In the world of freight forwarding, uncontrollable mishaps can occur. From unpredictable weather conditions down to the smallest human error, there is a lot of room for error and for cargo damage during transportation in the shipping process. In an ideal world, shipping damage would never be an issue, but unfortunately, damaged freight is an inevitable cost in the freight forwarding industry. 

 The shipping process involves multiple parties, and is long and arduous. Therefore, shipments always run into the risk of being damaged during transportation. The various stages that cargo needs to go through increase the possibilities of mishandling, water exposure, and other types of unwanted damages. 

What Are the Most Common Causes of Shipping Damage? 

  • Improper Packaging 
      • Excessive empty space in the box (or container):  if there is too much empty space in the container, it’s highly likely that the products inside will be jostled around in transit, increasing the chances of cargo damage during transportation. 
      • Not enough padding or cushioning material: not all packages need to be wrapped in protective materials like bubble wrap and packing peanuts, but having enough filler will reduce the likelihood of shipping damage.  
    • Mishandling: there are several stages along the supply chain, and improper package handling can happen at any point during transportation. Even packages that are marked as “fragile” can undergo mishandling, leading to damaged freight.  
  • Quality Damage 
    • Exposure to water or humidity: certain shipments can be extra sensitive to temperature changes, and a lot of products may be ruined if they come in contact with water (through rainfall or exposed containers). For more details, read here: What Is Temperature Controlled Shipping? 
    • Infestation (for edible products): this only really applies to food products, as food attracts insects and rodents to their location. These animals often worm their way into shipments on large freight ships and cause product contamination.  

How Do You Handle Damaged Cargo? 

So you’ve received a package of damaged freight. What do you do next? Are shipping carriers liable for shipping damage? They can be! If you have proof that your cargo was damaged during transportation, you can file a damaged freight claim.  

In order to file a claim, make sure that you document everything and take detailed notes of any damages on the Bill of Lading (BOL) or Proof of Delivery (POD). Of course, if only the exterior boxes were damaged in the shipping process, and the products inside remain unharmed, there will be no grounds for your claim. However, if the freight inside is disfigured, be sure to include photos of the damaged freight, as those will support your claim. 

In general, you have two weeks to file a damaged freight claim. But carriers have a legal right to mitigate damages and the value of the claim. The opportunity to redeliver, salvage, or return the damaged freight must be given to them, or shipping carriers may have the legal right to deny any claims brought against them. So make sure you let your carrier or freight forwarding logistics company know that there was damaged freight in your shipment. 

Be sure to keep copies of documents on hand to strengthen your claim. Some copied documents you should keep are: 

  • Bill of Lading (BOL) or Proof of Delivery (POD) 
  • The packing slip, paid freight bill, and the invoice that documents the price paid for the damaged freight 
  • A standard claim form or a letter identifying the shipment and the claim amount 
  • Photos of the extent of damage

How Can Damaged Freight Be Avoided? 

There is no real solution that will allow shippers and carriers to completely avoid damaged freight. But there are steps to take that will lead to better shipment damage prevention.  

  • Utilize Proper Packaging Materials 
      • Use good quality pallets and make sure everything is wrapped properly. 
      • Fill up empty space with fillers to avoid cargo rattling within a container. 
      • Increase water resistance and separate liquid packages from dry packages. 
      • Separate fragile items with corrugated cardboard or layers of bubble wrap. 
      • Label everything correctly with “Fragile” and “This Side Up” stickers to increase a parcel’s chance of survival. 
  • Don’t Overlook Container Stuffing 
      • Don’t stack heavy parcels on top of lightweight parcels. 
      • Keep the overall weight in mind when stacking pallets and packages in a container. By distributing the weight evenly across the container, the opportunity for shipping damage caused by cargo movement decreases. 
      • For more details, read here: What Is Container Stuffing and Container Stripping? 
  • Purchase Shipping Insurance 
    • This is not exactly a way to prevent damaged freight, but purchasing shipping/parcel insurance is a good way to at least protect your business from financial damage. 

Start Working With SFI Today! 

Are you tired of dealing with damaged freight? Consider working with SFI today! We work with packaging industries for food and products, and can lessen cargo damage during transportation. If you need any assistance regarding freight forwarding, contact SFI today and we’ll take care of your shipping needs. We have professionals ready to help resolve any shipping problems you may have. Email us at info@sfi.com or call us at (909) 594-3400.