Preparing, Packaging & Palletizing LTL Freight Shipments

Written by Neal Willis

freight-shipment.jpgA few best practices in LTL freight shipping management can help shippers reduce damages, unexpected freight charges and overhead costs.

Palletize Shipments

By combining your items into one or two pallets, shippers can make the handling of an LTL freight shipment easier for LTL carriers. When compared to loose items, pallets offer a better level of protection against damages, and palletizing LTL freight shipments helps decrease the chances of the freight shipment being damaged while in the possession of the LTL freight carrier. Pallets also help to speed the loading and unloading processes, helping carriers and shippers alike keep overhead costs down.

Use Proper Packaging

Poorly packaged freight can lead to damaged shipments. Per NMFC guidelines, an LTL freight shipment must be packaged so it can withstand the normal rigors of the LTL environment. When preparing the freight shipment for the LTL freight carrier, shippers should take the time necessary to make sure the freight is properly secured to the pallet. Properly packaged LTL freight should be able to handle minor bumps in the road and slight collisions with other freight moving through the LTL freight carrier’s network alongside it without being damaged. As a general rule, heavier items should be placed on the bottom of a pallet and/or crate, and labels for help with indicating how to handle best, such as “DO NOT STACK”, “THIS SIDE UP” and “FRAGILE” should be used when appropriate.

Ensure Accurate Information on the Bill of Lading

LTL freight carriers commonly expect to pick up and deliver LTL freight shipments to and from locations with loading docks where heavy equipment is routinely available for help with loading and unloading of freight shipments. Whenever that isn’t the case, LTL freight carriers will impose accessorial charges as payment for having to use additional equipment and time to make the delivery and/or pickup, which results in higher costs to the carrier. Accessorial charges can be assessed by LTL freight carriers for such services as residential delivery, the use of a lift gate, and scheduling appointments for delivery.

warehouse-interior.jpgAlso functioning as a receipt and a document of title, a bill of lading (BOL) serves as instructions to an LTL freight carrier on how to handle and invoice an LTL freight shipment. Accurate commodity/product descriptions along with the corresponding freight class, weights and dimensions must be included on the bill of lading.  Any special requirements for pick-up and delivery should be relayed to the LTL freight carrier in advance to reduce the chances of unexpected accessorial charges. While carriers may not inspect every shipment and bill of lading for accuracy, they do inspect some LTL freight shipments to ensure information on the bill of lading matches the actual LTL freight shipment.

Just as LTL freight carriers face regulatory penalties for inaccurate information relayed to Transportation authorities regarding their trucks (truck and/or axle weight), inaccurate information on a bill of lading can result in unexpected LTL freight bill charges for the shipper.