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4 Tips for Shipper/Receiver Etiquette at Loading Docks and Beyond

December 3, 2021 Kevin Baxter

Shipping Receiving

Freight and logistics is a high-stakes game for shipper/receivers and truckers who carry the freight - perhaps more than ever with supply chain stresses. As InTek President Shelli Austin says, it can feel like a logistics tug-of-war! But that doesn't mean it needs to be contentious between all parties. A simple Google search will show a variety of tips for trucker etiquette at the docks, but there's not too much guidance out there for shipper/receiver etiquette. So we thought we'd offer a few tips from our experience that shipper/receivers can follow to make life easier for those transporting loads - and themselves.

The Logistics Tug-of-War

Let's start with a look at where the industry stands now as everyone deals with their own challenges when it comes to labor, equipment, time, storage issues, and more. It'll quickly become clear why the term tug-of-war is an appropriate characterization. Tug of War

Shippers/receivers are moving more toward set appointments for pickups and deliveries to ensure adequate staffing in a labor shortage environment. On the other hand, carriers are refusing deliveries with set appointments because they want flexibility to keep drivers moving. In other words, carriers are worried about down time if a driver gets in early or missing an appointment window due to unforeseen delays. On top of the appointment issue, many shipper/receivers require early morning deliveries (between 1 and 5 a.m.), based on their lumper services. However, carriers may either refuse to deliver during that timeframe, or charge extra to do so.

The delivery appointment/timing issue leads into the next conflict - if for whatever reason a carrier cannot deliver in the designated window, shipper/receivers may have a long delay in rescheduling the delivery, sometimes up to two weeks due to packed schedules. On the carrier side, they may add storage charges for each day the load is in their hands beyond the initial plan - and who pays them becomes an added complication.

And finally in this non-exhaustive list of conflicting priorities, some shippers/receivers prefer drop deliveries at at the origin and destination for loading/unloading flexibility. Drop deliveries for those unaware occur when the carrier leaves a full container at the dock, then returns to pick it up empty later. Intermodal carriers tend to prefer this method, but OTR (over the road) carriers do not, and may refuse to work with those desiring drop deliveries. It's clear that there are competing priorities, so what can be done to ease the conflict?

How to be a good shipper/receiver

In the current climate, good shipper/receivers can do their part to make the process easier for carriers. This in turn may make a carrier more likely to work with a given company - if they feel their needs are well-considered. As promised, here are those 4 tips:

  • Offer drop capabilities for larger volumes - As noted above, especially intermodal carriers appreciate this option.
  • Be flexible on appointments - This means longer windows whenever possible for pickup and delivery which helps accommodate drivers running early or late.
  • Unload or load timely upon arrival - When the driver arrives, as noted previously, the faster the unload/load process takes place, the less time they'll be idle - and that makes carriers happy.
  • Be adaptable to unforeseen circumstances - With various factors beyond carriers' control causing delays, sometimes appointment windows simply cannot be met. Offering flexibility and showing a willingness to work with carriers when these issues arise helps with both that particular pickup/delivery, fosters a positive relationship moving forward.

More freight & logistics tips and information

This article came about from a discussion our president Shelli Austin had with one of InTek's clients, in which she relayed a similar set of tips based on her extensive experience in the industry. If you're one of our clients, you can expect this type of service above and beyond getting your important shipments to the right place at the right time for the right price. 

If you're ready to take the next step, at InTek Freight & Logistics, we can help. Just tell us what you need and we'll discuss how our expertise can help with the unique shipping challenges your business faces. Rather do a bit more research first? View our Freight Guides for comprehensive articles and eBooks on all things freight and logistics.

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