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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It's Customer Service Week at PartnerShip!

October 5, 2018 at 9:00 AMJen Deming
Customer Service Week 2018

It's Customer Service Week and the time of year we like to especially celebrate our front line shipping specialists. Day in and out, these guys are making sure PartnerShip is giving the very best experience to every single customer. This year's Customer Service Week theme is "Excellence Happens Here" and it's a team value our reps demonstrate every single day. We played up the idea with a fun pirate spin for this weeks celebrations, because 'x' marks the spot for excellence at PartnerShip. And let's be honest--who doesn't love pirates?

In an effort to celebrate our PartnerShip Customer Service team, we've asked a few of them to share a bit about what inspires them to lead every day and what they've learned since they've joined the team!

What does a "good" customer experience mean to you?

  • Helping customers in an efficient and effective manner while maintaining a professional disposition and considering the company's bottom line. -Amanda B.

What is the most important skill to have for a career in customer service?

  • Excellent communication. -Andrea

What about customer service appeals to you?

  • Working with a lot of different people to help solve issues. -Vince

What is the best way you can help put out a customer service fire?

  • Listening, being empathetic and letting the customer know you understand their concerns. Follow up with the customer. -Amanda S.

How do you demonstrate that you are a team player?

  • Being there for my co-workers when they ask me for help. I try to offer help when I notice others may need something. -Amanda S.

What's the best customer service experience you've given?

  • A customer was leaving a tradeshow and failed to get a quote and shipment scheduled for the move- out. The customer called in a panic because the freight was going to be forced out and they were going to have to pay a very high rate. We were able to walk the customer through completing the material handling form and scheduled/arranged an emergency pick up. The customer was very pleased with the service and thankful for the discounts. -Amanda B.

What are you better at today than you were this time last year?

  • Everything! Every day in Customer Service I learn something new about shipping from my management team, customers, and co-workers! -Amanda B.

PartnerShip has a passionate team of Customer Service specialists who are an indispensable resource to both customers and other members of our organization. Though this week is dedicated to recognizing all that they contribute to our business, we know that these guys go beyond expectations every single day to elevate the customer experience and help customers ship smarter. Thank you all!


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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.

Learn more about common freight shipping challenges!

4 Freight Challenges

New Excessive Length Restrictions You Can't Afford to Ignore

September 18, 2018 at 10:16 AMJen Deming
New Excessive Length Restrictions You Can't Afford to Ignore

It's a tough time for shippers and carriers alike. It's no secret that the current capacity crunch is affecting freight rates and transit times, but now shippers are facing new excessive length restrictions as well. As the number of available freight shipments continues to increase at a record-setting rate, carriers simply cannot keep up. In an effort to free up for space for available loads, XPO will be implementing new restrictions on certain types of shipments. What are the changes being made, and what else can shippers expect from freight carriers as capacity continues to tighten?

XPO will be making a few specific changes that will affect the excessive length policies currently in place. The primary change that will affect customers is the following:

  • As of 9/24, XPO will no longer pick up shipments of pipes or bars that are not crated, regardless of length. Leading up to the 24th, all items should continue to move without problem unless over 20ft or more, which would be determined at the service center level

To summarize, if you are shipping pipes or bars of any length, they must be crated - simply palletizing your load will earn you a missed pick-up. Some shippers like to save time by combining multiple commodity types of different classes onto one pallet and one bill of lading. If you are used to combining your multi-class shipments into one load, and it includes bars or pipes, crate them separately from the rest of your freight and create an individual BOL. XPO has created a packaging guide with notable rules of thumb to help properly package your shipments and gives further insight into excessive length articles.

The active phasing out of excessive length shipments by XPO is anticipated to have a favorable impact on current available carrier capacity. It's a safe assumption that other carriers may follow suit. Many common carriers do not have the specific equipment needed to properly move long freight safely and efficiently. Historically, excessive length freight contributes to more damage claim submissions and creates much more wasted space than a standard dimensional shipment. This means less freight can be loaded into a truck at a time, and this can lead to an increase in missed pick-ups and longer transit times for other shippers.

Some carriers have already adopted special charges for small package ground shipments that are considered oversized. FedEx and UPS both charge higher surcharges on these types of shipments in order to discourage shippers from moving them. These fees range anywhere from $80 up to $500 on top of regular service cost, depending on the carrier and package size. Right now, many freight carriers already have excessive length fees in place, and it's entirely possible that carriers that do continue to move oversized freight loads may implement increases or initiate the same sort of surcharge system in the near future.

For customers who are shipping commodities that are consistently rated excessive length, it may be time to consider looking into truckload service options. Moving full truckload is a great alternative for businesses shipping many pallets of product at a time, but it's also a secure and efficient option for those who have fragile, large, or high-value freight. With this option, you pay for the cost of the space you take on a full 53' truck. Freight class doesn't affect your rate, and you may have more flexibility with packaging. Added security and quicker transit times typically are additional benefits. Depending on the length of your haul, a dedicated truck may be costly, but a freight broker can help look into partial truckload options that may better fit your budget. Whatever freight shipping option works best for you, it's a good idea to look into all available choices as the transportation industry continues to evolve.

The capacity crunch is an ongoing challenge, and carriers are responding by changing the industry as we know it. Pricing for both freight and small package services is rising, and policies are being adjusted to make room for an increase in demand. Working with a quality freight broker can help steer you in the right direction and make sure you are shipping smarter. Contact PartnerShip at 800-599-2902 or email sales@PartnerShip.com today.


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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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Ask a CTB: Your Shipping Questions Answered

August 21, 2018 at 2:05 PMJen Deming
Ask a CTB As part of an ongoing effort to be the ultimate shipping resource for our customers, we've compiled the most common shipping questions and had them answered by one of our CTB freight shipping experts, me! My name is Jen Deming and I've been with PartnerShip for 3.5 years. In that time, I feel like I've pretty much seen it all. Through my own personal experience, I've worked with all kinds of shippers - from newbie to veteran. I can help answer your most pressing shipping questions and help give you a better understanding of the shipping industry.

First up, it's back to basics: What is a CTB? And what's a 3PL, for that matter? Most importantly, should YOU be working with one? CTB stands for "Certified Transportation Broker", and is an industry certification developed by TIA (Transportation Intermediary Association) to increase the professionalism and integrity of the freight brokerage industry. Areas of study include general business principles, traffic management best practices (for shipment, claims, fleet, and international traffic management), contracts and pricing, regulatory principles, and case law.

A freight broker is someone who assists shippers with finding qualified carriers to haul available loads, and works within a 3PL (third party logistics) organization by outsourcing shipping and logistics services. These individuals facilitate the relationships between the carrier and the shipper, and will negotiate rates with carriers, arrange the transportation, schedule pick-ups, provide follow-up on tracking, and will often offer claims assistance for loss or damage on behalf of shipper. A freight broker should serve as a shipper's strongest advocate, and is a great resource for expert shipping advice.

There are many advantages to working with a 3PL, such as cost and time savings, additional expertise, and flexibility. A knowledgeable freight broker can custom fit shipping options based on the specific needs of your business. 

Next up: what's the difference between parcel shipping and freight/LTL? Small package shipments are typically under 70lbs but can go up to 150lbs, and are often shipped in your own boxes or carrier supplied packing materials. The packages are shipped singularly and should not be in excess of 108 inches in length. Small package shipments are subject to dimensional weight pricing, which can get expensive, so it may make more sense to ship via a freight service.

LTL or less-than-truckload shipping usually consists of multiple boxes or containers stacked on pallets and are over 150lbs. LTL shipments can utilize multiple modes of transportation such as rail or motor truck, and are sent with other shippers' freight to reduce cost. Depending on the length of the shipping lane, often these shipments are loaded, unloaded, and reloaded at multiple stops throughout transit. If you have multiple pallets (6 or more), need shortened transit time, or require enhanced security, it may make sense to use a truckload service instead of LTL.

Furthermore, what's the difference between LTL and TL? TL (or FTL/Full Truckload) refers to booking a dedicated semi-truck for your shipment, that will not be hauling other cargo along with yours. This option is most economical for shippers who have a very large shipment with multiple pallets, on that requires a lot of space, a high-value and fragile shipment, or one that needs to move at a faster pace. If your business requires strict pick-up windows or appointments for delivery, it may also make sense to work with a dedicated carrier. In the past, I've worked with customers who required set arrival times for pick-up, and though they may not necessitate the ENTIRE space within a 52 ft truck, appreciated the reliability of a dedicated truckload service over an LTL common carrier. Booking a dedicated truck also gives you the option should you need specialized equipment such as a flatbed truck or refrigerated van.

What is an NMFC/ freight class? How do I know which to use for my shipment? You'd be amazed at the variety of customer's freight shipments that I've worked with. From toy makers to hospital supply distributors, I've shipped the craziest stuff, and they all have a specific freight class or NMFC assigned to the category of shipment. The NMFC, or National Motor Freight Classification, can be rated as low as 50 and as high as 500. The higher you go, the higher the rate for your shipment. And details matter! Whether your work table is wood or plastic, assembled or broken down, each factor can affect the class of the freight. So it's important not to guess or mark whatever class you think may save you a few bucks. Freight reweighs and reclassifications are very real, and you don't want to have a $2,000 bill when you have $200 built into the budget. Your freight broker can be a good resource to determine your shipment's correct class - cutting down on costly errors in the long run.

What are these "accessorial" charges on my bill? Can I avoid them? My own customers brought me questions about the unanticipated service charges on their freight bills more often than anything else! Accessorials are fees a carrier charges for additional services. Common examples of these include lift-gate services, residential deliveries, inside pick-up/delivery, oversized freight charges, and limited access pick-ups or delivery. The difficulty with these is that the cost of the fees varies by carrier, and while one may determine one location "limited access", a different carrier may not. Your best bet? It's smart to do your research about every service your require before you get your rate quote. Find out if the pick-up location has a dock and a forklift. Know for certain whether your customer's delivery location is a place of business or their own home. Be accurate in your measurement of your shipment's dimensions and weight. Finally, consult your freight broker for any questions you may have about what incurs charges and what doesn't - they are your best advocate!

Just when you think you have this freight shipping thing figured out, carriers can throw you a curveball. It pays to be vigilant and ask questions of the experts so YOU can be sure you are shipping smarter and staying a step ahead. If you have any questions about your shipping practices, or how the shipping experts and PartnerShip may be able to improve your efficiency and lower your costs, email sales@PartnerShip.com or call 800-599-2902.

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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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Freight Insurance: Is It Right For Your Business?

June 13, 2018 at 11:07 AMJen Deming
Freight Insurance Blog Post

Let's face it: ship happens. Even though many shippers prepare for the worst and do their very best to protect their freight, loss and damage are an unfortunate reality of the business. Freight insurance is a vital tool that business owners can use to offset the costs of freight damage and limited carrier liability. Unfortunately for many shippers, freight insurance coverage can be complicated to understand and is often misunderstood. How do you know if you should be using freight insurance?

First and foremost, it is important to understand the difference between freight insurance and carrier liability. Carrier liability is an industry term used to describe the responsibility of the carrier as it relates to losses, damages, and delivery delays to compensate the shipper. Of course, exceptions are put in place by the carrier, such as whether the damage or loss is a result from the action of a shipper (ex. improper packaging), an act of God, public authority, or due to the inherent nature of the goods.

It is the responsibility of the shipper to prove that the damage or loss of their shipment is a direct result of the carrier's own negligence. To accomplish this, it is important to take pictures of your packaged freight before the pick-up is completed, and inspected thoroughly once it is delivered. Any damage or loss MUST be noted on the delivery receipt. If your shipment does not encounter any issues, it is important to properly follow the claim filing process within 9 months of the delivery date. You have even less time with a concealed claim. At 5 days max, it is extra crucial to get the process moving along promptly.

But here's the thing about carrier liability: even if you can win a claim against the carrier, the payout often doesn't cover the total cost or value of your freight shipment. Every carrier has an established payout amount, usually per pound and depending on the fright class and limit of liability. Additionally, there are many exceptions and limitations as well as restricted types of freight that are compensated for even less, such as some electronics, artwork, and furniture types. The good news? Freight insurance does not require the shipper to prove that the carrier was at fault for the damage or loss, simply that the damage occurred. It's a great way to protect you and your customers and to be sure your shipment can be covered for its full value. Freight insurance is often offered by third-party insurers at a fee on top of your carrier rate for transit. So how do you know if it's worth the extra cost?

Fragile Shipments

If you are shipping products that are fragile and may break easily, it's a good idea to seek out additional freight coverage. Most carriers have their best interest in mind, and only offer limited coverage on these types of shipments, knowing there is a higher potential that they may break in transit. So if there is damage, it's unlikely you will get the full value of what has been lost. Proper packaging can help mitigate the likeliness that damage may occur, but the loading and unloading process doesn't always go as planned. Damage can occur at pick-up and destination delivery, as well as the many times your freight may be loaded at various terminals throughout transit. There are carriers who specialize in the transport of fragile shipments, commonly referred to as white glove service providers, but this alternative can be costly and still may have limited coverage. Freight coverage purchased through an insurance provider is typically based on the declared value of your freight and can help give shippers peace of mind.

High Value Freight

Similar to those who ship fragile products, businesses who are transporting high-value goods need to be mindful of how much coverage they receive through limited carrier liability. Just because your shipment isn't particularly breakable, doesn't mean your freight is protected in the event that it can go missing or may be delayed. While unlikely, it's always a good idea to have a plan that will cover your back, and your bottom line. Carriers typically pay out by the pound. For example, it's not uncommon to see a pay out of $0.25 per lb or even less on restricted items for less-than-truckload, with a max cap of $100,000 per truckload. With many types of freight insurance coverage through different providers, the total value of the shipment is covered, despite whether the carrier accepts responsibility or not. Of course, it's always crucial that shippers are diligent and fully understand the terms of their third-party insurance coverage, no matter which provider they go with.

Inbound Shipments

Another important consideration for businesses concerns their supply order or inbound shipments. Typically, a vendor will determine this portion of the shipping process- choosing carrier, service type, and rate. Taking control of your inbound shipping is crucial, both in reducing costs and selecting the carrier that best suits your needs. But, apart from that, how can you better protect your inbound shipments against damage during transit, especially when as the receiver, you aren't even there to check on proper packaging and material handling? Enrolling in an inbound freight insurance coverage plan can help mitigate the cost of damage and help business owners take back control on their inbound freight.

It's safe to say that if you are shipping high value freight, fragile products, or receive inbound shipments, it is crucial to take a look at supplemental freight insurance options. At PartnerShip, we want to offer better coverage than the typical limited liability offered by the carrier because "one size fits all" just doesn't cut it. The shipping experts at PartnerShip can help you decrease your risk and increase your peace of mind. Contact us at 800-599-2902 or email sales@PartnerShip.com for more information about freight insurance, or get a quote today.

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ELD Enforcement: Are We There Yet?

May 7, 2018 at 10:13 AMJen Deming
ELD Mandate Compliance: Are We There Yet It's been just over a month since the "soft enforcement period" has ended for ELD regulation, and while the shipping industry is seeing huge improvements with compliance, there are still a number of challenges facing shippers. While most of the crunch was felt at beginning of the year, when the initial ELD deadline went into effect, it's going to take some time before we see the industry normalize. As we head into the summer and a heavier shipping season, what can shippers and carriers expect to encounter along the way?

According to several reports, it appears that the majority of carriers are now using electronic logging devices to track their hours of service, with as many as 95% becoming ELD compliant. While many small carriers originally insisted that they would not comply and figured it was time to make their exit, the capacity crunch and need for experienced drivers has boosted the trucker's market, outweighing the inconvenience of switching over. According to a DAT Solutions survey, over 60% of these carriers have added the compliant devices within the past three months, following the deadline date.

Survey respondents are, however, confessing that the ELD mandate has a huge impact on day-to-day business, with 87% reporting that the mandate is changing the way they prioritize loads. The most significant factor impacting carriers? A significant increase in detention time – basically any time taking over the given 2 hours. Many shippers fail to recognize that time for loading/unloading freight counts as active "on duty" hours for the driver. The strict HOS (Hours of Service) rules can decrease an already limited amount of hours available for transit time.The good news is, with trucker time being more accurately logged, drivers can now prove exactly how long they were held up during loading. Carriers then have leverage to choose precisely who they want to ship with, and determine who may create problems for them on future loads. While this creates a positive environment for truck drivers, it can leave shippers in the backseat. But don't fret, there are several things shippers can do in order to to create appealing loads for carriers, which we will get into a bit later.

The data taken from the ELD devices can actually help shine some light on existing safety issues within a fleet. Predictive modeling can determine safety concerns that may arise in the future, such as probability a truck may be involved in a roadside accident. By looking at historical data, it will be easier to determine potentially dangerous routes, trucking equipment, hours of operation, and operators. So far, utilizing data in order to better determine areas of opportunity for increased driving safety is the most positive application of the new mandatory ELD technology.

So what's to come? As expected, with drivers spending less time at the wheel in one run, transit times will continue to lengthen. This means that drivers have to take less loads per week as well, with 67% stating that they drive fewer miles than they did before the devices. Parking space is in a crunch as well, with more trucks spending mandatory rest breaks at stops. This is also related to yard congestion, or several trucks arriving on time for delivery within a small window. Proper warehousing protocol and smooth receiving and loading procedures is crucial. It may be a good idea for shippers to extend their warehouse hours to offset the congestion. Having properly staged freight ready and waiting with an adequately sized team can also help decrease time spent at the loading dock, freeing up hours available for your driver to be on the road. Another option for shippers is to consider drop trailer freight programs. A carrier will haul a tractor to a shipper's loading dock and pick up a previously loaded and left behind trailer. This can increase efficiency by decreasing detention time and likelihood of deadhead.

One thing is clear: the initial push-back from owner-operators to make changes in order to become ELD compliant has mostly disappeared. Those originally looking to leave the industry are adapting to new policies and procedures, but there is still a significant learning curve. The biggest take-away is the impact of detention time and a newly invigorated intolerance for running into overtime. Drivers are vigilant, and shippers need to be even more prepared for a smooth and quick load time. PartnerShip can help businesses manage LTL freight moves and connect you with vetted, reliable truckload carriers. Stay competitive and ship smarter with PartnerShip – get a quote today!

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