Most common freight shipping questions
There’s a lot that can happen between Point A, when an order leaves your hands, and Point B, when it arrives at a customer’s door. Delivering a great shipping experience is just as important as delivering a great product—according to one study, 39% of people surveyed said they wouldn’t buy again from an online store with a negative shipping experience.
With a bit of prep work to define and communicate your standard shipping policies, and some thought given to how you’ll handle specific inquiries, you’ll be able to handle the most common shipping questions customers have—and create a great experience for them even when the order is literally out of your hands.
Lay the foundation with a shipping policy page
When faced with a purchase roadblock or question about their existing order, the first place many customers will check is a store’s shipping policy or FAQ page. Populating this page with the right information helps customers find answers quickly, and reduces the need for them to contact you. It can also win sales: According to the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper survey, 68% of online shoppers view a shipping policy before making a purchase.
Setting up a shipping policies page is straightforward, too. Create a new page on your store, add a link to the page in your footer, and make sure to include information about:
Shipping options and delivery times
Returns and refunds
Customs and international shipping availability
Lost or damaged packages
The details of any individual policy will depend on your business, your products, and your margins, but having a central location to direct your customers to is the first step in proactively managing common questions about shipping.
Q: What can be shipped with freight shipping and what are my options?
A: Regardless of the amount of freight or its final destination, Shipping companies typically offer the services to handle it all. Common freight shipping options include truckload (TL), less than truckload (LTL), expedited LTL and intermodal. If you have questions regarding which shipping option best fits your needs, take a look at our post Freight Shipping: What Option Best Fits Your Needs?
Q: How are freight shipping rates determined?
A: Freight shipping rates are typically dependent on a variety of factors, including the type of freight being shipped, mode of transport, weight, distance and more. Here's a quick snapshot of how these rates are determined based on the selected shipping option:
LTL. LTL rates are largely dependent on the freight class. Other fees are typically applied for additional services and actions like delivery appointments and liftgate services.
Truckload. For truckload rates, the common determination is an amount per-mile which may or may not be inclusive of the fuel surcharge. Further charges may be added for things like detention and driver assistance.Flatbed. Flatbed rates are based on the type of equipment, mileage and total weight of the shipment. If there is oversized freight onboard, extra charges may apply and additional transit time could be necessary.
Q: Can I estimate my freight dimensions and weight?
A: Freight dimensions and freight weight should never be estimated. It's critical to measure the length, width and height to the nearest inch, especially for LTL shipping, as these carriers rely on exact dimensions to determine how much freight can fit on one truck. Incorrect or estimated measurements could result in a costly carrier adjustment and other freight accessorial fees.
Much like freight dimensions, weight needs to be accurate as well. Freight carriers typically use the listed weight to determine how much freight can fit into an individual truck. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has truck weight regulations in place and incorrect weights will likely also lead to pricing adjustments.
Q: What's the best way to package my fragile goods?
A: When packing fragile items for a shipment, it's important to pack them with special care in order to avoid damage during the shipping process. While crating the fragile items is a necessary precaution, there are other things that can be done to further protect them, including:
Wrapping items such as glass separately. This protects them from coming into contact with non-fragile items.
Packing as many fragile items into one crate as possible so there is limited movement within the crate during transit.
Q: What is a BOL?
A: BOL in the freight shipping industry stands for bill of lading. This document works as a receipt of freight services, or a contract between the carrier and the freight shipper that provides all the necessary details to process and invoice a shipment correctly (date of shipment, number of units, freight classification, weight, etc.). The BOL is created and then presented to the carrier at pickup. The shipper retains a copy of the BOL for their own records.
Q: How do I ship hazardous materials?
A: The U.S. DOT considers any material that poses an unreasonable risk to health, safety or property as hazardous, and has classes in place to differentiate the types. Here are the different classes of hazardous materials:
DOT Hazard Class 1: Explosives
DOT Hazard Class 2: Gases
DOT Hazard Class 3: Flammable liquids
DOT Hazard Class 4: Flammable solids, spontaneously combustible materials, and materials that are dangerous when wet
DOT Hazard Class 5: Oxidizers and organic peroxides
DOT Hazard Class 6: Poisons and etiologic materials
DOT Hazard Class 7: Radioactive material
DOT Hazard Class 8: Corrosives
DOT Hazard Class 9: Miscellaneous dangerous substances and articles
ORM-D: Other regulated material
Before shipping these materials, the class must be identified and the shipper must find a carrier that meets all the DOT safety and transportation requirements.
Q: Can transit time of freight be guaranteed?
A: While freight shipping services are very reliable, shipments do not typically come with a guaranteed transit time unless it is requested. Pickup day is not included in the qualification and calculation of transit time.