What you need to know about Packaging to ship Common Carrier!

Posted On 16th May 2017
Box in a Cate on a Skid - Freight Shipping Tips

(Common Carrier is who you will normally ship with!)

(Hint: Common Carriers aren’t moving companies! You need more rugged packaging)

If you ship with the Common Carriers found online, you need to beware: your freight will be transferred multiple times and can be damaged by forklifts if not properly packaged. In fact, the Carriers, even though they picked up the freight, are not required to pay claims if your freight wasn’t packed in tough packaging like wooden crates or heavy duty corrugated boxes and then properly secured by strapping to the skid. Drivers do not know the prescribed way your commodity must be packed to be compliant with all the Rules of their Carrier’s tariff and the national standards their Tariff goes by, which are determined and vary by commodity.

IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO MAKE SURE THAT YOUR PACKAGING IS SUPER RUGGED if you expect your shipment to be insured if there is damage or missing items.

One must think custom wooden crate, which if you are shipping fragile items, should be lined with foam and bubble wrap. If not a wooden crate, then the products must be in heavy-duty corrugated sub-boxes inside of a larger super heavy-duty corrugated master box/crate. The crate must be bound by steel or heavy-duty plastic bindings, preferably 4 of them – 2 from one direction of the pallet and 2 from the other. It is also a good idea to secure scrap cardboard to the top and bottom, with shrink-wrap around it to protect your skid from water leaks inside a truck or terminal.

Insurance claims WILL NOT be paid for damaged, lost or stolen goods IF they determine your packaging was not sufficiently rugged and to the common carrier standards.

Common carrier standards are codified by the National Classification Committee (NCC), which is part of the extremely influential carrier trade group, the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA). This is the same group that determines commodity description and class, on which pretty much every common carrier’s Tariff is based. If you ship common carrier, you agree to and are governed by the common carrier’s Tariff. By tendering your freight to the carrier, you are bound by their set of rules, and this has been held up in Court many times. If you tender freight Online, in your Agreement you explicitly agree to the Tariff terms of whichever carrier you have chosen. You may call or email the carrier to get a link to or a copy of that Tariff.

In addition to determining class, the NCC and NMFTA also specify packaging requirements for commodities shipped. The rules are very specific, down to dictating how the corners of the wooden crates need to be nailed and wired together. Generally, heavy-duty corrugated and/or heavy-duty wooden crates (eg crates for an engine shipping), lined with foam if the products are fragile, are required. And of course, marking the shipment “FRAGILE” and/or “TOP FREIGHT ONLY” or whatever instructions may apply is also required. If you are shipping something you do not ship every day, or you are the buyer or Purchasing Manager, you should include the following on your purchase order:

“Freight must be packed in a way rigorous enough to withstand normal common carrier LTL shipping. Thus, packaging must be compliant with all NCC/NMFTA requirements, such as wooden crate or specified heavy-duty corrugated containers, and bound at least by 4 straps in 2 directions to an appropriate skid, with the top and sides shrink-wrapped. If not packed appropriately to these standards, the shipper has therefore been negligent and is fully liable for all shipping damages and/or loss, and we maintain the right to deduct or withhold from invoice payments until claim is paid by carrier or by shipper, if shipper was negligent.”

Perhaps you are an entrepreneur, small businessman or private individual and are doing a one-time purchase. Or, you are experienced but are shipping something that CANNOT GET BROKEN OR LOST. We have several recommendations:

  1. Tell your supplier you require SUPER HEAVY-DUTY packaging that is NCC/NMFTA compliant, in heavy-duty crates and properly marked per above. Or the supplier can look up the specific requirements for their shipment to be compliant. Demand pictures and show them to your Freight Specialist to ask their opinion on the packaging.
  2. Move with the most reputable common carriers available to you, not necessarily the lowest priced one. Many of the lowest price ones have bad reputations on claims processing. Demand to know what the “release value” is with the carrier you booked and ask if it is an extra cost to list the value on the Bill of Lading. Also, if your freight is fragile or has sentimental value, consider paying more to move your shipment with “blanket service” door-to-door direct in the same truck and wrapped in blankets and secured extremely well and isolated from other freight inside the truck. This will be a contract carrier and you will be able to specify other terms of the shipment as well.
  3. See if it is possible to buy supplemental insurance. Of course, if you have failed to ensure proper packaging per #1 above, you are wasting your money.
  4. Train the receiver of your goods. First send pictures showing how the freight left the shippers. Instruct the receiver to NOT SIGN ANYTHING UNTIL A FULL INSPECTION OF THE FREIGHT HAS BEEN COMPLETED. The receiver must CAREFULLY inspect it for small perforations from all sides. Look for forklift tine penetrations that can damage the freight, and for other bruises, etc. Compare the freight received to the picture you provided. Is the freight on the same skid? Is the freight packaged EXACTLY as it was when the trucker took it? Any bumps or crushed corners anywhere? Any such “exceptions” must be noted on the Bill of Lading or Delivery Receipt in detail and photographed and initialed by receiver and driver. Example comments include:
  • Left corner crushed, material significantly damaged. Claim will be filed.
  • Skid missing a row of cartons. Claim will be filed.
  • Skid repacked by carrier. Missing cartons and materials. Driver in hurry but freight is missing or damaged. Claim will be filed.

That Delivery Receipt is a legal document and if your receiver signs it without noting exceptions, then he has signed it “Free and Clear” and pretty much waived your and his rights to claim damaged and missing items later.

In general, if you approach shipping and receiving processes seriously and professionally, in a systematic and detail oriented way, you will protect your freight, your company and your own personal reputation from the hazards of Common Carrier shipping. We implore you take packaging, the receiving inspection, and Delivery Receipt sign-off seriously if you expect insurance companies and Carriers to take your claims of damaged or missing items seriously.

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