January 11, 2014

One of the most common questions we get asked has to do with shipping.  Before I got into this business I was incredibly naive to shipping and all the details and requirements that go into it, but after having been in this industry for a few years I feel like I have a few things to share.  I hope these thoughts will be helpful to you as you try to figure out what is going on with your shipment or potential shipment.


Our customers often want to know how their desk or chair or file cabinet will get to them, so they can plan for the arrival and the logistics of getting it into their office or home.  One issue that often comes up is how the product is going to be shipped and/or delivered.  When a product is shipped with LTL, we always alert the customer to that so they can be ready for that particular type of delivery.  So what is an LTL shipment?  By definition, an LTL shipment is a less-than-truckload shipment.


Wow, that sure helps a lot, doesn't it?!?  Actually, this does tell us something important about this shipment--it means it is coming via a large semi.  LTL shipments are part of a truckload, a large semi-truck load of smaller shipments, gathered together by that particular carrier based on size and location to fill up a truck.  Sometimes each smaller LTL shipment within a truckload is delivered by the semi to all the different stops, and at other times the semi delivers to smaller local agents to do the final leg of your delivery.  This is typically the case when an LTL shipment is being delivered to a hard-to-reach location that a semi would not work well for, and is often the case when a shipment is going to a residence.

So LTL shipments are distinct from small parcel shipments, which are shipments with FedEx or UPS.  People have become very accustomed to receiving shipments with one of these carriers, and know their standard practices.  Typically they will bring the shipment to your door and ring your doorbell, especially if the shipment requires a signature.  At times, if no signature is required, they will just leave the shipment outside, by the garage or in some other inconspicuous place.

LTL shipments are very different.  First of all, they always require a signature.  Because they are heavier and are typically more expensive shipments, the delivery companies always require a signature showing that the shipment was received and in good condition when it arrived.  This is why it is so important for customers to check the shipment carefully for damage, even to the boxes, when they are receiving an LTL shipment.  If you sign that it is all in good condition and then later find damage, you may be up a creek!  Because LTL shipments are both more expensive and more intensive, carriers want to make sure you will not later make a claim on the shipment.  So they require your signature.  Don't forget: check the shipment carefully when you receive it and write down anything you see that looks like it might be damage before you sign.  And if the whole things looks damaged, don't hesitate to simply refuse the shipment.

Secondly, because LTL shipments are heavier and are usually on a wooden pallet, the delivery driver could not pick up the pallet and bring it to your door even if he wanted to.  So LTL shipments are typically delivered either to a loading dock at your place of work or to your curbside if it's a residential delivery.  That's simply the closest to your door a delivery driver can often get a shipment.  Whenever possible, we add on inside delivery to all of our shipments, at our cost, to assist in making the delivery as painless as possible for our customers.  But this is definitely an expensive addition.

So if LTL shipments are more expensive, and more of a hassle for the carriers and for customers, why would we ever ship an LTL shipment?!?  Why not send with small parcel every time?  The answer is very simple, and it's twofold.  The biggest reason is that small parcel shipments have a 150 pound limit, as well as a size limit.  So many of our desks simply cannot be shipped with a small parcel carrier because they are too large.  The second reason is that if they were allowed to be shipped with small parcel, they would show up completely destroyed.  One huge benefit to LTL shipments is that, because they are usually shipped on pallets, damage is more rare.  The pallets keep the boxes tied down and in place so they don't jostle around and move in the truck.  And that is very important since they are so heavy.  So despite the hassles of receiving an LTL shipment, damages are typically avoided.

What are some tips for receiving an LTL shipment we could offer?  Here are a few:

  1. Have 2 or 3 relatively strong folks ready to receive the shipment when it is scheduled to come, so they can pick up the boxes off the pallet and carry them to wherever they are supposed to go.  This will make receiving the shipment far simpler.
  2. Carefully inspect each box on the pallet when it arrives, prior to signing the delivery slip.  Make sure you don't see any damage to any of the boxes.  If you do, either open the box right then to inspect for damages or mark clearly on the delivery slip that there was damage to a box or boxes.
  3. Don't expect a delivery driver to "do you a favor" and bring the shipment into your home, or up to your third floor office.  We typically add the inside delivery service on for our customers, but still each extra service with an LTL carrier brings an extra charge.  To bring a shipment up higher than the first floor is another charge and usually requires a freight elevator.  So if you don't have enough strong folks who can pick up the boxes when the shipment arrives, make sure to ask about adding these features on ahead of time so you get just what you need.
  4. If you don't get a call about a delivery time, ask questions until you get a delivery time.  Call the company who sold you the product, or the carrier, until you get a delivery time scheduled.  Often when no delivery is scheduled, bad things happen (like the wrong person signing for the delivery without being aware to check for damages).

Any other questions?  I'd be glad to offer my thoughts.  Just give us a call at 866-388-8848 or shoot us an e-mail at service@officedesk.com!

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