Shipping Lithium Batteries: What Are the Risks & How Can You Ship Them

From your laptop and cell phone to your child’s favorite toys, lithium batteries have become a ubiquitous source of power for modern life. Unfortunately, these rechargeable batteries have some serious flaws that go beyond lifespan or the time it takes to recharge them. As recent episodes with the Samsung Note 7 phone (as well as the so-called hoverboards, e-cigarettes, and others) brought to light, lithium batteries, in the right circumstances, can combust.

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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: I’ll discuss some of the further implications of these changes from a freight broker’s perspective in a subsequent blog post next week.  

Missed Freight Pickups

That time my freight pickup was missed. Remember that moment when you needed to get to the store before it closed, but just couldn’t make it in time? It’s not fun for anyone but sometimes things happen in life that are just out of our control. Unfortunately, it’s not much different in the world of freight and freight pickup issues. Freight Pickup Frustration Missed freight pickups are especially common on the LTL side of this industry and there could be a multitude of reasons as to why. The most common reasons are: driver tardiness, driver / dispatch miscommunications or simply the truck was filled with freight sooner than expected. Although they can plan their route flawlessly before leaving their terminal, a driver can never fully plan for what the road has in store for them. Dispatch may call the driver while they are on their current route asking them to make a few more stops along the way, thus causing a delay in the pickup of other shipments scheduled for later that day. When pickups are missed, we all lose a little. Your freight isn’t moving, the carrier has to try again another day, and depending on your broker, there’s a lot of back-end work going on as well. At FreightPros it’s not so much just about the missed pick up, but more importantly, it’s about what happens next and how we deliver a quality freight experience to our customers. We run a PRO report every morning to find out which LTL shipments from the previous day did not get assigned a PRO (also known as a tracking number). From there, our operations team will reach out regarding all shipments that have not been assigned a PRO to find out why it missed pickup. If the shipment misses pickup for reasons such as: they were told “there was no freight” or because the packaging was an issue, we will reach out to the customer to try to resolve the issue. If it was purely because the carrier could not make it to the location in time or the truck was full we will go ahead and put the shipment back on the carrier’s schedule for pick up. When your freight misses pickup there is no need to panic, we will get that shipment back on board for you the following business day. If ever you have a time sensitive shipment, I do highly suggest you express urgency when discussing shipment details with your freight provider, as this will allow them to find an option that best suits your needs.

Freight Packaging for LTL, Truckload, and Parcel Shipping

freight packaging Freight packaging is one of the most important parts of your freight shipping experience. Bad packaging can introduce you to damaged freight, expensive and time-consuming claim processes, and additional reclass fees. Conversely, using correct freight packaging practices can protect you from these things. If you’re going to get the most out of your LTL, truckload, or small package shipping, it’s important to nail the packaging part. At the end of the day, freight packaging can be just as important as getting the best shipping quote, or selecting the correct freight class.

Less Than Truckload

The majority of Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipments are going to require some sort of packaging. There are the rare and unique items that can be shipped without any sort of packaging (kayaks, for example), but there are a number of reasons that freight packaging is actually a good thing, and one that shouldn’t be skimped on. The main reason for correct packaging is cargo safety, not just for your shipment, but for others as well. In LTL shipping, your freight will be on a truck with a number of other people’s shipments. In order to protect all the freight inside the truck through the pickup and delivery processes, having the right packaging is a must. The most common package you’ll find in both LTL and Truckload is the pallet. Pallets come in a variety of sizes, but the standard pallet size is going to be 48″ x 40″ — that’s Length x Width. You’ll also find a fair number of pallets that are sized 48″ x 48″. While some items can be strapped directly to the pallet, most items should be boxed or crated. Use common sense when boxing your shipment. For instance, if you’re shipping something fragile and breakable, use extra care and packing material such as packing peanuts, newspapers, and bubble wrap. Once your items are properly boxed, wrap them all together using industrial strength plastic wrap. Make sure to use the wrap to sufficiently attach not only the boxes together, but the boxes to the pallet as well. The standard LTL shipment is going to do a lot of moving, so keep that in mind when you’re packing your freight. Don’t forget that freight insurance is always available.

Truckload & Flatbed

Unlike LTL, your freight will usually remain on the same truck from pickup to delivery. Though this does give your freight a bit more security from damage, many of the same packaging practices you’ll find in LTL can be used for standard dry van truckload shipments. You’ll want to palletize your freight, and make sure to note whether your items can be stacked or not. Truckload shipments do not use freight class, so you won’t have to worry about that, but it’s still a good idea to know your freight’s exact dimensions and weight, with all packaging and pallets included. If you’re doing a reefer freight shipment, make sure that you’ve properly packaged all your items so that in case of puncture or other damage (accidents happen), not all of your items will be contaminated by spilled food or liquid. And when it comes to flatbed shipping, confirm whether the carrier supplies straps and tarps before scheduling the pickup. You’ll need proper packaging for every kind of large flatbed load, even if its not a pallet or crate.

Parcel & Small Package

Finally, we’ve come to freight packaging for parcel shipping. Because of the limited weight of all small package shipments (150 lbs. or less), you won’t have to worry about pallets or crates. Parcel shipping also doesn’t use freight class when it comes to rates, so you won’t have to worry if your packaging is affecting your freight quote. When packaging your small package shipment just use a standard shipping box. There are numerous sizes available depending on your shipment needs. Once again, use common sense when packaging your parcel shipments. More padding and protection for fragile items, etc. Parcel shipping is going to be bumped and tossed around from pickup to delivery, so don’t skimp on the bubble wrap and packing tape.

Auxiliary Power Units (APU) Weight Exemption Guide

apu Today, we’re publishing a guest post from our friends over at Track Your Truck. If you’re shipping freight state-to-state, it’s important to recognize weight limits, especially with the weight additions of APUs. Take a look at their convenient guide below for more info… Auxiliary power units (regularly referred to as APUs) remove the need to run truck engines on idle while parked and are commonly used by truck drivers to monitor their fuel use. One drawback of these units is that they ordinarily weigh several hundred pounds, and could be problematic for drivers who carry near the maximum weight limits. With the president’s latest expansion of the MAP-21 bill dealing with state-by-state APU regulations, this may be confusing to drivers who frequently cross state lines. Below we’ve placed a convenient guide, created by Track Your Truck that informs drivers just how much APU weight is exempt in each state. Check it out:

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