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Packaging Freight

Packaging Freight

Just how critical is packaging freight in the world of shipping? Practical freight packaging is such a big subject that the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) conducts a 3-part webinar series twice a year. Each module is 1.5 hours long, and the participation cost is more than $200 per attendee. While we won’t attempt to include all the material in that NMFTA webinar series, we will provide practical freight packaging guidance addressing 99% of our customers’ packaging concerns.

Why Is Packaging Freight a Big Deal?


What’s the big deal? Putting a 4,000-pound freight package on a 53-foot semi-trailer for 2,500 miles is not the same as throwing it in the back of your SUV for a short trip. Punctures, abrasions, compression, environmental exposures, shipment handling, and shock and vibration can all damage your shipment or damage someone else’s shipment on the back of a truck. And in many cases, a driver can refuse improperly packaged shipments at pickup. These freight costs waste time, money, and energy, leading to unhappy customers.

Applicable freight packaging ensures a more manageable and affordable shipping experience. Following some of the best practices of freight packaging helps your supply chain function properly.

Best Freight Packaging Practices, Tips & Tricks


Everyone’s on the lookout for insider shipping advice. And we’d like to provide some. We are keeping this list of best practices in mind while packaging will help you stay ahead.

Internal & External Packaging Materials

One of the most crucial aspects of shipping freight is choosing the correct shipping container for your product and the best internal packaging materials for safety. Many options, such as boxes, crates, drums and pails, spools and reels, pipes, and transit cases, keep your cargo safe from external damage.

But internal packaging is just as important as external packaging. The correct materials inside your box of packaged freight will protect your cargo on its journey. Some examples of internal packaging include bubble wrap, corrosion protection packaging material, foam cushioning, honeycomb, loose fill, and paper pads. Determine what protection is most optimal for your item.



Packaging Freight


Pallets are key

Pallets are helpful when packaging and preparing your cargo for shipment because they can help consolidate your load. They also allow for optimal ease of handling during the movement in between transit, reducing the potential for damage. Every piece of packaged freight must be movable by forklift, which means much of what you ship needs to fit on a pallet.


You should think like a driver when packaging your freight. You want everything in the back of your truck to be uniform and safe. Pallet overhang, misaligned column stacks, and incorrect size and weight distribution can weaken container strength and lead to damage. The overhang can reduce compression strength by up to 32%.

Interlocked stacking can reduce compression strength by up to 50%. Even misaligning a stack can cause a 30% reduction in force, so ensure the edges match up properly. That’s why carriers prefer column stacking — corner to corner, edge to edge.

Overlength and the Odd-Shaped Items

Many carriers have different limitations for overlength freight. Some types of cargo are odd shapes or lengths. Some oddly shaped items include pipes and lumbar and antenna components. When you have overlength items to ship or need to ship other oddly shaped items, there are packaging steps you can take to ensure your freight is adequately packaged and secure and will be free of billing adjustments down the line.

Additional Protection for Freight Packaging


Remember, as we said before, carriers want to maximize their shipping routes, so when packaging freight, stackable is what they prefer.

Banding, stretch, and shrink wrap are great ways to package your freight for safety and security. Banding is typically used to secure bundled loads to pallets. Stretch wrap is an excellent choice because it provides complete coverage protection, and stretch wrap can keep your load uniform, preventing loss. Plastic shrink wrap is another alternative for supporting a load together and uniform, and the more layers you add, the stronger the protection. So, shrink-wrap a package up to five times (just one go-around won’t cut it)!

Protect the top and bottom of your shipment with load-protector pads. The weight of top-loaded freight will be appropriately distributed, while the lowest load will keep boxes from slipping.

Use edge boards to protect the corners of your product while simultaneously stabilizing the load and increasing stacking strength.

Shipping Labels and Precautionary Markings

While this step doesn’t include packaging, it is one of the essential parts of the shipping process. Mislabeled cargo can lead to many issues. For instance, the carrier could charge a Marking and Tagging fee to an avoidable billing adjustment. To avoid this, you must ensure your cargo is appropriately labeled and easily visible when packaging your freight. Improper labeling can also lead to lost packages and delayed shipping times.

Packaging Freight

Let’s Wrap It Up


The ins and outs (pun intended) of freight packaging are a lot to absorb. But we hope our overview will save you time and money on shipping. If you’re looking for detailed freight packaging info, download our free Guide to Freight Packaging to have on hand when preparing your shipment.

Ready to ship something? Start your free online quote now. If you have any further questions about packing and shipping, call one of our expert freight agents at 800.716.7608.

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