Shipping is an important element of a successful business and both small and large businesses alike are focusing more closely on fast, accurate shipping to stay abreast of competition.
In fact, a recent report found that nearly 75% of retailers considered the cost of shipping as one of their biggest business challenges. This trend has motivated shipping carriers to develop new and innovative services to serve their small business clients.
An increase in eCommerce and the associated “free shipping” touted by eCommerce giants such as Amazon and big box retailers is driving this focus, with over a third of consumers considering free shipping as the prime motivation for buying from an online store.
And delivering a package late is not an option. Almost half (45%) of consumers note that a late package would cause them to stop ordering products from that company.
What does this mean from small businesses? They must shorten package delivery timelines and ensure fast and accurate delivery to stay competitive. That means adjusting shipping strategies like taking advantage of cutting-edge technologies and better methods of transportation.
If you are considering the economies of freight shipping to elevate your business profile, here is a quick primer on getting started.
The First-Time Freight Shipper’s Guide to Getting Started
Whether you’re considering transporting products to warehouses, storefronts, or consumers, as a first-time freight shipper, you’ll need to understand some basic terms to help you navigate the world of freight shipping.
Some terms to get familiar with include:
Bill of Lading (BOL) – A list bearing carrier name and signature, date, type of goods being shipped, terms and conditions, destination.
Full Truckload (FTL) – A single shipment weighing more than 10,000 pounds from a single customer.
Less than Truckload (LTL) – Goods from several shippers loaded onto one trailer, typically less than 10,000 pounds.
Intermodal – A shipment that uses more than one mode of transportation.
Freight Forwarder – Common carriers that combine LTL or less-than-carload shipments into complete truckload or carload lots.
Freight Broker – An agent for truckload shipments who matches small shippers with carriers at discounted rates.
Shipper’s Agent – An agent providing services related to warehousing or loading and unloading.
Now that you have knowledge of the basic terms, let’s get shipping.
1. Know Your Freight — and Prepare It Correctly
Freight shipping is categorized as goods weighing more than 150 pounds that can be crated or palletized and must be moved using a forklift or liftgate.
Once you know if you’re dealing with FTL or LTL freight, you can move on to packaging. To prevent damage, ensure that all freight is packaged according to National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) standards.
These standards set forth the minimum packaging requirements that will ensure your goods are protected from damage and can be safely handled and stowed, specifically in the less-than-truckload environment that many small businesses deal with.
2. Provide Weight and Dimensions for An Accurate Quote
Now that you have your items properly packed, you can begin the freight shipping process by getting an accurate quote for your shipment.
You must provide the exact weight and measurements of the shipment, which is easiest to do after it is properly prepared for shipping.
3. Stacking and Labeling
Correctly stacking your shipment can contribute to safety and reduce potential damages. Stack the shipment on a skid, ensuring that there is no overhang.
All boxes should be properly sealed so the top surface remains as flat as possible.
Cartons should be secured to the skid with breakaway adhesive, stretch-wrap, or other secure banding in a strong, cube-like format. Misalignment of boxes can cause up to 30% of strength to be lost.
Be aware that containers of variable sizes when stacked together may not have unit strength. Cartons that are overhanging may get damaged as they are unsupported while in transit.
If you have single containers that don’t fit in the pallet “block” it is better to ship them loose to avoid damage.
Ensure that names and addresses are clearly labeled on each piece of the shipment and that they match the BOL exactly — and are legible.
4. Fill Out the Bill of Lading (BOL)
Your BOL is a receipt for your shipment, the contract of carriage, and your document of title. They can be purchased at office supply stores or directly from your carrier and should be filled out accurately and legibly.
It must be signed by an authorized representative of the shipper, the carrier, and the receiver.
5. Arrange for Your Shipment to Be Picked Up
Once your shipment is ready, you can call your transportation company to pick it up. Transportation companies don’t operate the same as moving companies — your freight is typically picked up at a loading dock and delivered at a loading dock.
If your destination or origination points don’t have loading docks, the shipment will be picked up or delivered at the curb. This may involve accessorial charges for a truck that has an appropriate liftgate to facilitate this type of delivery or pickup.
6. Track Your Freight
Depending on the technology used by your carrier, you may have the option of tracking your freight as it moves from origination point to destination. This will allow you to give recipients a “heads-up” on an incoming delivery or head off questions about a late delivery to improve your customer service.
Drive Your Business Forward with Hermes
At Hermes, we understand that our small business clients need fast, accurate transport of shipments to help them set themselves apart from the competition.
We focus closely on the needs of our direct shipper clients, offering set load times so you experience less disruption to your schedule. We also provide a round-the-clock dispatch center, so you have answers to your shipping questions 24/7.
From regional haul to long haul, flatbed to step deck, and dry van to refrigerated vehicles — we have the right transportation for all your shipping needs.
Experience the speed and service of freight shipping with Hermes. Contact us and get started today!