Tips for Packaging Your LTL Shipment
Packaging cargo properly when shipping is crucial to the safety, protection, and transportability of your shipment while it is in transit. Packaging comes in a wide array of materials and styles, and what you choose should be dictated by the items being shipped. The size, weight, shape, and fragility of your shipment will determine the correct type of packaging you select to keep your items safe from damage and make them easier to transport. LTL freight typically changes hands several times during the course of shipping, moving between trucks, carrier hubs, and warehouses before reaching its final destination. This means that your shipment will likely face varied road conditions, changing temperatures, additional cargo shuffling, forklift loads and unloads, and other factors throughout its journey, and the packaging you select is critical to protecting your items from damage or loss caused by any of these potential circumstances. Listed below are some of the kinds of packaging available to protect your shipment.
Pallets, the preferred and most popular packaging for the majority of LTL shipments, come in standard sizes (most are 48” x 40”), shapes, and materials, and allow for a shipment to be easily loaded and unloaded by a forklift or pallet jack. Pallets can be easily purchased or repurposed from a local business. Large items or stacked boxes are best when palletized and secured with straps or heavy-duty plastic wrap. When utilizing pallets for packing your LTL shipment, make sure that the pickup and delivery locations have either a forklift or a loading dock and pallet jack, or you must request a liftgate on the truck in order to load the shipment. Pallets are a secure form of packaging that minimize handling of your shipment and make it easy to load and unload without damage.
Crates and Barrels
Wooden crates provide the highest level of protection for your shipment. Enclosing your items in a wooden crate is extremely effective against damage and loss, and is used primarily for items that are expensive, fragile, and easily damaged. Often a professional crating company is used to pack the shipment to ensure everything is done right. The main drawback to crating is that it can be expensive, and the added weight and size can often result in a higher cost to ship, even for smaller items.
More durable items can be shipped in standard corrugated cardboard boxes. For the most protection, make sure the boxes are new or have retained their sturdiness, avoid loose space inside the boxes, secure well with packing tape, and label them clearly. If you are moving a number of boxes, it is best to stack them on a pallet and wrap them up to avoid any damage due to shifting or movement in the trailer. Double layered or heavy-duty boxes can be used as a middle ground between standard cardboard boxes and crates. For fragile items, use bubble wrap, paper, or packing peanuts to wrap items inside a box, then place that box inside another box with a few inches of padding between the inside and outside boxes.
Shrink Wrap, Bands, and Load Straps
When palletizing or stacking boxes or crates, plastic shrink-wrap or bands made of plastic, aluminum, or steel should be used to secure the load together for protection. Wenches and clips can be used to further secure and tighten banding to the shipment. Load straps are used to secure the wrapped load to the trailer itself to prevent shifting during transit.
Proper labeling can help prevent freight from being lost or misplaced. The address and phone number of both the shipper and consignee should be clearly affixed to the shipment, as well as any special instructions or warning labels.
Packaging is the first line of defense for your shipment while it is in transit. The NMFC specifies that “minimum packaging requirements (are) to ensure that goods are adequately protected and can be handled and stowed in a manner that is reasonably safe and practicable so as to withstand the normal rigors of the less-than-truckload environment.” In order to ensure your items arrive at their destination undamaged, select the appropriate packaging that will protect your shipment from any unforeseen circumstances that can arise in the process of shipping.