8 Tips to Beat the High Cost of Shipping

April 14, 2011
These suggestions could help small businesses save on their transportation costs

Relief for America’s small businesses appears to be far off as the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects gas prices to average around $3.70 a gallon during the peak driving season (April through September), and exceeding $4.00 during the summer. To that end, Unishippers Global Logistics, a small package and freight shipping reseller, is offering expert shipping advice to the many small businesses that are being severely affected by high gasoline prices.

One area small businesses are hit hardest by increased gas prices is their shipping operations. Because of the large volume of gasoline carriers consume, they have had to institute higher fuel surcharges for their deliveries. These increased rates affect not only what small businesses pay to have something shipped, but also what they pay to have something delivered.

Since every business has to ship, just eliminating the cost is impossible. Unishippers recommends the following cost-saving shipping tips, from packing to measuring, for every small business:

1. Use the right filler – Packing too much, too little or with the wrong materials can lead to higher charges, along with unnecessary delays or costly damage. Shipping smaller, denser packages is less costly as larger and bigger packages take up valuable space on trucks. Shippers should be mindful of the type and amount of filler they use, as it can add weight or jeopardize protection.

2. Measure twice, ship once – All packages should be measured accurately, as declaring the wrong dimensions to a carrier will lead to added charges. A simple formula to measure dimensions for common domestic air and ground shipments is Length x Width x Height / 194. Getting measurements right from the start helps shippers avoid delays and incurred fees. A resourceful tactic is to use boxes two inches under the next size minimum to avoid a higher measurement charge since the box bulges when stacked.

3. Ship as a family – When shipping multiple lightweight packages to the same address, place them into one box to avoid each individual fuel surcharge and any additional charges for shipping more than one package. Some carriers offer customers special services that allow individual packages to be aggregated into one shipment.

4. Watch the weight – Shippers can avoid additional shipping costs by keeping the weight of their packages under control. Declaring the wrong weight can incur fees much like the wrong measurements. Also, many carriers have weight limits that cannot be exceeded without an additional charge.

5. Compare costs – Shopping for the right rates should be a routine for every shipper. Rates can fluctuate for each carrier, especially during times of rising gas prices. For businesses shipping freight, there are online transportation management systems that much like Expedia list current rates and service levels for carriers. Customers select the service and carrier that fits their needs and budget.

6. Print and track electronically – Shippers can save money and time by using various electronic systems featured by some carriers. Labels can be quickly and accurately printed to avoid any handwritten mistakes that lead to additional charges later.

7. Know when to insure – While it’s always better to be safe than sorry, many shipments can do without extra insurance coverage. If a business is shipping durable goods like steel, chances are very low that it will be damaged. However, anything fragile or of high value should always be insured, which can save money in case of accidents.

8. Arrange proper pickup service – Small businesses can save money by choosing the most cost-effective pickup service based on their shipping needs.

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