January 13, 2016

We get asked constantly about the logistics of freight shipping, and when we describe to customers that we cannot ship something with small parcel (i.e. UPS or FedEx) but must ship with LTL carriers, we always get asked, "What is LTL?"  With all the confusion, we thought it would be wise to write a blog article about it, and try to cover the main bases briefly for the sake of our customers and potential customers. 

So here are the most important points you should know about freight shipments:

  • Any shipment over 150 pounds cannot ship "small parcel" (i.e. FedEx or UPS) and must ship as a "freight shipment" or "LTL shipment."
  • Freight shipments are different from small parcel shipments in many ways.  Some of the most common are that they take a bit longer, they ship wrapped on wooden pallets, they come in larger trucks, they require a signature to be delivered, they are MUCH more expensive for the shipper, and they provide less services (see next bullet point).

This is what a typical freight shipment might look like - boxes on a wooden pallet, wrapped in plastic and tied down.

  • A standard LTL shipment only includes pick up from point A (from a warehouse or loading dock) and drop off at point B (to a loading dock).  Everything else is an additional charge, including help getting the pallet off the truck (lift gate addition), help getting the boxes inside (inside delivery), call ahead for scheduling (phone call request), removal of pallet or packing materials (debris removal), and the list could go on.  There is even a significant upcharge for a freight shipment to go to a residence (residential delivery) - as they want to drop off at loading docks of companies whenever possible.  These companies try to do NOTHING extra so they can go quickly from drop off to drop off and not lose money or miss deliveries - so if you want extra, they make you pay for it.
  • Some might say FedEx & UPS aren't the best at service, but they are the mavens of the service world compared to freight companies. These companies are used to dealing with large companies and their warehouse employees, not with individuals in homes.  So they are often gruff, and rude, and inconsiderate.  They are good at saying "No" and "We don't do that." 
  • This lack of service experience plays out often when these shipments are delivered.  The delivery agents will not assist in any way they don't feel comfortable with, sometimes even if the required extra services have been paid for!  They also want you to sign off on the delivery immediately so they can leave and go to the next delivery, but this causes problems for items like the furniture we sell, which needs to be inspected before the customer signs.

So what should you do with this information?  Well, it certainly doesn't mean you should stay away from freight shipments.  Buying furniture (and other large items) online is one of the most cost effective and convenient ways to buy.  You just have to know what you're dealing with, what to ask for, and how to handle the freight company employees.  Here are some useful tips:

  • When ordering large items, make sure to request from the company you are buying from that your shipment include a call ahead for scheduling, lift gate service, and inside delivery.  If it is going to a residence, make sure they add residential delivery as well.  They may balk at the inside delivery, as this is usually quite expensive (although we provide that free of charge on every shipment here at OfficeDesk.com).  But the others are sort of no-brainers.  If they refuse to add those on for you, run from that company!
  • If the items are going upstairs, like inside a residence, we would suggest having 2 or 3 strong folks to help get them where they need to go.  Even when inside delivery is added on, almost no freight company will help you get boxes up inside stairs.  The most they will do is help you get them onto an elevator if you are in an office suite.  So if you have folks ready to help, it will make the whole process go a lot smoother.
  • When they call you to give you a delivery window, don't be surprised if they are a few minutes after their designated "time window."  LTL companies are notorious for running behind, so if you expect it you will be less frazzled when it happens (or pleasantly surprised if it doesn't).
  • Make sure to fully inspect the items before signing off on the delivery.  Once you sign that paper, the delivery agent(s) will be gone, and it makes claims on any damages that occurred near impossible.  So it's okay to tell the delivery guy he is going to have to wait a few minutes while you inspect for damages.  We recommend at least opening up all the boxes and looking for any obvious damage to the outside edges of the piece.  **While inspecting, though, do not ruin the boxes or a return might become impossible.  Carefully cut the boxes along the tape lines.
  • If you find damages, you should probably refuse the delivery.  Just don't sign, and tell the delivery team that you do not accept the delivery and they must take it with them.  In this scenario the shipper (in our case that would be us) will make a claim for damages with the carrier (freight company) and will send you a replacement.  Finding the damages first and refusing the delivery makes this process a lost simpler.
  • If you have a wonderful experience with the company you buy from, and with the freight company, that is not an accident.  A lot of work went into that, and it required putting customers ahead of making maximum money.  So express your gratitude, and tell your friends or co-workers about your experience. 

If you have any more questions about freight shipping, or how a particular shipment should be handled, don't hesitate to reach out!  We'd love to serve you!


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