Shipping Environment


package shipping environment

The Shipping Environment — or– Why Your Box Arrived Looking the Way it Did

Most people have a very optimistic view of what happens in the package shipping process…. A UPS driver once told us this story.

An elderly lady brings an 8” x 8”x 8” box to a shipping counter. The clerk notices there are This Side Up labels on all 4 sides.

Lady, he says, UPS cannot honor This Side Up instructions. The box will probably get turned over several times in transit.

The lady is very concerned. But, she says, if you turn the box over, the water will run out and the goldfish will die.

People bring us boxes every day assuming their TV will never get dropped or no one will stack heavy boxes on top of their Christmas tree ornaments. It ain’t so. It is the shipper’s obligation (and you are the shipper) to understand the shipping environment and to pack well enough for the contents to arrive intact.

What is the shipping environment?

Here’s the very best handling you can expect for a box weighing, say, 50 pounds:

It will get turned end over end, maybe 10 times during a trip as it is moved around the warehouse and the delivery truck. It will get dropped 4 or 5 inches at least half a dozen times as busy men stack it in trucks or in the warehouse. During the longest leg of the journey, it will sit for hours or even days with a hundred pounds or more of boxes stacked on top of it. And, all the loose parts within the box will vibrate against each other for hours while the carrier’s truck is in motion. On a wet delivery day the box may sit on the wet (but not puddled) floor of the delivery truck. That is the very best handling you can hope for.

With a minor amount of mishandling, the box gets dropped a foot once or twice during the trip or someone walks on it while trying to get another box out of the truck. Maybe, the box gets firmly nudged a few times by a hand truck. This is still considered reasonable handling.

Smaller boxes would probably not have such heavy loads placed on them. The shipping industry balances out the abuse by throwing smaller boxes. Some automated postal equipment drops your box more than 3 feet –and then drops other boxes on top of it. The writer has actually seen an ad in which a trucking company proudly showed how gently it threw your boxes! — more than 25 feet! — but underhand.

With slightly more bad luck, the 50 pound box falls 3 feet off the top of a stack of boxes. Maybe the box sits out in the rain after delivery to the consignee’s front porch. This is a bit abusive, but the shipping industry feels your packing ought to handle this.

With a lot of bad luck, the box falls 5 or 6 feet from the top of a stack of boxes. And on a really bad day, it gets punctured by a fork lift truck. Both of these incidents would be considered unreasonably rough handling by the carrier. And the carrier ought to pay an insurance claim.

It’s not surprising that a standard shipping requirement is that the box should be able to take repeated 42 inch drops.

It’s important for the shipper (that’s you) to realize that carriers will rarely change their handling because you put a GLASS or FRAGILE label on a box.

Any item carried by truck or parcel carriers simply has to be protected by adequate packing.

We should note that the above remarks describe package shipping — not moving. Generally, movers handle your goods more carefully than freight companies. Movers will, generally, respect FRAGILE labels. Movers, generally, will respect THIS SIDE UP labels. Movers very rarely have problems with rain or fork lift trucks.

We need to apply one appendage to our description of the package shipping environment — and that is the consignee environment. We find a sizeable fraction of the damage done to goods in transit (maybe 20% to 30%) is done by the consignee (the person receiving the box) during the unpacking process. You would think most people would check to be sure all the parts were in view before throwing out a large box or would not pull hard on antique furniture while unpacking it. We find otherwise. Our solution has been to put very detailed instructions for unpacking on most of the boxes we ship. It seems to help a lot.

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