to avoid returns as often as possible, don’t try to dodge them completely by making the process super complicated. Smart retailers know that they cannot always be avoided — the ultimate goal is to use returns as an opportunity to increase brand satisfaction. Remind your customer of your returns and replacement policy throughout the buying process. Include return information on your order confirmation page and within follow up emails. Choose secure packaging that can be reused if needed, and include labels and instructions for returns with the product you’re shipping out. Think long-term — customers that have a bad experience with a retailer this year, will actively avoid them in the future. Making returns easy creates a positive buying experience, and increases confidence for both you and the customer.

Putting the strategies into action

Retail and peak season returns go hand-in-hand. They aren’t ideal, but if you know how to prepare, manage, and use them to your advantage, your business can thrive during the holidays. PartnerShip has strong relationships with a variety of retail groups, and we are uniquely positioned to help strategize your returns process in a way that works best for your business. From on-demand warehouse solutions to saving money on the costs of returns, we can help make your holiday season a success.

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