September 2012 | Commentary | Carriers Corner

Better Efficiency Begins at the Loading Dock

Tags: Warehousing

Productivity in the less-than-truckload (LTL) freight transportation industry demands and depends upon efficient operations. Shippers and carriers must collaborate to orchestrate consistent on-time pickups and deliveries.

By working together to align the processes by which shippers tender freight and carriers receive it, supply chain partners can achieve greater efficiency at the loading dock, and improve safety, quality, performance, and margins for all stakeholders.

For problem-free transactions, shippers should provide freight that fits carriers' systems, with packaging that offers ample protection; carriers should provide the necessary equipment for secure and timely moves. When these conditions are not met, shippers and carriers must approach problems collaboratively to recognize issues and understand needs, then adapt and adjust to achieve mutual goals.

Through communication and teamwork, they can arrive at the best possible solutions for all involved parties: those tendering the freight, those carrying it, and those receiving it.

Common trouble spots plague many carriers and shippers. Here are some strategies for addressing them:

  • Eliminate the guesswork. Freight comes in all shapes and sizes with varying levels of fragility, so packages that require specific handling and storage, or the use of special equipment, should be clearly marked. Carriers can apply stickers to these shipments, or shippers can purchase pre-stamped packaging materials to ensure accurate labeling—and, therefore, swift and proper handling.
  • Check the shipping documents. Verifying that all freight is accurately reflected on bills of lading helps facilitate timely, complete deliveries. To prevent damaged and lost freight, take inventory. Include accurate piece counts and descriptions—never assume. To streamline and expedite this process, carriers can provide shippers with standardized bills of lading.
  • Pack it right. The better shippers can unitize and secure multiple cartons on a pallet, the better freight will withstand the rigors of transit through an LTL system. When products are properly shrink-wrapped to the pallet, they are less likely to shift or slip during transit, and therefore less likely to be damaged. Employing an effective shrink-wrap technique is a simple step shippers can use to protect their goods and ensure an exception-free delivery.
  • Know the rules. The National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) standards provide valuable insight and information to help shippers move freight safely and securely. In the NMFC guide, commodity descriptions, transportation rules, bill of lading formats, and packaging requirements leave little room for incongruities and speculation. To achieve optimal efficiency on the loading dock and in transit, it is critical that shippers and carriers remain on the same page—or at least, in the literal sense, work from the same book. Full details about the NMFC standards can be found on the association's Web site.

When well-executed, these simple steps yield significant payback, helping ensure freight is loaded on the trailer, transported, and delivered to its final destination as safely, swiftly, and efficiently as possible—a winning solution for carriers and their customers on both ends of the dock.