Tips From PartnerShip: The 5 Most Common Freight Shipping Mistakes

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PartnerShip®, an American Booksellers Association business service affinity partner, helps member booksellers save on shipments they send and receive. Here, PartnerShip provides five tips for how to avoid common mistakes when shipping. To learn more about all of ABA’s affinity partnerships, visit’s Business Services page.

Freight shipping is complicated. Common (and costly) mistakes happen every day, and even the most experienced shippers can fall victim to them. That’s why it’s imperative to be aware of these potential mistakes and know how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Bill of Lading (BOL) Inaccuracies

PartnerShip tip: make sure weight, freight class, and bill to are correct on bill of ladingThe BOL is the most important document associated with your freight shipment, and you need to make sure it’s 100 percent accurate. Carriers pay very close attention to this document and may exercise their right to inspect your freight. Guessing or using approximations for your weight or freight class can be an expensive mistake, as you may incur additional reweigh and reclassification charges. Also, be sure to list the correct billing information. If you are using a third-party logistics (3PL) partner that has negotiated discounts on your behalf, you will miss out on that pricing if you do not list them as the “bill to.”

Mistake #2: Living and Dying by Transit Times

It’s important to remember that freight carrier transit times are estimations and can vary due to weather, traffic, and mechanical issues. Schedule your shipments as soon as possible to ensure prompt delivery.

For time-sensitive deliveries such as tradeshow shipments, waiting until the last minute leaves very little margin of error. Plan ahead and keep realistic expectations in mind when scheduling a shipment. Carriers do have guaranteed shipment options that may cost a bit more, but paying a little extra is better than the cost of a late shipment.

Mistake #3: Incorrectly Packaging Your Freight

PartnerShip tip: don't overhang your palletIncorrect packaging is one of the main causes of shipment damage. Know what you’re shipping and pack accordingly — obviously, different items will need different levels of packaging (for example, glassware versus ball bearings), but there are a few tried-and-true basic rules. Secure your shipment on a pallet, carton, or in a crate. If you’re using a pallet, don’t overhang it with packaged products. Instead, column stack or interlock stack for increased stability and compression strength. You’ll also want to use sufficient cushioning to protect against shock and vibrations that occur during transport. Then secure it tightly using strechwrap and bands.

Mistake #4: Not Following Proper Procedures for Receiving Inbound Freight

PartnerShip tip: inspect received freight before signingFreight that you receive at your location needs to be properly inspected before the driver leaves, in case of any damages or shortages. Take a close look at the outward appearance of each piece before signing the delivery receipt. If you spot any issues, document them in detail on the delivery receipt and take pictures. You should also inspect the contents of your shipment as soon as possible to find any concealed damages. In both cases, it’s important that you contact your carrier or 3PL freight partner promptly to file your claim and get a fair resolution.

Mistake #5: Overpaying for Freight

This last “mistake” may seem a little obvious, but it happens frequently. You may be able to negotiate discounts directly with your carriers, but, in many cases, working with a 3PL partner can save you the most. A quality 3PL can identify ways to save you money on your freight, audit your freight bills, provide shipping management tools, and deliver personalized service. Start by requesting an analysis from a 3PL to see exactly how much you could save.

Accuracy and attention to detail are required for a healthy freight operation. Avoid these costly mistakes and you’ll be able to protect your company’s bottom line and save yourself from a big headache.

About PartnerShip

These tips are brought to you by PartnerShip®, the company that manages the ABA Shipping Program. PartnerShip has the resources and expertise needed to resolve any shipping mistake you may encounter. For more information and to enroll in the free ABA Shipping Program, visit PartnerShip online or call (800) 599-2902.