Delivery Drones & Driverless Trucks: The Future of Shipping Logistics

Shipping logistics seem like they’re on the verge of a revolution. Drone delivery and self-driving trucks are the wave of the future, even if it’s not always clear how the industry will get there. It takes a lot of insight, planning and good old-fashioned hard work to deploy a drone delivery system, and the world of driverless trucks is still in its infancy. What seemed like science fiction a decade ago is fast becoming the headlines of today, and it is an exciting time as many companies work to shape and predict what the future will bring.

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ELD Mandate for Carriers and its Effects

This is the first section of a two-part blog post on the ELD mandate and its effects on the transportation industry. Recently the FMCSA rolled out the nationwide ELD mandate for commercial carriers and transporters. There are many questions and concerns on how this will affect the nation’s supply chains. Will it increase transit times?  Will it decrease the amount of available equipment?  Will it increase the cost of transporting freight?  Will I make less money as a carrier or driver? Are these the right questions to be asking? The only correct answer is that these are all valid questions surrounding the recent introduction of the ELD mandate. As with most mandates, you’re not going to make everyone happy, and only you can decide which side of the fence you’re on. However, in order to make that decision you have to ask yourself if you understand it fully? I’ll do my best to explain the mandate without being too lengthy or adding bias (at least in this portion) in order to help guide your decision. 1) What is an ELD? ELD stands for Electronic Logging Device. It is a small onboard computer added to the cab or instrument panel of a tractor or truck that collects data. There have been several variations of these type of devices over the years, dating as far back as the 1980s. They are known as AOBRD (Automatic On-Board Recording Device), and EOBR (Electronic On-Board Recorder), but these will eventually be phased out over the next 2 years and all carriers will be required to use an ELD. 2) What does it do? The typical device is a monitoring tool that ties together three main components of data about from the truck. The first is that it monitors the truck’s movements through a GPS signal. The second is that it records engine data, such as running time and speed. The third and final component is the driver entry piece, this is where he or she will log trip details and notes. Every device manufacturer offers different features on their particular, some more than others, but ultimately these are the 3 required features from the FMCSA to be considered compliant. 3) How is it monitored and regulated? The data is captured and combined into a report that can be extracted and audited by local, state, and federal authorities to ensure the driver is staying within the legal limits of driver time and operation. The report is generated in a digital format or printed copy. If the carrier is is found without an approved ELD in the truck or the ELD shows the driver is in violation of the legal operating hours it will result in fines, shutdowns, and even CDL/authority suspension or revocation depending on the degree of the violation. There are a handful of exceptions where ELD monitoring is not required, the most common two are personal conveyance moves (PCM) and yard moves. A PCM basically means driving back and forth between home and the carrier’s terminal or office, and yard moves are basically the movement of equipment on or in areas that are restricted or considered private property and must be clearly marked with signs. Both of these exceptions have limitations and more specific language as to their definition, so make sure you do your research if you feel these may apply to your situation. 4) Why is this happening? The ELD mandate is a congressionally mandated rule as part the MAP 21 Act that was signed into law in 2012. The ELD mandate itself was put into place to create a safer work environment for drivers and reducing unsafe driving practices. The previous methods, which were mainly done through manually written log books, were fraught with fraud and manipulation. Introducing the ELD created a better and more accurate way to collect, monitor, and share data, without the risk of tampering from individuals. 5) What is the timeline surrounding the mandate? There are two important dates surrounding the mandate. The first was December 18, 2017, this signaled the beginning date of compliance, meaning it is now required to have an ELD device installed and activated on the truck. However, the violations will only result in fines. The second and more critical date is April 1, 2018, and the reason is that any carrier found without an approved ELD and functioning ELD on board will be shutdown until one can be installed and working. I felt these are the five most important categories to address when trying to explain the ELD Mandate, but there are many levels to this mandate to consider which I did not address. If you want to learn more about the both the ELD Mandate and MAP 21 we encourage you to click the links below: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/hours-service/elds/electronic-logging-devices https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/map21/ I’ll discuss some of the further implications of these changes from a freight broker’s perspective in a subsequent blog post next week.  

Intermodal Shipping: A Different Way to Move Freight

  intermodal shipping Contrary to popular belief, intermodal shipping is not rail shipping. The process of getting freight quotes, moving freight, transit times, etc., is completely different from rail. Rail/tracks access is a must for shipping via rail. Obviously, not many shippers have this access. We use intermodal shipping to get around this.

Intermodal Shipping is a process for shipping that combines rail and truckload.

Most of the time, the freight will not leave its container from pickup to delivery. The container will be moved from truck to rail and back to truck again; never leaving the container. Here’s some other things to know about intermodal:

Packaging is Key

Because the container will be moved (rather than the pallets inside like in LTL), dunnage and blocking/bracing materials are very important. The idea behind intermodal packaging is to keep movement inside the container to a minimum. Items must be crated or palletized (no loose boxes), and must be secured.

Intermodal Shipping is cheaper for longer distances

The rub, however, is that the transit time is longer. And once an item is picked up and in transit, there’s no stopping the freight until it’s delivered. Consequently, intermodal shipping is for items that are not time-sensitive.

The weight limit for this type of shipping is 42,500 pounds

Anything over that will need to be broken up into multiple containers and shipments.

Getting a quote is similar to truckload shipping

To get the most accurate quote you’ll need: pickup and delivery locations (lanes), product description, weight, pallet or crate count, value, and the urgency level that the freight needs to be delivered. It’s very rare to receive a same-day pickup (at least 24 hours is needed to plan a pickup), so patience is a virtue in intermodal shipping. The good news is that intermodal capacity is known a week in advance, so you have plenty of time to plan.

There’s a long list of things that cannot be shipped intermodally…

So you’ll need to check with your freight broker to see if you product is one of them. Some popular items that cannot be shipped include: fruits, vegetables, fish, medicines, over-dimensional products, rockets, batteries, hazardous material, furs & pelts, tobacco products, and motor vehicles. So yeah, lots of stuff. We’ve covered the basics of intermodal shipping in this blog, but there’s always more to learn. For more information, contact our truckload team. They can get you a freight quote, and see if intermodal shipping is an option for you and your shipments.

Dealing with Damaged Freight

Damaged Freight One of the harsh realities of the shipping industry lies in Damaged Freight. The fact is, no matter what you do to avoid damaged freight, chances are you’ll experience it eventually in LTL shipping. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about what to do when damaged freight shows up at your door. 1. Inspect the freight This is the most important part of the process. When you receive an LTL shipment it’s imperative that you inspect the freight for damage before signing the Delivery Receipt/ Proof of Delivery. Notate any damage to the product on the POD. If you don’t, you won’t be able to file a claim. 2. To accept or refuse the freight Depends. If the freight is damaged enough that you’ll want to file a claim, do not accept the freight. Refuse the freight. The carrier will take it back to the terminal, and then you’ll need to contact your broker to ship it back free astray. If the damage is minor and you won’t need to file a claim, go ahead and accept the freight, but NOTE THE DAMAGE ON THE POD. 3. Get freight insurance We talk about this all the time, but it’s very important. It helps the claims process immensely, giving you a better chance at getting paid out for any damaged freight. If your freight’s value is over the average deductible ($500), get insurance. It’s the best way to handle damaged freight. 4. Concealed damage Sometimes LTL damage is concealed inside the packaging of a shipment. If you think that your freight might be damaged, but there’s no physical signs of damage to the exterior of the shipment, notate that there may be concealed damage on the POD when you accept the freight. It’s not a full-proof system, but it helps in case a claim needs to be filed later. Remember, there’s no guarantee in LTL shipping that freight will be fully compensated in the event of damage. Make sure to get insurance and package your shipment correctly, before the freight carrier picks it up.

Everything You Need To Know About Your Freight Charges

freight charges When it comes to your freight charges, there is a lot to know. In an industry like the freight industry, even a good broker is going to run into issues concerning freight charges. When there’s (at minimum) three parties coordinating on picking up and delivering freight across hundreds (or thousands) of miles, there’s bound to be some confusion. This doesn’t mean you should be afraid of your freight charges! Hardly. A good freight education is the best way to avoid issues, and working with a great freight broker helps too. Rest assured, if you pay attention to the points we make in this blog, you can approach your freight shipping equipped with the knowledge necessary to easily understand your freight charges, and better avoid any sort of discrepancies.

1.) Not all freight charges are created equal

Freight charges are not universal. In LTL shipping, we use dozens of different carriers. Some are large national carriers, with coverage maps that stretch across the continental United States, into Canada and Puerto Rico, and employ thousands of trucks and drivers. Others are smaller, regional carriers, that specialize in very particular geographic areas, and can offer great freight rates and service for these areas. By utilizing such a collection of carriers, brokers can offer their customers the best freight quotes available. However, each of these carriers has their own freight tariffs and agreements on particular charges, just like they have their own freight quotes. Sometimes, brokers can negotiate flat rate agreements in FAKs (Freight of All Kinds) with particular carriers, but for the most part, a liftgate charge with a carrier like Roadrunner might be different than a liftgate charge with New Penn. This kind of arrangement will apply to all sorts of charges: residential delivery, volume quotes, reweigh or reclass charges, limited access shipping, etc. Remember, just because a liftgate cost you $50 on your last shipment, doesn’t necessarily mean it will cost the same on your next one.

2.) Truckload freight charges are very different from LTL

The practices of full truckload shipping and LTL are very different. The quoting process is different. The carrier selection and vetting process is different. The tracking and insurance practices are different. When it comes to truckload vs LTL, there are very few rules that can be applied to both. Of course, this applies to freight charges as well. Freight charges between truckload and LTL can vary wildly, depending on a variety of factors. Though a good broker will always be negotiating for better rates with LTL carriers, freight lanes and routes should not change too much from day-to-day. Truckload shipping quotes, on the other hand, vary based on capacity and markets. A truckload quote in July will probably be different than one in December, or even August! Certain parts of the country feel crunch around produce seasons each year, and holidays always affect full truckload freight charges. Each shipment, LTL or otherwise, is different, so don’t assume that your freight rates will always be the same.

3.) Freight charges can still apply to damaged freight

Damaged freight is one of the most frustrating parts of the shipping industry. Part of this is because damaged freight, at least in one form or another, is unavoidable. If you’re a frequent shipper, odds are that you will have to deal with damaged freight at least once. And before that day comes, it’s important to understand that freight charges can still apply to damaged freight. Just because your freight is damaged in transit by the carrier doesn’t mean that you are not responsible for those freight charges. There are lots of damaged freight instructions and processes, and different carriers have different ways of dealing with damaged freight, but in all instances you or your broker will have to file a damaged freight claim with the carrier. Different carriers have different coverages for freight that is partially damaged, fully damaged, or lost, but the initial freight invoices still have to be paid. Think of them as two separate transactions. Regardless of damage, you have to pay the initial freight invoice. If something went wrong, you file a freight claim and depending on the carrier’s coverage policies, you get back some percentage of that initial payment. The process of damaged freight is admittedly vague and convoluted. It’s important to get a handle on the insurance policies and coverages offered by the carrier you’re using based on your item’s freight class or declared value BEFORE you ship. If you’re moving expensive freight, we highly recommend investing in third party insurance, as they streamline the process, deal with the carriers directly, and are more likely to compensate you quickly for your legitimate loss or damage. One paragraph is hardly enough to cover damaged freight, so reach out to your broker for further clarification.

4.) Documentation is always needed to fight invoice discrepancies

Some of the most common invoice discrepancies we find here at FreightPros are reclasses and reweighs. These happen when the information on the bill of lading does not match the actual freight being shipped. Items are notated at lower classes or lower weights on the BOL to get a lower freight rate. If the carrier inspects the freight and determines the shipment is a different class, or weighs more than it says on the BOL, you might run into a reclass or reweigh. If the shipper doesn’t want to pay that additional charge, they’ll need to prove that their initial information on class or weight was correct. To do this, they need to supply the carrier with sufficient documentation in the form of manufacturer specifications on weight or commodity, not to mention NMFC numbers or density calculations. Your broker can help you compile this information and fight the carrier, but in all instances, specific documentation is a must. Without it, you will be responsible for the additional freight charges. Some freight carriers have better track records when it comes to reweighs and reclasses, so check with your broker to make sure you’re shipping with the right carrier. It’s also important to get exact weight and classes on the BOL. The more information available to the carrier on the bill of lading, the less chance of a discrepancy.

Freight Class Explained…

In conclusion, I must admit that the title, Everything You Need To Know About Your Freight Charges, is a bit of a misnomer. After years in the industry, I’m convinced you can NEVER know everything there is to know about freight. The industry changes too often, and different regulations and practices pop up each year like new flowers. But if you want to get the most out of your freight shipping experience, pay attention to the details before you ship. Invest in good freight carriers and freight insurance for expensive items, and if you’re a frequent shipper, a good freight broker can do wonders.

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