Avoid shipping snafus by making sure your freight carrier has all the information it needs.
Keeping your transportation
provider in the dark can dismally
affect the timely and safe delivery
of your precious exhibit freight. When
it came to shipping my first exhibit, I
had no earthly idea what information
to share with my carrier. But when
disaster befell that first shipment, I
quickly learned the pain exhibitors
feel when their freight doesn't end
up where or when it's supposed to
simply because critical details weren't
conveyed to the carrier.
So what information should you
provide when requesting a shipping
quote or filling out a shipping order?
Since every exhibitor's shipping
requirements are different – from
transporting helicopter fuselages
to getting frozen pizzas to a food
show – it's hard to give advice for
every possible scenario and potential
problem. But here are six pieces of
information I recommend sharing with
your carrier to ensure your exhibit
freight arrives on time and on budget.
Type of Freight
Let your carrier know exactly
what you're shipping so it
can determine the type of trucking
or air freight equipment required
and under what tariff it will ship.
Transporting exhibit properties such
as carpet, walls, and graphics is an
entirely different ballgame than shipping
heavy equipment that requires a
flatbed trailer. If your shipment needs
to be refrigerated on its way to the
show site or is especially fragile, let
your carrier know beforehand.
The same goes if you're shipping
multiple types of freight, your exhibit,
display products, and miscellaneous
marketing items, such as giveaways,
collateral literature, and staff uniforms.
Each freight category can have its
own challenges, not to mention
different shipping rates.
Type of Shipping Containers
Your freight might be
loaded in crates, banded or
stretch-wrapped on pallets, packed
in wheeled cases or loose cartons, or
blanket-wrapped (aka pad-wrapped).
Each method of packing will affect
the dimensions of your shipment and
ultimately how it can be loaded.
For example, will your carpet and
padding be bagged in rolls, crated,
or stacked on a pallet or carpet pig?
Can the containers be stacked to
save room or laid on their sides if the
height of the case exceeds that of
the truck door or top of the trailer?
Knowing these answers in advance
will help you get an accurate quote
and avoid last-minute snafus.
Dimensions and Weight
Your carrier will need to
know the size of the various
containers you'll be shipping, which
should be provided in cubic feet. To
get this figure, multiply the height,
length, and width of each piece of
freight in inches and then divide this
number by 1,728. Let's say one piece
of freight is 54 inches long, 30 inches
wide, and 33 inches high. The package
measures 53,460 cubic inches,
or nearly 31 cubic feet (as 53,460
divided by 1,728 equals 30.94).
You'll also need to estimate the
weight of your total shipment, since
there may be limitations on what your
carrier's equipment can handle. If in
doubt about the weight of your shipment,
look at past material-handling
bills for similar shipments or use the
rule of thumb that an average cubic
foot of freight weighs about 9 pounds.
The importance of these calculations
will come to light when you see
the term "Dim Wt" on your shipping
invoice – and no, the carrier isn't
slamming your intellectual prowess.
"Dim Wt" stands for dimensional
weight (aka volumetric weight), which
is used to calculate minimum shipping
charges for the cubic space a
package occupies. Case in point:
Shipping two identically sized boxes,
one containing feathers and the other
one bricks, and charging only by their
real weight would be unprofitable for
the carrier since both packages take
up the same amount of space but
obviously don't weigh the same. As
such, shipping charges are generally
determined by the greater of the
actual weight and dimensional weight
of a package. So yes, size matters!
All of this information will help
your carrier compute the total cubic
feet your freight will take up so it
can reserve space and estimate your
shipping charges. But note that the
estimate it provides is based on the
info you've shared, so "garbage in,
garbage out." If the size of your shipment
increases, expect your invoice
to increase. However, if your shipment
shrinks, don't expect your bill to follow
suit, since the carrier used your
estimate to reserve space that can't be
resold to another customer.
An important side note: If you don't
go through the steps of calculating
the dimensions and weight of every
last piece of freight, be sure to provide
the measurements for the largest
piece you'll be shipping so the carrier
can make sure its standard equipment
and vehicles can accommodate it.
Number of Pickup and Delivery Locations
It's not at all unusual for
exhibitors to need carriers to pick
up freight from various locations
and deliver it to multiple destinations.
For example, you may have a
hanging sign that needs to ship from
your company's headquarters to the
general service contractor's (GSC's)
advance warehouse. You may also
have a pickup of your display properties
at your exhibit house that needs
to be delivered to either the advance
warehouse or directly to the show site.
Then throw in those extra pallets of
event-marketing materials that need
to ship to a hotel in the same show
city for the off-site hospitality event
you're holding for VIP clients.
It goes without saying that these
additional logistical factors can affect
your shipping estimate. But it never
hurts to ask if you can consolidate
these multiple shipments for cost
savings based on your total shipping
volume, leaving you to just pay an
additional fee for each of the extra
pickups or deliveries.
Pickup Dates and Times
The next piece of information
your carrier needs
is when the shipment will be ready
for pickup and when the freight has
to arrive at its destination. I always
try to build an extra day or two into
the schedule just in case a problem
arises due to inclement weather,
mechanical failure, or even human
error. Also consider that the less time
your carrier has between your desired
pickup and delivery, the more expensive
your shipment will be, as it may
have to be expedited by adding a
second driver or putting it on a plane.
And how closely should you target
your freight pickup? Do you tell the carrier it can pick it up on Tuesday,
Tuesday afternoon, or only on Tuesday
between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.? If
your shipment is only available to the
carrier between certain hours instead
of all day, this can create what's
known in the transportation industry
as a "special" that will cost you more
since the carrier's other stops have to
be scheduled around yours. And if
the targeted pickup or delivery time
isn't within normal working hours,
expect an off-hours surcharge.
Special Equipment or
Be sure to let your carrier
know of any special equipment you
may need to facilitate the movement
of your freight, such as a liftgate on
the carrier's truck if your company
doesn't have a truck-level loading
dock, pallet jacks, J-bars for adjusting
crates, or stacker bars for securing
stacked or rolling freight. And if your pickup location isn't on the ground
floor, there may be distance-based
fees for the extra labor or equipment
needed to negotiate the freight onto
an elevator or down a flight of stairs.
These may seem like minor considerations,
but you'd be surprised how
quickly labor and equipment-rental
fees can add up.
Bottom line: Exhibit managers tend
to oversimplify specialized exhibit
shipping – until they live through a
freight-related crisis. But by being
upfront with your carrier about all
your shipping requirements, getting
your exhibit to the show floor can be
as stress-free as a Sunday drive.
CTSM, CEM, CMP, CMM
"The Booth Mom," is an independent exhibit project manager, trainer, speaker, consultant, and an Exhibitor Conference faculty member. CandyAdams@BoothMom.com