Part 8 of 22 Ways To Reduce LTL Costs That Don’t Involve A Price Reduction – Label and Package Your Freight
- Label And Package Freight Accurately And Clearly
LTL carriers are super-heroes. They can deliver thousands, even tens of thousands, of shipments a day of all shapes and sizes and packaging. They can pick up one to hundreds of shipments at a single location, and deliver one to hundreds of shipments to a single destination. But their super-powers do have limits.
For example, LTL carriers cannot use telepathy to read your mind. They cannot use telekinesis protect your freight from harm. And they cannot identify your freight by touch or other forms of phychometry.
The fact of the matter is that your LTL freight is going to be handled multiple times. At the very least, it will be unloaded after pickup and then loaded for delivery. Each time a handling occurs, your freight is subject to potential loss or damage.
Most of the time when a carrier loses freight, it is only temporary as the freight may have been mis-routed. When that occurs, ask yourself how your carrier is going to tell your freight from the other shipments in their network?
To help them be the best super-heroes they can be, do your best to label and package your freight. For anyone who might come in contact with your freight, make it abundantly clear where the freight is going, where it came from, and how many pieces are being tendered. And package your freight properly to protect it from the rigors of a typical LTL freight environment.
Some things to consider with labeling include:
- Accuracy is key: The best labelling program falls to pieces quickly if the data on the labels is not correct. Ensure you are printing the correct identifier numbers, addresses, product ID, piece count, etc. Finally, ensure the data on your labels matches the data on our BOL.
- The right data is also key: Shipment labels should contain all the information you can provide to help the carrier identify your freight. If your TMS pre-assigns pro numbers, put that on the label including the barcode. List your company name/address/phone number, and do the same for your consignee. Provide any relevant reference numbers. And list the total pieces plus the count number for each handling unit in the shipment (i.e., “1 of 3 skids”).
- Use proper handling and warning labels: “Fragile” and “Do Not Stack” labels will help ensure carriers handle your freight with proper care. Any directives should also be printed on the BOL. This is incredibly important when shipping HazMat.
- Use quality equipment and materials: Use a quality printer and quality thermal labels so that the printed labels are clear and easy to read, and stay on the freight, regardless of the rigors and elements they may face in transit.
- Place labels on the sides: Label as many sides as practical. Do not put labels on the top. You want your labels to be easily and readily seen by someone standing by your freight.
- Label every handling unit: If you are tendering more than one handing unit, put a label on each unit. Don’t just label the first pallet. It also pays to label each carton on your pallets so that they can be identified if one gets separated from its mother pallet.
And some things to consider with packaging include:
- Watch your pallets: Don’t use damaged pallets as they won’t properly protect your freight and may instead damage your freight. And use the right sized pallet to minimize both wasted space and product overhang.
- Wrap or band: Use wrapping or banding that is strong enough to not break while also keeping your freight secure. Wrap and band tightly to keep your freight from shifting.
- Stack square: Boxes should be stacked squarely in alignment to take full advantage of our cartons’ wall strength. Corners should be aligned, and no overhang should be present. And try not to pyramid your pallets; make the top layer as level as possible.
- Switch to crates where appropriate. Cardboard boxes may be sufficient for your commodity if it is light in weight, small in size, and not prone to damage. But for those commodities where one or more concerns come into play, consider a wooden crate for added protection.
- Heavy on the bottom: When building pallets, place heavier and larger items on the bottom and lighter or smaller items on top.
- Protect your edges: Use edge or corner boards to protect the 4 corners of cartons on your pallets. Edge boards also add helpful rigidity and structure to keep your freight from shifting.
- Just say no to Cones: Cones do very little to protect your freight from being stacked upon, and they add wasteful space to your freight that limits your carrier’s ability to effectively load trailers. Don’t use them.
- Use bracing where appropriate: If shipping items that can roll or shift on top of or within their shipping container, use bracing. As weight goes up, use more bracing. This protects not just your freight, but other freight shipped with your freight as well.
- Get help from a packaging engineer: Your freight may not be as simple as cardboard boxes on pallets. You may have long freight, tall freight, or high-value freight. Or your may simply hae freight that is susceptible to loss and damage. When in doubt, talk to your carrier to see if they have a Packaging Engineer on staff. The better carriers do.
A little bit of extra work on your end can make a big difference for your carriers, and for you. It’s an ounce of prevention on the front end to save you that proverbial pound of fixing on the backend. Your carriers will appreciate you for it, and ultimately reward you for it. Your freight will be more likely to deliver On Time and In Full. Who does not want that!?