Importance of Shipment Planning

Businesses must have both long term and short term plans, but in shipping, the plan must revolve around how to get the freight to where it needs to be and when.  Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But so often, the task of planning shipments falls on someone that was never really trained for it.  This person in the organization may already be overworked, now has the responsibility of getting an important shipment delivered, and has no understanding of what it takes to make it happen.  Everyone understands that the freight has got to be where it needs to be, when it needs to be there, but what most either don’t take the time to understand or simply don’t have the time to try understanding is the how to get the freight there.  Even experienced logistics professionals make grave mistakes in their shipment planning. 

When things go wrong, it is easy to levy complete blame on your transportation provider and thinking, “That’s what I contacted you people for; you were supposed to know what to do!” This blame may be completely justified: Truckers, 3PLs and Freight Forwarders drop the ball all the time.  Salespeople for these types of companies, too focused on closing a deal, constantly forget to ask important questions.  Or if the customer is unable to answer a logistics provider’s questions, the salesperson for the provider may not push hard enough for the answers and just hope things will work out.  Many times they do not. Regardless, it serves the customer to understand what’s required from their end.  After all, a person may have an accountant to prepare one’s income taxes, but that doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t know something about the process.  The same goes for shipping. 

Let’s take a closer look at what I mean by planning when it comes to moving a piece of freight from one place to another.  As was mentioned earlier, with freight, the only goal is to get the shipment where it needs to be and when it needs to be there.  One simple tactic that can greatly help with any shipping scenario is to first consider the destination of the freight and work your way backwards.  So for instance, if you are shipping a full 53’ truckload of palletized freight from your warehouse in South Carolina to your new customer in Warren, AR, you need to ask your consignee questions like these: 

  • Do you have a dock?
  • Do you have a forklift?
  • Can you accommodate a 53’ trailer at the facility? Many older manufacturing facilities now being used as warehouses were built when the 40’ trailer was the standard.  There may not be enough room for a tractor with 53’ trailer to turn around.
  • There will be 26 pallets on the truck – how long does it typically take you to unload?
  • Do you have the warehouse space to receive the freight if it arrives in the next (define the time frame-a week, a few days…)?
  • What are your receiving hours?

Next, you will want to touch base with your motor carrier of choice to confirm:

  • What is the time in transit?
  • Will the driver that picks up from my dock be the same one that delivers or will these duties be transferred to another driver?  (Why is this question important? Because if there are any special instructions you need to make sure that everyone has them)

These are just a few of the issues that you will want to consider and questions that you will need answers to before proceeding.  But it is easy to see that by looking at the shipment from the delivery point and working back to the shipping point you can begin to spot potential problems long before they happen and will help you to avoid them.


About jaymcgheelogistics

I am a Logistics Professional with over 25 years’ experience in the combined fields of procurement, purchasing, customer service, sales, trucking, air freight, freight forwarding , supply chain and international trade industries. Please feel free to contact me at

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