Category Archives: Blog

How To Ship Hazardous Materials (Hazmat)?

When it comes to shipping hazardous materials, safety is key. Hazardous freight is sensitive to external influences and can be very dangerous, so preparing and shipping hazardous materials requires thorough planning, careful approach, and responsible execution. It is your responsibility as a shipper to properly pack and classify the goods.

It can become challenging to learn all the intricacies of the shipping process and to comply with regulations, however, understanding the basics of hazmat shipping is essential to safely transport goods.

How to ship hazmat?

Classification

The first, essential step in hazmat shipping is finding your items on the classification table. Properly classifying your goods is a must, since the rest of the shipping process depends on it.

How to determine your hazard class?

First, check the Safety Data Sheet (SDS). The majority of certified manufacturers and vendors provide SDS with the materials. This document already contains the correct hazard classification, a four-digit ID code, and other useful information on the shipment.

Once you have looked through SDS, you will need to use the Hazard Material Table to determine the classification. In the table, you will find all the required additional information, such as packing materials, labels, additional provisions, etc. Also, some types of hazmat, like explosives, require PHMSA’s endorsement of the classification type before the shipment.

Packaging and labeling

After classifying your hazardous materials, you will obtain a packaging section for your specific type of shipment. For your convenience, PHMSA has developed a guide for understanding the packaging types. You should comply with the regulations and follow the instructions when packaging your goods. After properly securing the shipment, it is critical to attach the right label. You may also need to attach a shipping paper with all the shipment information mentioned.

Shipping

After your freight is packaged, labeled, and documentation is prepared, you can book a shipment with a reliable transportation partner who knows the specifics of hazmat shipping. Communicate all the shipping details with your carrier or shipping company to make sure everything is fine.

How To Get The Best Freight Shipping Rates In The Current Market

Securing the lowest freight rate and finding the right price match for your freight has always been a challenge. In today’s uncertain market, it is even more difficult to find capacity and freight shipping rates. Despite some companies feeling pressure to offer lower freight rates, the market remains uncertain, and rates may jump higher than before the pandemic.

While it is complicated to predict how the industry will evolve, you can still navigate the freight market in a way to get the best freight rate and secure the required capacity.

5 ways to get the best freight shipping rate

Plan in advance

Even in these uncertain times, paying in advance can significantly lower your freight rate. The sooner you plan your shipments, the easier will it be to find the right match for your freight. Not only will you be able to choose from a  wider variety of carriers, but also increase your chances of finding a lower shipping rate. Many carriers offer this option if you pay 1-2 months prior to the shipping date.

Consolidate shipments

An old-but-gold rule that always lets you save on freight shipping is consolidation. If you have the possibility to ship freight less frequently, but in larger volumes, it can benefit your budget. It will be cheaper to ship one properly stacked, consolidated load then stopping across multiple locations, or shipping items separately. It is also beneficial in terms of shipment tracking and billing, so you will also save time.

Take advantage of the spot rates

Spot rates are the last-minute rates that are offered by carriers exclusively at the moment as a one-time special. If your shipment process is highly organized and everything is pre-planned, you won’t likely benefit from this practice, but if you are not pressed, you can give it a shot. Spot rates can sometimes be significantly lower than contract rates.

Communicate with the carriers

Communication is key, and shipper/carrier relationships are essential. There are many ways to secure or lower the rate with the right carrier if you keep in touch with them. Many companies are now offering short-term discount programs for their shippers to help overcome business obstacles during the pandemic. And as rates are generally down, there is a possibility to negotiate the terms with your carrier that will benefit both of you.

Work with a 3PL

Ultimately, the best way to stay on top of the market trends is to work with a reputable 3PL. These logistics professionals will take responsibility for securing capacity and negotiating freight shipping rates for you. You will not have to talk to multiple carriers and study their rules tariff, which means you won’t pay extra charges for hidden services.

PLS Logistics will help your business during this time. Want to compare freight rates? Get a free quote right now!

Trending Transportation Updates: June 2020

There were many new transportation updates in the shipping industry last month. Check out some of the top stories and transportation updates in June 2020!

Trending Transportation Updates: June 2020

May Truck Tonnage Drops 9.6% Year-Over-Year

According to the ATA report, the May truck tonnage index dropped 9.6% compared to the previous years. This is the largest year-over-year drop in a decade. However, it is an improvement from the April sequential result of a 10.4% fall. Bob Costello, the chief economist in ATA, isn’t too worried: “While tonnage fell in May, even though other economic indicators like retail sales and housing starts rose, I’m not overly concerned”. Read more here.

FMCSA extends HOS emergency once again

With President Trump issuing the national emergency declaration in response to coronavirus, FMCSA has reformed HOS rules to align with the current industry conditions. Last month, a HOS emergency was extended until June 14 but was extended for one more month with an estimated expiration date on July 14. “This extension addresses national emergency conditions that create a need for immediate transportation of essential supplies and provides necessary relief from the FMCSR’s (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations) for motor carriers and drivers,” said FMCSA. Read more here.

The first electric truck sales mandate approved in California

In a long-awaited vote, California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved an electric truck mandate that will require medium- and heavy-duty truck manufacturers to sell a growing percentage of electric vehicles starting in 2024. This is the first rule of its kind in the world. The mandate is called the Advanced Clean Truck rule. According to the new rule, by 2035, about 75% of Class 8 big rigs sold will need to be zero-emission. “Fundamentally, the point of this regulation is not to simply require things, it is to push the market more quickly, transitioning away from fossil fuels as fast and effectively as we can,” – said Andy Schwarz, one of the Tesla executives. Read more here.

Earthquakes shake the Southern states

On June 24, the Southern California area was rattled by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. The epicenter of an earthquake was in Cartoga, Owens Valley region. Earlier this month, a much stronger 7.4 magnitude quake hit Southern Mexico, causing at least 6 fatalities and material damage. It is yet unknown if the wave of earthquakes will continue in the region, but some seismologists expect more rattles. Read more here.

How E-Commerce Has Changed Due To the Coronavirus

The recent months were extremely transforming for many industries. For some, the effects were damaging. But some industries have flourished during the pandemic, like the e-commerce industry. Many small businesses that were inclined to locally selling their goods, or were focused on a physical store, experienced tough times. However, ones with wider customer coverage and a strong online presence seemed to grow their online sales even more.

How has the coronavirus impacted e-commerce customer behavior?

In fact, coronavirus has greatly contributed to e-commerce businesses and changed the way people shop. It all depends on the type of business. For example, bread baking machines were the top-growing category in online sales in the U.S. during April 2020, while the most declining one was luggage cases and swimwear. The majority of businesses that had an established online presence, or quickly reformed to set up on the web, were more successful in maintaining or growing their sales volumes than brick-and-mortar stores.

In the U.S. alone, online retailers’ year-over-year revenue growth is up 68% in April 2020, which is much more than the holiday season peak sales metrics. The main insight to take out of the pandemic’s impact is that it’s not going anyway. Despite the majority of stores are now available for visiting, shoppers don’t rush to get back to physical shopping. In a lockdown, customers have developed and adopted new shopping behaviors and patterns that could be the new normal moving forward, even outside of the pandemic.

According to a study on the coronavirus impact on U.S. E-Commerce, 74.6% of shoppers will avoid shopping at malls and shopping centers even after the lockdown, while 52.3% would pass by the shops in general. 44% of the U.S. shoppers are buying more online in May 2020, and 68% of shoppers are expecting to buy essential goods online.

What are the main e-commerce tips for the long run?

While optimizing your online presence was a useful strategy before the pandemic, now it is a must for surviving the current market environment. Retailers should look for more opportunities and technologies to attract and retain their online customers. Now, seamless shopping experience matters more than ever. Providing your customers with frictionless platform navigation, shopping, and service is key to hitting the mark.

It is crucial to monitor changes in customer habits and shopping patterns, and react to them accordingly. Account security and a personalized, smooth shopping experience is believed to be the main focus of e-commerce businesses to enhance their sales and customer retention. A retailer landscape is already changing, and these shifts are to stay for the long run.

What Does FOB Mean In Freight Shipping?

There are many confusing terms in freight shipping, regardless if you are an experienced shipper or new to the business. It is important to be aware of the true meaning of freight terms to properly use them when trouble comes up. Not knowing the meaning of certain abbreviations or words can cost you time and money. FOB is one of the unusual terms in freight shipping, yet it is very important.

What does FOB stand for in freight shipping?

There are two options for the meaning of FOB: free on board and freight on board. Both have the same meaning, though it is recommended to use free onboard since freight on board is not an official term.

Why does FOB matter?

FOB is an important note that designates who is liable for the shipments, and who pays all the remaining expenses upon arrival. Basically, it states which party is responsible for the shipment, bills, payments, and documentation. You will need a FOB note when the shipment is damaged or lost. Depending on who is held liable for the goods, it further defines the returns, claims, or delivery refusal process of the damaged freight shipment.

How is FOB used in freight shipping?

The term FOB is not used alone, it always has a note. For example, if there is a FOB with origin point, this means that the shipper (seller) is liable for the transportation and loading of the shipment. But once it arrives at the destination, the shipper passes the responsibility to the receiver or consignee. This way, there are four ways to use FOB for freight shipping:

  • FOB Origin (Freight Collect)
  • FOB Origin (Freight Prepaid)
  • FOB Destination (Freight Collect)
  • FOB Destination (Freight Prepaid)

Origin & Destination

Both of these marks states who owns the shipments and holds responsibility for it. If the place of origin is stated, it means the receiver owns the shipment after the BOL is signed. In case there is a place of destination, the shipper is being liable for the shipment.

Freight Collect & Freight Prepaid

Whenever you see freight collect, it means the receiver is accountable for all freight charges and payments, and vice versa, if it’s freight prepaid the liable party is the shipper (seller).

How Coronavirus Has Disrupted The Meat Supply Chain In The U.S.

Meat supply chains in the U.S. have been severely affected by the coronavirus. In particular, the most hard-hit industry within the food supply chain was meat processing. Since numerous workers have tested positive for COVID-19 on multiple meat plants across the country, the entire supply chain was disrupted.

What is going on with the meat plants?

At the end of April, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the largest meatpacking association in the U.S., has stated that 20 industry workers have died because of the virus, and more than 5,000 were infected or hospitalized. Meat plants were forced to shut down, as they have become the cluster of infection, which caused a lack of meat supply to retailers. According to UFCW, the factories’ closure resulted in a 25% drop in pork slaughter and a 10% drop in beef production.

How has the coronavirus disrupted the meat supply chain?

The issue became known nationwide, which has resulted in panic-buying among consumers, with all the meat products being sold out from grocery stores, fast food, restaurants, and supermarkets. The retailers have responded with setting up purchasing limits to stop overbuying. Now, with multiple meat processing plants being shut down across the country, farmers don’t have a place to sell their products. With high supply and high demand, meat supply chains suffer from a severe disruption in the processing sector.

The U.S. has the largest rate of meat consumption per capita, which clearly means a crisis in the meat supply chain can’t go unnoticed. The issue became so critical that the White House initiated the Defense Production Act to ensure the proper supply of meat in the stores.

What is wrong with America’s food supply chains?

Apparently, the disruption of the meat supply chain appears to be solely an American issue. In Europe, which has also been hard hit with the impacts of the pandemic, there are no signs of meat industry disruption. Why is that? In fact, the trouble with the U.S. meat processing industry is that it is extremely centralized and consolidated, while in the UK or Italy, meat vendors are usually small, local, and independent companies.

The monopoly of certain companies, like Tyson Foods Inc., which accounts for almost two-thirds of the entire meat processing in the U.S., has made meat supply chains hardly dependent and interconnected. Eventually, this is the reason for also making it extremely vulnerable to the damage. Hopefully, the industry will drift towards building a more resilient supply chain to prevent such a situation in the future.

The Future of Sustainable Shipping

The concept of making the shipping industry more environmentally friendly has been a priority for businesses for many years. During the current COVID-10 pandemic, this issue comes into the spotlight even more. Although the coronavirus has had horrible, devastating effects on the population and economy during the past few months, the impact on the environment was positive. With fewer commuters, hindered global travel and logistics, and generally decreased human activity, people have noticed a significant environmental impact. 

What is the future of sustainable shipping?

According to estimates from the CarbonBrief, the decreased demand for fuel and power can cause emissions to drop by nearly 400 million tonnes in 2020. For now, some countries admit lowered CO2 levels by as much as 40%, which is a substantial improvement in the air quality. For many, this reduction has shown that there is a positive effect in decreasing global power and fuel consumption. The lives that have been lost, unemployment, and other terrifying results of this pandemic can’t justify the environmental benefit, but now it is clear that even a small adjustment can make an impact.

Although the shipping industry isn’t the largest polluter across the transportation industry, it is still a contributor, accounting for 2.5% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Every year, more and more transportation companies adopt technology to reduce fuel consumption, optimize the usage of resources, and make sustainability their priority. At this point, it is no longer an option for global companies to be unconcerned with environmental issues. 

According to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2020, the goal is to cut international greenhouse emissions by 50% by 2050. So, the shipping industry has still a long way to go, although some progress is already happening. With the current situation, businesses have witnessed a drastic fall in oil prices and how vulnerable and fragile the global markets actually are. 

The thing about business sustainability, especially in the shipping industry, is that companies care not just about the environment or social responsibility, but also about their profit. Sustainability has to be profitable for those who adopt it, otherwise it won’t work on the global level. And these solutions exist, when you search for proper tools that can be both profitable and useful for the environment. The future of sustainable shipping is about balance, awareness, and action. 

Trending Transportation Updates: May 2020

There were many new transportation updates in the shipping industry last month. Check out some of the top stories and transportation updates in May 2020!

Trending Transportation Updates: May 2020

FMCSA presents the final HOS rule update

Over the recent months, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had updated the HOS rules several times before publishing its final version on May 14. The main purpose of the update is to increase flexibility for truck drivers. To finalize the rules, FMCSA reviewed more than 8,000 comments online and during offline meetings. Here are some key outtakes from the update:

  • The final rule requires having a break after 8 non-stop driving hours, provides more flexibility for the 30-minute break. Now, the break can be completed by any status mark, whether it’s on duty, not driving, off duty, or berth.
  • The drivers are now allowed to adjust their sleeper berth exception by choosing how to split it: 8/2 or 7/3 hours of driving and rest respectively. None of these periods count against the driver’s 14-hour driving window.
  • The maximum driving hours for short-haul exceptions can now be extended from 12 to 14 hours, and the distance limit can be increased from 100 air miles to 150.

Read more about the final HOS rule update here.

April truck tonnage down 11.3%, the largest year-over-year drop since 2009

According to the report by the American Trucking Association, the truck tonnage volumes are down by 11.3% in April, showing the biggest year-by-year decline since 2009. The tonnage is calculated on surveys of ATA members. Obviously, such a substantial decline is caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Bob Costello, ATA Chief Economist, commented: “April’s monthly decline was the largest in 26 years when there was a labor strike in April 1994. Considering that April factory output and retail sales plummeted, the large drop in truck freight is not surprising.” Read more here.

Meat supply chains disrupted by the coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted almost every industry, and the meat industry in the U.S. appeared to be one of the hardest hit in recent times. Due to the outbreak of the virus, numerous meat processing plants had to close across the U.S. and Canada. The sequence of closings was caused by 940 workers testing positive for the COVID-19 in just one Cargill beef plant in Alberta, Canada. Since the factory is a major meat exporter in the U.S., the whole meat supply chain and distribution was halted. Combined with a 40% spike in demand for meat products across the consumers in April, this leaves farmers and distributors in a challenging situation. Generally, more than 10,000 cases were reported across the industry workers. Read more here.

Explaining Multi-Stop Truckload Transportation Management

What is multi-stop truckload shipping?

In truckload shipping, there are two points on the route: A and B. Your freight is picked up and then delivered to the final destination without any in-between locations. However, sometimes shippers need a few additional stops on the way, for various reasons. This is called multi-stop truckload shipping. The trouble with this type of shipping is that carriers often reject it, and it is usually more expensive. Although this method is slightly more complicated than regular truckload, if you require multiple stops, you can arrange it in a planned and cost-effective manner.

If you want to make your multi-stop loads attractive to carriers, you should plan ahead and properly communicate your needs. Here are a few tips on how to succeed in booking a multi-stop truckload shipment.

Tips for successful multi-stop transportation management

Plan ahead

Carriers appear to be more friendly to multi-stop truckload shipments when you communicate all the requirements ahead and plan in advance. This way, you have more time, the possibility to negotiate rates, and can secure better carrier capacity. Ultimately, proper planning can save shippers a substantial amount of money per load.

Consolidate stops

If you cluster the majority of your stops within a 30-mile area, it is more likely that a carrier will accept your load. Since it is faster and more convenient to make a stop within a limited territory,  it will eliminate the overall time and resources spent by the carrier to deliver your load.

Be consistent

Try to do your best to reduce the extra mileage and HOS hours for the drivers. Typically, this is the main reason why multi-stop truckload transportation is more expensive and less profitable for the carriers. Longer transit times and chaotic pick-ups drive the need to change the regular route.

What Will the State of the Oil and Gas Industry Be After Coronavirus?

The oil industry was one of the most severely hurt industries during the coronavirus pandemic. On April 20, oil prices went negative for the first time in the history of the oil market, peaking at -$37.60 per barrel. For comparison, at the start of the year, an oil barrel costs $60. Such a bizarre drop was caused by a huge discrepancy between oil supply and demand. Worldwide lock-downs, drastic air flight shortages, and fewer commuters resulted in a sharp fall in fuel demand. 

Such a quick and unpredictable event has uncovered many far-reaching issues in the core of the oil industry, showing how vulnerable it can be. Even when the stock market has slightly recovered, investors are still aggressively selling oil stocks. Combined with a 30% fall in demand, the whole oil market came to a sudden breakdown.  

While small improvements have been seen, it is quite uncertain when the oil demand will recover to its normal level. Right now, many countries, the U.S. in particular, started to loosen lock-down measures, with some industries slowly returning to a normal pace. However, “normal” isn’t coming anytime soon. 

The main problem for oil companies is that there is too much excess oil, and no place to store it. Roughly, 85% of oil storage is full now, and some production companies even have to destroy the product. Hundreds of oil companies are expected to file for bankruptcy. Many industry experts claim that years of overproduction combined with collapsed demand will result in years of recovering, and low oil prices. 

Many of the large market players have abruptly shut down fields and wells, declaring the situation as “out of the norm” and “force majeure.” Countries-members of OPEC are also forced to cut outputs for the first time in a while. As June contracts are coming due, the issue continues to hurt the market. 

As for what is going to happen with overstock, there are different approaches. Once onshore storage is completely filled, some companies are going to stash oil to deliver it later at a higher price. Some countries, like Russia, are planning to burn excess oil to get by. It is quite uncertain when and how the market will recover, but it surely won’t happen soon.