How to Successfully Handle Freight When Shipping Fragile Items

Shipping fragile items can feel stressful if you are the shipper or receiver. Common questions are: How do I prepare my freight for safe shipment? Will the freight be transported safely with no breakage? What do I do if something breaks?

In this article we will advise on how shippers can safely transport their fragile items to minimize the risk of loss.

Commonly Shipped Fragile Items

Many shipped items are considered fragile. Common ones include electronics, ceramics, cosmetics, glasses, and bottles. 

For shippers moving bottle freight, extra care must be taken during packaging and transit to ensure that there are no breakages that may cause leakage into surrounding freight. Freight shipping for bottles may also include added urgency as contents may be perishable or have a limited lifespan, if not maintained in optimal temperatures.

Packaging for Shipping Fragile Items

For fragile items, packaging is one of the most important factors in whether or not the freight will arrive without damage. There are many different types of dunnage, or materials used to protect fragile items, that can be used during shipping.

Common types of freight dunnage

Depending on the items you are shipping, you may use a combination of one or more of these packing materials to protect fragile items:

  • Air pillows
  • Bubble wrap
  • Blown foam or molded foam inserts
  • Kraft paper
  • Molded fiber that fits the exact dimensions of each item
  • Packing peanuts

Shipping fragile items also requires adequate exterior packaging such as boxes on pallets or wooden crates. 

Using wooden crates for shipping fragile items

Wooden crates are especially useful for longer trips and heavier items. If you have a large amount of freight, compiling the items into one or more wooden crates provides extra protection as well as minimizes the potential for accidental ripping or unsealing of exterior packaging. 

Wooden crates can also come in standard and non-standard sizes, providing flexibility for the shipper.

Label your packages when shipping fragile items

Once you have packaged your freight for protection, be sure to affix “fragile” labels or markings on the packaging or crates to alert your freight company that the goods need special care when handling.

Additionally, add “this side up” labels or markings so that your freight is not inadvertently transported on its side or upside down.

By using the proper dunnage, crating, and labels, your freight will be transported more smoothly when shipping fragile items.  

Communicating with your freight company when shipping fragile items

When requesting pickup and delivery for your fragile items shipment, make it clear in your freight documentation and in your conversations with the freight service, that your shipment includes fragile items. They will appreciate knowing this in advance of pickup.

Purchase freight insurance

Freight insurance will provide you with additional coverage beyond what is included in the carrier’s insurance plan. For fragile or other specialty items of high value, freight insurance is always recommended so that you limit your exposure to potential losses when shipping fragile items. 

Freight insurance will cover incidents including loss, damage, mishandling, temperature damages, and theft. Freight Insurance will also provide additional coverage for natural disasters or vehicle accidents. 

While carrier liability insurance will cover losses due to lost, damaged, or delayed freight shipments, the reimbursement rates are not necessarily at 100% of the freight value. Freight insurance is a smart way to ensure protection for your fragile freight shipment.

Choosing LTL or FTL when shipping fragile items

The choice between LTL or FTL is a real consideration when shipping fragile items. The choice between LTL and FTL depends on a number of factors:

Shipment size

For shipments that are less than a truckload (LTL shipping) the most cost-effective way to ship the freight is likely via LTL. For shipments that are more than half of a truckload or are a full truckload, FTL is the best choice.

Speed to delivery

For fragile freight shipments that need to be picked up and delivered quickly, FTL shipping may be the best choice even if there is not a full truckload of freight. While the cost to ship the freight may be higher than via LTL, your FTL truck will not have stops in between pickup and destination. This can speed up delivery considerably.

Minimizing freight handling 

FTL is a better option than LTL if you want to ensure that your freight is not handled more often than it absolutely needs to be. With FTL shipping, your freight should have two handling times: one at the point of pickup and the second at point of delivery. LTL shipments are more likely to have additional handling if the freight needs to be moved from one truck to another during transit.

An additional advantage of FTL shipping is that your freight will not be combined with anyone else’s. This minimizes the potential for freight shifting damage caused by another shipper’s freight.

Freight shipping cost

LTL is typically less expensive since costs are based on weight, pallet or dimensions. LTL shipments can be as small as one pallet, with the costs commensurate. LTL may also offer last minute rate reprieves if a truck has room on it and is looking to add additional freight. 

That being said, one may find a good rate for an FTL shipment if a carrier happens to have a truck available and it is advantageous for them to pick up where your freight is located and deliver where it needs to go. A good freight broker will help you find the best shipping option. Always ask!

For additional information on the differences between LTL and FTL freight, check out our guides on when to use LTL shipping and when to use FTL shipping.

Fragile items delivery inspection

Finally, as with any shipment, inspecting upon arrival is a must. If the receiver signs the POD, or Proof of Delivery, without noting any damage, it may be difficult to submit a freight insurance claim if damage is discovered later.

For high value, fragile items, a quick inspection by opening one or more crates to check the overall condition of the shipment, is a good idea. If you see any damage to the individual items or the exterior of your packaging, crate, or pallet, take pictures or even video to use as proof in the event an insurance claim is required. 

A few minutes of inspection can help prevent any challenges to freight damage losses.

Choosing Your Freight Carrier for Shipping Fragile Items

Since 1991, On Track Freight Systems has provided trucking and logistics services in New York City, the Northeast, and throughout the United States. Our decades-long track record of handling freight, including fragile and specialized freight, gives us unique capabilities that most 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. Contact On Track today to request your free LTL or FTL shipping quote.