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Shipping: Six Tips For Negotiating Better Shipping Rates

Transportation costs eat up 11.2 percent of an average exhibitor’s budget, according to Exhibitor magazine’s 1994 Readers Survey.  

To lessen the blow, here are six shipping tips.

1. "Buy" the truck. With van lines and common carriers, see if it’s cheaper to pay for a full truckload shipment, even if your freight won’t fill the truck. Say your cargo only fills one-third of a van line trailer (1,300 cubic feet). On a short trip, like Los Angeles to Las Vegas (272 miles), it would be cheaper to pay a full truckload rate ($1,434) than the chargeable weight ($1,497). (In most cases, your carrier will automatically compute the lowest cost for you.)

2. If you are sending a heavy shipment by common carrier but it doesn’t fill a full-sized trailer, see about using a "pup" trailer - which is smaller in length. You may be able to save 25 percent to 30 percent than shipping on a regular-sized trailer.

3. Check out your shipping options on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes it is cheaper to ship by van line than common carrier; sometimes air freight is your best bet. Don’t make assumptions.

4. Work with your carrier on cost savings. Some common items negotiated on a shipment:

  • Ship at lower weight. Example: Your cargo’s space reservation comes out to 450 cubic feet; if your van line carrier charges by 100 cubic foot increments, see if you can round down to 400 cubic feet instead of up to 500. For example, say your rate per hundred pounds was $37.45 for a shipment going from Los Angeles to Dallas (1,366 miles). If the carrier charged you for 500 cubic feet, you would pay $1,310.75. If you were charged for 400 cubic feet, you would only pay $1,048.60 - $262 less. Generally, you save 20 percent to 25 percent if your carrier will round down.
  • Ship at lower rate. Your common carrier may be willing to send your shipment at a lower class, giving you a lower rate. For example, if you sent your 500-pound exhibit from ZIP 30301 (Atlanta) to ZIP 90015 (Los Angeles) at Class 125, which is the regular classification for exhibit properties, the rate would be $97.48 per hundred pounds, and your bill would be $487.40. But if your carrier would ship your exhibit properties at Class 100 - considered the "exception" rate - instead of Class 125, the rate would drop to $76.57 per hundred pounds. Your bill at this rate would be $382.85. The savings: $104.55. 

5. Exhibit transportation is a highly competitive business, with many vendors offering attractive discounts. Some common points for discounting:

  • Shipping to numerous shows. 
  • Shipping large volumes/weights. 
  • Shipping with the same carrier that handles your products or with which you have a corporate account.

Note: Whatever discount you negotiate, be sure to get it in writing. Otherwise,if the Interstate Commerce Commissin audits your carrier, you could be held responsible for any unreported discounts.

6. The best money-savings advice: Establish a relationship with one carrier. Give him a year's worth of business (or more). Pay your bills within 30 days. As a good customer, you will receive the most competitive rates and excellent service.

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