Damaged Freight: Reduce Frequency and Win Claims
Damaged freight can be a nightmare for buyers and sellers. Buyers order and pay for a product and can wait for weeks or even months for arrival. Upon arrival, if the product is damaged or destroyed the buyer wants to know how to get the product they ordered immediately. Sellers do not know the product is destroyed until the dreaded call from the buyer is received.
This scenario happens daily all over the world and unfortunately is part of sending LTL shipments. Understanding ways to reduce damaged shipments can save companies thousands and even millions of dollars annually. Below are a few tips to help reduce freight claims and win a claim if necessary.
Choose the right freight carrier
All freight carriers have claims and damaged products, but some have substantially less than others. A great indicator is the price of the shipment. If a carrier is significantly less than other carriers there is probably a reason.
The best way to find the right carrier is by understanding their insurance policies. Some carriers do not offer insurance on shipments and others cap maximum payouts. Take the time to look at insurance policies prior to shipping in case something does happen.
Accurately fill out the Bill of Lading
The bill of lading is the legally binding contract between the shipper and the carrier. It is extremely important to note everything on the BOL. If shipping machinery, note in the comments new “unused” machinery. Note that the product should not be double stacked. Any other instructions you want the freight company to know about handling the product should be on the bill of lading.
Properly prepare the product for shipping
This is the most common reason freight companies deny claims. Properly preparing the product for shipping can mean a variety of things depending on what is being shipped. Start with the pallet and be sure it is wide enough to fit a pallet jack into. Drivers use pallet jacks in the trailers to move products around. A narrow pallet is a nightmare for truck drivers and forklift operators to maneuver and will lead to increased damages.
After the proper pallet is selected be sure the product is properly secured to the pallet. The two most common ways to secure products are with stretch film and strapping. Pallet shrink bags can also be used depending on the products being shipped. Securing the products to the pallet is called unitizing the shipment. Unitizing will keep the product in the center of the pallet during transport and handling.
The use of shipping cones is very important if you do not want the product double stacked. Shipping cones serve two very important purposes. The first and main objective is to easily tell anyone handling the freight not to stack anything on top of it. The second purpose is to let the receiver quickly know if something has been stacked on top of the shipment by seeing the crushed cone.
Depending on the number of shipments going out daily it can be very difficult to take a picture of every piece of freight going out. We recommend having a camera overlooking all loading docks. This allows the ability to review the tape and snap a still shot showing how the product left the facility if a claim is initiated.
We recommend this being done when the order is shipped via email and on the pallet load. The email should let the buyer know they are fully responsible for inspecting the shipment upon arrival and noting any damages on the Bill of Lading if found. Let them know to make the driver wait and perform a detailed inspection of the product.
The shipment should have “Fully Inspect Shipment” stickers on it easily visible. Receivers should know that they must mark any damages on the Bill of Lading before signing for it. If damages are not marked the chance of obtaining a claim is 0% once the driver leaves.
If the buyer does notice damage to the product it is important to take pictures of the condition upon arrival. We have even recommended pictures of the product with the driver next to it to prove the condition upon arrival. This shows undisputable proof of the product condition upon arrival and departure if Tip #4 was done as well.
Unfortunately, with enough freight shipments, a damaged load will occur over time. Using these simple tips can help reduce the frequency of damaged loads and increase freight claims awarded if necessary.