When ordering items that are too big for standard package delivery, you may be faced with some unfamiliar options.
Wading through a bevy of terms like “drop ship” and “LTL” can be intimidating and the costs may be shocking. Large items like furniture, appliances and machinery are most often shipped by eighteen wheel trucks that maximize their profits by combining as many items as possible going to one geographic region. Shipping by this method may be less costly than other, more deluxe services but for those who do not ship often the costs may still seem higher than expected and the services may be less than desired.
Shipping groups of items that weigh less than 5000 pounds is typically classified as Less Than Truckload or LTL service. At this level you can expect there to be items for other customers in the trailer. Normally when shipping LTL the driver will pull to a delivery dock or as close to the delivery point as possible and expect the customer (called the consignee) to literally go into the trailer, pull out their items and unload them. Most trucking companies offer a menu of “a la carte” options like having the driver help unload or an automatic lift at the trailer gate for an additional charge.
At the other end of the spectrum are full-service delivery and installations. These higher-end services are offered by specialized trucking and delivery companies whose standard services include bringing items into their destination point. Again, an a la carte menu of options is available for even more service like product placement (installation) or even hauling out old items.
Damages can happen regardless of the level of service. It is critical that every item be visually inspected at the moment of delivery. If any damage is spotted, no matter how minor, it is essential to note it in writing with the driver on the delivery receipt or bill of lading (BOL). If an item is accepted by the customer without any damage notations then the delivery company assumes the item was delivered in excellent condition. Written documentation about damages is critical if repair or replacement is required.
Shipping companies are a little bit like banks in the sense that they are governed by a very detailed set of federal regulations that serve to protect both customers and trucking companies. The flexibility or restrictions of truck drivers and their companies may be limited by these regulations. When in doubt, ask your sales person to fully explain your options so that you pick the right service for you. The moment of excitement when your recently purchased items show up for delivery can quickly be dashed if you are not aware of your obligations to unload or move the items yourself!