Freight Shipping Checklist for Domestic US Shipments

For shippers that are new to handling logistics (we all start somewhere, right?) being educated on what to be prepared for in what can be a confusing process helps ensure a smooth shipment. To that end, we’ve assembled the most common freight shipping checklist items to help shippers move their freight confidently.

Handy Freight Shipping Checklist

Choose how you are going to ship your freight

Determine how you want to ship your freight – LTL, FTL, intermodal or flat rate pallet shipping. As a general rule, LTL are for partial truckloads and may take longer for freight to be delivered and FTL is for full truckloads, providing the benefit of faster delivery and no truck transfers.

If you are not sure what type of freight is right for you, refer to our guide on the different types of freight.

Package your freight

Package your freight on pallets. Be sure that your pallets are in good condition (not cracked, broken, or the wood is damaged by exposure.) Use adequate padding or bubble wrap for delicate items and use protective foam or peanuts to surround boxed items. Be sure to shrink-wrap the palletized freight tightly so that the individual boxes or items can not move around or come loose during transit.

Learn more about packaging in our guide on the top shipping mistakes to avoid.

Measure and weigh the packaged freight

It is important to have an accurate weight for your fully packaged goods so that you know how much your shipment will cost. Since freight is often determined by class, having the correct weight and dimensions will ensure that there are no surprises in your invoice. 

Inaccurate weight can also cause problems for the carrier during weight stops while the truck is in transit, delaying your shipment and possibly resulting in fines.

For some shippers, choosing flat rate pallet shipping is more advantageous as it provides greater predictability of shipping costs.

Complete your Freight Bill of Lading 

Your Bill of Lading is an important document used to validate your shipment at point of pickup and delivery and is used to generate your invoice. The Bill of Lading includes the following pieces of information:

  • Items being shipped (description, number, value)
  • The weight of the shipment
  • The originating location
  • The pickup date and time
  • The destination

Your Bill of Lading is signed off on by the carrier at time of pickup and acts as a record of the transaction. A common mistake for shippers is to not have the Bill of Lading ready at time of pickup, causing frustrating delays for the carrier and a rush to complete the document by the shipper, resulting in inaccuracies.

Shipping Hazardous Materials

If you are shipping hazardous materials, along with the Bill of Lading you will also need to provide a completed SDS or Safety Data Sheet. The SDS is a document that includes information about the chemical properties of the shipment, any potential physical or environmental health hazards, safety precautions for handling and storing the materials, first aid and fire-fighting guidance, recommendations for responding to leaks or spills, and proper disposal of the materials. 

Assess the Pickup Location Facilities

Does the pickup location include a dock or will the carrier have to provide a truck with a liftgate? If the pickup location does not have a dock and a liftgate is not requested, chances are, your shipment will have to be rescheduled for pickup at another time. Be aware that liftgate service is an additional charge.

City pickups

Is your pickup location in a downtown location where parking is limited? Be aware that it can be difficult to pick up large freight in city locations if there are not adequate dock or truck temporary parking capabilities.

Rural pickups

Is your pickup location in a rural area with unpaved roads or with a limited view for backing up if needed? If your pickup location has any of these potential challenges, be sure to alert the carrier so that they can be prepared with any special equipment that might be needed to accommodate the pickup.

Get a Quote

Always contact your carrier or broker to confirm the price for shipping your freight. Unless you have contracted a flat rate pallet pricing structure, the cost to ship your freight may vary over time so it’s best to have the price agreed upon in writing beforehand. This will eliminate any unnecessary surprises when you receive your invoice!

When requesting your quote, have handy the weight and dimensions of your freight, how you want to ship the freight (LTL, FTL, etc.,) if the items need any special handling, the pickup location address and particulars and the destination location address and particulars. 

Schedule Your Pickup 

Once you are ready to schedule pickup, contact your carrier to confirm a date and time. Some carriers will require a window of when they will be able to pick up your freight so be sure to have someone at the pickup location ready and available with a completed Bill of Lading. Also be sure that if your pickup location has a dock facility, that there will be an available spot for the carrier’s truck.

Assess the Destination Facilities

Just as with assessing the pickup location, it is important for the carrier to be prepared for any special requirements at the destination. If the destination does not have a dock, be sure to indicate that a liftgate is needed for delivery. If parking or maneuvering a large truck is challenging, provide fair warning.

Generally, deliveries are made to a dock or exterior of a building, so if inside delivery is requested, be sure to request that beforehand so that the proper carrier for delivery can be assigned. Be aware that ‘inside delivery” will only mean within the building’s front door, and not to a specific location within a building.

Tracking During Transit

Most carriers provide status updates while your freight is in transit – especially if the shipment will take several days or transfer from one truck to another. 

Schedule Your Delivery

Deliveries are typically only made within normal business operating hours and not on weekends or late hours. In most cases, the carrier will call ahead prior to delivery. Just as with pickup, be sure to have someone available to accept delivery and to sign the Bill of Lading.

Choose On Track for Your Freight Shipping and Logistics

We hope that this freight shipping checklist was helpful to you!

Since 1991, On Track Freight Systems has provided fast and streamlined logistics and trucking services along with our intermodal and brokerage services through our robust network of premium partners. Our decades-long track record of handling freight, including specialized freight, has provided us unique capabilities that other carriers don’t have.

We make it easy to work with us through our online tool to request rate quotes, schedule pickups, and track shipments real-time.

We offer same day pickups and next day delivery service within the New York/New Jersey metro area.