Your first line of defense to prevent shipping damage or delays is a strong box that is clearly labeled and has enough cushioning material to keep contents secure. That means:
A single crease can reduce a box's strength by up to 70 percent. The modest savings you get from reusing a box likely will be outweighed by the cost and customer frustration that comes with damaged or returned goods.
"If you can use your foot and squash a box," says Shane Luttrell, UPS Freight Service Center Manager in Knoxville, TN, "the box isn't strong enough to protect the contents."
To make sure you're using a box that's strong enough, look at the bottom of the box. Weight limits printed on the Box Maker's Certificate--found on the bottom flap of most boxes--are intended for palletized freight shipments. Choose a box strength suitable for the contents you are shipping.
"Cutting corners increases the likelihood of damage," says Luttrell.
Wrap each item separately to properly cushion your goods. Each item should be surrounded by at least two inches of cushioning and be placed at least two inches away from the walls of your container. Good cushioning materials include foam-in-place packaging, die-cut fiberboard, miniature airbags, or crumpled paper.
When it comes to freight shipments, stay away from Styrofoam peanuts.
"If you were to put a stone into a jar of sand and shake it, the stone will work its way to the bottom," says Charles Sandak, UPS Freight Weight and Research Manager. "The same thing happens with Styrofoam peanuts. The vibration in a trailer will cause the product to sink to the bottom of the box where there is no protection."
Don't use bubble wrap or stretch wrap around merchandise as the only protection, as they don't offer sufficient shock protection.
"Stretch wrap is not a packaging material," Sandak says. "Stretch wrap is only an alternative to banding, but you need to use a minimum of five wraps to properly band the product to the pallet."
"Clear, precise labels help tremendously to prevent claims," says Sandak. "Every piece of freight that is given to us should have shipping labels on adjacent sides."
Print labels on a white background using black ink, Sandak says, and place them on multiple sides of your box. Using more than one label ensures that the shipment's destination is visible no matter how the freight is stacked or if one of the labels becomes smeared or torn during transit. Finally, labels should also note if the pallet is one of six in a shipment, two of six, and so on.
Similar-sized boxes with contents of a similar density will be stacked on top of each other. You should state if a box is full of light bulbs or nuts and bolts to prevent the heavier density box from being stacked on top of the lighter density one. That's where paperwork comes in.
"Customers need to tell us what we're hauling, what's in the box," Sandak says.
The National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC), whose thousands of entries classify the average density of a variety of products, is where you find classification codes. The NMFC also outlines what a particular item's packaging minimums should be.
Shipping labels should be placed on a flat surface and include both the shipper's and the recipient's names and complete address information on one label. If you are using a packing slip, place it on the same surface as the address label. It's also good practice to place a duplicate address label inside the box. For international shipments, include both the shipper's and recipient's contact names and telephone numbers.
You've packaged your goods properly and have the necessary documentation. Now it's time for a pickup.
"UPS offers a variety of shipping applications to streamline your pickup requests," says Bill Petritz of UPS Freight Marketing. He suggests using UPS technology platforms like WorldShip, UPS Internet Shipping, or My LTL Freight to make LTL pickup arrangements.
"It takes more time to pick up the phone and make arrangements," Petritz says.
You can also take the guesswork out of LTL pickups by using UPS Freight® Pickup Notifications for LTL*. The service is free of charge and available to customers scheduling a freight pickup on ups.com, WorldShip 2012 or later, or My LTL Freight. We'll send an e-mail alert when your pickup is the next stop on the route, helping to ensure you're ready for the UPS Freight driver's arrival.
Need to reschedule the pickup? The notification message links to ups.com, where you can easily reschedule or cancel the pickup.
*Pickup Notifications for LTL is available only for direct service points in the 48 contiguous United States. This feature is not available for shipments loaded by a shipper in a dropped or spotted trailer.
Freight is not a delicate business. From dock to destination, freight can pass through a lot of hands, travel by a variety of means--truck, rail, plane, or ship--and weather differing climates. Avoid the pitfalls of damages, delays, or losses by following a few best practices.
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-- Charles Sandak, UPS Freight Weight and Research Manager
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