Exhibiting is exciting – but it can also be an extremely stressful experience. A large portion of that stress can be directly attributed to the shipping process. There’s just so much that can go wrong – and it’s all out of your hands.
Shipping costs account for about 12 percent of a company’s total trade show budget. But shipping can also affect other aspects of your budget. For example, drayage fees can skyrocket if you’re not careful. Or a delay on the carrier’s end can result in numerous fees for you.
Well, the good news is that you can set your carrier (and yourself) up for success. By dotting all your I’s and crossing your T’s you give yourself the best chance that all your crates, boxes, and pallets will arrive at the show, on time, and in good condition.
There are two essential pieces of documentation.
- Bill of Lading (B/L): This is a legal document between you and your carrier that details the type, quantity, and destination of the goods being carried. It also serves as a receipt of shipment when the goods are delivered.
- Material-Handling Agreement (MHA): This is your contract with the general services contractor (GSC). It informs the GSC of the exact number of pieces to be picked up from your booth area, the materials description, the materials destination, and your designated carrier. The MHA needs to be filled out and turned in to the service desk at the conclusion of your event. Failing to do so could cost you dearly in time and money.
Choose your Carrier Wisely
When selecting a carrier to work with, choose one that is experienced with shipping trade show exhibits. In fact, you ought to find one with a dedicated trade show division.
Even then, you’ll want to do some homework. See if the carrier will provide any references and call them. Review the company’s policy for problem solving any lost or missing freight, damage to displays, or delays in shipping. Should any issues arise, find out if your agent is available to assist you 24/7 (for what you’re paying, this is not an unreasonable request).
Selecting the correct carrier is essential. Really, all the following advice is meaningless if you choose poorly. Conversely, making the correct choice means you can build a relationship with this company and know that someone will have your back should something unfortunate occur.
You have two options where to ship your exhibits: an advance warehouse or directly to the show site.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both options.
– 30 days of free storage
– Your freight is on the show floor before direct-to-show-site shipments begin unloading
– You may save money on storage expenses and transportation wait time
– Does not accept pad-wrapped freight
– Requires additional labor, which may raise drayage costs
– Freight may be stored in unsecured trailers as opposed to an actual warehouse
Direct to Show:
– Avoids risks of “warehouse” storage
– Cost may be less
– The time that your freight will unload is unpredictable
Provide Detailed Instructions
The success of your shipment starts with the instructions that you give your carrier.
Here’s a list of essential information to provide:
- Your complete shipment, including dimensions and estimated weight
- The full name (not just the acronym) and dates of your show
- Your booth number
- Your specific move-in and move-out dates (and whether these dates are targeted)
- If you will need special equipment (lift-gate truck, pallet jack, moving pads, etc.)
- If there are multiple locations for pick-ups or deliveries
- All important deadlines (the last day to unload at the advance warehouse, the time of your targeted direct-to-site shipments, etc.). Missing deadlines means fees for you
Be sure to give your carrier a map of the marshaling-yard location, if one is available. They will appreciate it.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming you are covered if your freight is lost or damaged. Most carriers provide what is known as “released value,” which usually ranges from $0.30 to $0.60 per pound.
You can purchase additional coverage from carriers in $1,000 increments. However, your best choice is to purchase an insurance rider through your company’s insurance provider.
Of course, one solution is to take this burden entirely off your shoulders. The Trade Group can coordinate shipping and process these forms and payments for you. Give us a call at 800-343-2005 to see how our show services division is ready to assist you.