3 tips for packaging LTL freight in tight capacity.
January 17, 2019
In 2018, capacity tightened to an extent we haven’t seen in quite some time. Ecommerce trends have caused large volumes of shipments, and as a result, the LTL shipping industry is as busy as ever. Shippers are battling for capacity, and it doesn’t seem to be loosening up anytime soon. As a result, carriers are challenged to fit as much freight as they can on each truck without sacrificing safety or efficiency.
The reality is, in times of tight capacity, carriers are often put in positions where they must choose a specific shipper or shipments over another.
In these situations, they are likely to choose preferred shippers, and one of the best ways to stand out as a shipper is by correctly packaging your freight. Not only does proper packaging protect your freight from damage, but it also helps ease the transportation process overall. Improper packaging can come undone during transportation, loading or unloading, which leads to damaged freight, disintegrated shipments and more work for the carrier.
Let’s take a closer look at three tips to consider when packaging your freight in a tight capacity market:
Understanding the needs and dimensions of your LTL shipment.
The first step in correctly packaging your freight is to understand what your shipment needs. It’s important to take the extra time to measure and weigh your cargo to get accurate dimensional quotes and no surprises on your bills. If your dimensions are inaccurate, your freight may not fit on the truck and you could risk damaging your relationship with your carrier and paying a costly fee.
Length, width and height are the three core dimensions you must be aware of when shipping. Avoid the guesswork. Tools like tape measures and scales will ensure you are getting correct estimates of your dimensions. For even more accuracy, dimensionalizers are a technology with the ability to measure the dimensions of freight more easily.
Other factors to consider are the handling and storability of your freight shipment. Carriers will likely charge more if your shipment is fragile or requires special equipment such as a temperature-controlled trailer.
Using pallets and crates effectively.
In order to correctly package your freight, you must know when and how to use crates and pallets. Crates are wooden containers used to organize freight while pallets are portable platforms used to package freight, and are often required by carriers. Crates and pallets protect your shipment from damage, speed up the loading and unloading process and allow carriers to maximize space inside the trailer. Here are some best practices for packaging freight with both crates and pallets:
- Crates. Use wooden crates to help organize and protect your freight. Separate fragile and non-fragile items into their own crates to avoid parts of your shipment hitting or scratching each other when on the road. For fragile items, wrap them in a protective material (such as tissue paper or bubble wrap), fill each crate to the brim with that same material and leave no room for movement.
- Pallets. Using wooden pallets is recommended for most shipments regardless of whether the shipment is fragile or not. The carriers we work with recommend using a pallet even when you’re shipping a single cardboard box. Wooden pallets are preferred for freight shipping because pallets made of plastic or other materials often break and allow shipments to move during transit.
A standard pallet is 6 ½” tall, built to accommodate transport by forklift and can hold up to 4,600 lbs. Pallets can be custom made and come in a few sizes that are considered standard across the industry. The most common pallets are referred to as GMA pallets and have a size of 48" X 40". Other standard pallet sizes are 42" X 42" and 48" X 48".
Additionally, pallets can vary based on the type of forklift openings and structure of the pallet. Below are some of the most common types of pallets according to fork-entry:
- Two-way pallets (unnotched): forklift openings on only two ends.
- Partial four-way entry pallets: standard forklift openings on two ends and smaller side openings on the remaining ends.
- Four-way entry pallets: forklift openings on all sides for full accessibility.
- Stringer pallets: two-way forklift openings and use stringer boards to support a unit load.
- Block pallets: four-way forklift entry and use blocks of solid wood to support a load.
Protecting your freight and coordinating with carrier needs.
Crates and pallets are a great start to protecting your freight, but they’re not the only thing you’ll need. Supplementary equipment can help keep your freight in place and save it from other items that are moving. Proper packaging techniques are key for shippers to avoid causing damage to their freight (or others’) during the transit process.
For example, customizable pallets, or wooden framing, come in handy for over-sized or oddly-shaped shipments that don’t fit on standard pallets. Additionally, cardboard boxes and sheets can help cushion any area where your freight may bump into other objects. You can also use banding to further tighten your shipment if it still moves underneath the shrink-wrap.
Lastly, place a crush cone on the top of your shipment to avoid your pallet being crushed from other shipments. This small symbol notifies carriers not to stack anything on top of your freight.
Effectively protecting and packaging your freight saves you and your carrier peace of mind, but to head to the top of the list you must go the extra mile. Think of any other factors that you can use to improve the carrier experience during times of tight capacity. Small acts like securing a place for the truck to park or providing refreshments can go a long way with little effort on your part.
There may be no clear way to predict capacity shifts in the freight shipping industry, but knowing how to effectively package shipments will help keep your carriers happy and capacity available when it tightens. As carriers adopt more technology into their everyday processes, they will become even more precise with the planning, loading and tracking of their shipments. This stresses the importance of always providing accurate freight dimensions to whichever carrier you choose.
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