• Potential Shipping Issues: How to Be Proactive

    04/25/2018 — Leah Palnik

    Potential Shipping Issues: How to be Proactive

    When you deal with freight, there will always be some shipping issues that are out of your control. You can’t stay with your freight throughout its whole journey, and there are a number of sticky situations you might find yourself in. However, if you know how to prepare for some worst case scenarios, you can position yourself to bounce back quickly.

    Weather
    One of the most common disruptions that can cause shipping issues is the weather. Storms and other severe weather patterns can have a significant impact on a carrier’s delivery network. When one area is hit, it creates a ripple effect that’s felt all over. Especially during hurricane season and the winter months, it’s important to keep an eye out. However, even in milder months, you can’t let your guard down because Mother Nature can be unpredictable.

    If possible, give yourself a buffer zone for transit time. Build in extra days, especially for time-sensitive shipments. That way, if a storm hits and your shipment gets delayed, you’ll still be in the clear. It’s also a good idea to work with a broker to gain access to additional resources in a pinch. You’ll be able to expand your carrier network and lean on them when capacity is tight.

    Cargo theft
    Criminals targeting your freight are getting savvier and are constantly finding new ways to hit shippers. Dealing with cargo theft is a nightmare, and it can happen to anyone. Especially if you’re shipping electronics, raw metal materials, food items, pharmaceuticals, or other highly targeted commodities. Thieves are not only surveying ship yards for arrival and departure changes, but are also engaging in sophisticated scams. Some are posing as transportation companies, using counterfeit documents, or working an inside job.

    To be proactive against cargo theft and the shipping issues that go with it, there are a few simple things you can do. Ensure your driver is using a locking system that includes a variety of locks, from king pin locks, air brake valve locks, and glad hand locks. Using GPS tracking is also a good tactic to keep an eye on your freight and make sure it’s where it’s supposed to be. Overall, it’s important to carefully select transportation providers and warehouse staff.

    Cyber attacks
    Every time you turn on the news it seems like there’s a new cybersecurity issue. Unfortunately, the shipping industry isn’t immune. The technology that is on trucks nowadays can leave them vulnerable to ransomware and malware that could shut down the vehicles and put your freight at risk. Cyber attackers could potentially be targeting your freight for theft or could be looking to shut down a carrier’s service in hopes of securing a ransom.  

    The risk of a cyber attack affecting your freight right now is slim, but cybersecurity issues are becoming increasingly prevalent across all industries. While prevention is more in the hands of your carrier for cyber attacks on trucks, staying educated and planning ahead is key. Create a plan that details what you would do in the event your freight gets caught up in the middle of a cyber attack. That way the contingency protocol is clear and you’ll have resources readily available.

    Damages
    Dealing with damaged freight involves a lot of heartache. Not only are you out your product, but you also have to deal with the nightmare that is the claims process. You may experience damages that are visible upon delivery or damages that are concealed, meaning they aren’t discovered until after delivery. Luckily, as far as shipping issues go, this is one you have some element of control over.

    Preventing freight damage starts with proper packaging. If you’re the shipper, don’t be afraid to spend a little extra cash upfront to ensure you’re not spending more after the fact. Be conscious of the weight capacity of your chosen container and invest in quality materials. Then choose packaging that is sized right – with just enough room for the contents and the necessary impact protection. If you’re palletizing your shipment, make sure your items sit squarely on the skid with no overhang. Weight should be evenly distributed with heavier boxes on the bottom, and everything should be completely secured to the skid with banding, stretch-wrap, or breakaway adhesive.

    If you are receiving the shipment, make sure you’re following the proper procedures for accepting freight. Inspect your freight immediately and notate any damages on the delivery receipt. File your claim as soon as possible and make sure you have all the necessary documentation. Any small misstep can lead to your claim being denied, so it’s critical that you’re thorough.

    Some shipping issues will be beyond your control, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely out of luck. By educating yourself and being prepared, you can mitigate the impact. The shipping experts at PartnerShip have seen it all, and we’ll help you navigate through the toughest issues. Want to learn more about how to tackle freight challenges? Check out our latest white paper!

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  • Laying the Foundation: Construction Shipping 101

    04/09/2018 — Jen Deming

    Construction Shipping 101Warmer weather is finally creeping in and that means construction season will soon be upon us. Shipping in the construction industry is characterized by tight deadlines, oversized hauls, multiple stops and complicated loading and unloading – and unfortunately, a crew can only build as quickly as the materials arrive. Whether building a new home, sports arena, restaurant location or corporate parkway, there is a unique set of challenges for shippers who are trying to transport their materials to and from a staging area to an active construction site. It's important to know what to expect in order to anticipate any possible setbacks that can complicate your plan of action.

    The product and materials being shipped to a construction site or for a building project vary wildly. Lumber, roofing material, windows/glass, dry wall, flooring, natural stone, plumbing fixtures/electrical components, home appliances, and landscaping elements are all commonly shipped construction loads. Additionally, the specialized equipment and large machinery necessary to build needs to be moved from rental location or site to site. Though the product materials may vary, a common denominator for many of these shipments is size of the load and tendency to be over-dimensional, particularly as it relates to width. Understanding and selecting the proper carrier and trailer type is essential in getting your loads transported safely and securely.

    If the building material or equipment IS oversized, you will most likely need to obtain a permit, which can have different requirements depending on the state. You will need to adhere to the requirements for each state that your shipment travels through, so it's important to review requirements for each state beforehand. Maximum legal length for trailers is 53 feet; width is 8.5 feet. Maximum height is 13.5 feet and max weight is 40 tons. It's important to note that weight maximum is based on a per-axle limit, so sometimes simply readjusting the load can keep your shipment legal. Most frequently, if a load is determined to be oversized, it is due to over-dimensional width.

    Pilot or escort cars are required in most states for loads that are over 12 feet wide. In many states, traveling with oversized shipments requires transit to take place during daylight hours, with nighttime restrictions in place up until 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset. Keep in mind, as well, that traveling during weekends or holidays is often prohibited and varies by state. All of these factors help contribute to the importance of knowing your exact route and researching the requirements for each state that your shipment will be moving through.

    On smaller shipments of a few pieces at a time, it may be possible to ship via LTL freight rather than a dedicated truck. Just like when delivering to schools, churches, or military base locations, active construction sites can sometimes incur "limited access" or "non-commercial" fees. These are charges similar to residential delivery fees that are common with most national LTL freight carriers. Unfortunately, these fees can be unpredictable as some carriers may charge, and others may not. Typically the fee is passed on by the carrier depending on the situation at the time of delivery; for example, extra time and effort spent in accessing the site for unloading. The difficulty in planning for the charge can be an added frustration for shippers.

    Moving via LTL carrier service can also be difficult due to restricted items and limited coverage on high-risk materials such as glass or electrical equipment. It's also super important to be sure you have accurate dimensions, as many of these products will be classed based on density. One final note relates to the security of the shipment. These larger and potentially fragile LTL shipments may be specially crated and packaged, but depending on the length of transit, there is still a risk of damage during loading and unloading at terminals throughout the course of transit. A partial or dedicated truck may be a less competitive rate, but shippers could save money in the long run by avoiding damages and shortening the transit time.

    Businesses looking to move construction equipment and materials can expect to experience quite a few "oh ship!" moments unique to the industry. Planning, researching, and serious attention to detail can help offset any unexpected difficulties that challenge your timeline – not to mention your patience. Rest assured, you aren't alone. The shipping experts at PartnerShip are familiar with the distinct challenges that come with shipping construction materials. From understanding the proper trailer type you need to helping classify your freight, we mind the details so you don't have to.

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  • How to Select a Freight Broker: Top 8 Factors Shippers Should Consider

    04/03/2018 — Leah Palnik

    How to select a freight broker

    Selecting the right freight broker to manage your shipping can make or break your business. You want to be sure they are up to par and will be able to address your needs. The relationship between you and your freight broker needs to be built on trust and communication – not unlike personal relationships. And just like when you’re dating someone new, you want to make sure they check all the right boxes. Here are the top factors shippers should consider when selecting a freight broker.

    1. Licensed through the FMCSA
    First off, to ensure the freight broker you’ve chosen is credible, check that they have a license through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). It is a federal law that anyone arranging transportation for compensation must have a federal property broker license issued by the FMCSA. You can check here if your selected freight broker is properly insured.

    Licensing involves a number of strict criteria, including bonding and insurance requirements. Insurance requirements vary but cover things like loss and damage or property damage. The bonding protects you against fraud or other unlawful actions that the broker could commit by providing opportunity for compensation.

    2. Specializations that match your needs
    Most freight brokers will offer a number of services and work across a variety of industries, but that doesn’t mean they are all equal. When selecting a freight broker, ask what kind of experience they have shipping your products and if they specialize in the mode you typically use. If they’re familiar with your industry or have experience shipping your product, they’ll know exactly what to look out and understand how to get around some of your common challenges.

    3. Insurance options and claims assistance
    Dealing with lost or damaged freight can be a nightmare. When you select a quality freight broker they will not only provide the option to purchase additional insurance, but they will also offer assistance in the event that you need to file a claim. It’s a full time job understanding everything you need to know about filing claims and a lot can go wrong. Selecting a freight broker that offers protection and can help get you a fair resolution is invaluable.

    4. Strict vetting process for carriers
    The freight broker you select should only work with the most reputable carriers. Before working with a broker, ask about their vetting process. Do they verify the carrier’s operating authority and safety rating? What would disqualify a carrier? They should be checking the carrier’s history and safety ratings through trusted sources like DAT and the FMCSA.

    5. Recognized and certified in the industry
    The Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) is the premier organization for third-party logistics professionals and holds its members to high set of ethical standards. A quality freight broker will be a member of TIA and will have staff members that are certified through the Certified Transportation Broker (CTB) Program. There are also a handful of other affiliations that can show you the credibility of a broker. Select a freight broker that is in good standing with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and is recognized through industry affiliations like the NASTC Best Broker Program and Truckstop.com’s Diamond Broker Program.

    6. Tracking options
    Freight visibility is essential when choosing a freight broker. Using tracking systems allows your broker to keep an eye on your shipments and handle any hiccups before they become major issues. Tracking also helps protect you against cargo theft, giving you added peace-of-mind.

    7. Long history in the business
    Freight shipping is complex and can be tricky, which is why you need a master, not a novice. A more established freight broker will not only have more experience, but will also likely have deeper carrier relationships. Freight brokers that are newer to the scene likely won’t have a proven track record or the same kind of buying power a more established broker will.

    8. Overall value
    It may be tempting to choose the freight broker that gives you the cheapest quote, but sometimes you get what you pay for. Working with a broker that offers quality services can be worth the extra cash. Instead of considering price alone, consider all of the other factors, including customer service, quoting tools, claims assistance, tracking capabilities – and then determine what they are worth to you.

    Working with an experienced freight broker that can meet your specific needs can make a world of difference. With the current state of the industry it’s more important than ever to have a broker in your corner that can effectively navigate through a capacity crunch. As an experienced broker, PartnerShip helps you ship smarter with competitive pricing and quality service. Get a quote today.

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