When I was a teenager, my mother would often tell me I had a sour disposition. Of course, I would immediately shout, "Whatever!" and sulk up to my room. That's how it goes when you're 14 and emo. All this is to say that when I started working in freight and hearing the term disposition over and over again, it put a smile on my face. Disposition in freight shipping, however, is not about upset teenagers.
Disposition in freight shipping occurs when the freight is refused by the consignee and returned to the shipping terminal. The carrier will ask for disposition, essentially posing the question: What do you want us to do with this?
Freight can be refused by the consignee for a number of reasons. If freight is suspected to be damaged, we often instruct our consignees to refuse the freight, and we'll begin the process of filing a freight claim for the damage. Sometimes there is a mistake on the bill of lading used at the time of pickup and the shipment is delivered to the wrong location.
Sometimes it will be a duplicate shipment, and the consignee already got their shipment last week. Whatever the reason, disposition is required when freight is refused.
Instructions for disposition are most likely required to be in writing, from the billing party for the shipment. If you're using a freight broker, then you'll need them to send the email to the carrier with instructions for how to handle the freight. Like most things, disposition in freight shipping is time sensitive.
If a carrier does not get disposition in a timely manner, the shipment will likely go into storage, and that opens a new can of worms that can end up costing you money.
If you find that your broker or carrier is seeking disposition, act quickly and with purpose. Avoid storage at all costs, and keep in contact with your broker to get disposition figured out as painlessly as possible.