Damaged Freight: How To Handle It

Mar 7, 2024 | Blog, Trucking Info

With more than 10.5 billion tons of freight transported annually over the road across the U.S., chances are there will be a small percentage of damaged freight. 

Even though suppliers and carriers typically follow all the best practices to prevent damage in transit, you might still receive some defective or spoiled items.

As a shipper or a consignee, knowing how to deal with freight damage and claims helps speed up processes and mitigate loss. Let’s have a closer look.

How Do Freight Items Get Damaged?

From the warehouse all the way to your doorstep, shipments change hands, storage spaces and trailers.

Indeed, today, logistics processes can be complex. Distribution and transportation are designed for maximum efficiency.  So, your order might go on a long, multi-stop route and face various risk factors until it reaches its final destination.

Common Causes Of Freight Damage During Shipping

Here are the most usual reasons for freight damage:

  1. Improper Packaging Or Palletizing

As a supplier or retailer, you should always select the proper packaging for every item or consolidated order. You should choose quality packaging materials and the right size of boxes. 

When palletizing, make sure that you stack boxes firmly and secure them promptly. Finally, proper trailer loading is critical in reducing the chances of damaged cargo.

  1. Unprofessional Handling

Secure load handling by trained staff also lessens the risk of damage. 

In the warehouse, inventory is moved around to maximize space efficiency. During shipping, items may be loaded and unloaded multiple times, especially in LTL (less than truckload) shipments.

So, you must always partner with professional carriers known for quality transportation services.

  1. Wrong Labeling

As a vendor or supplier, you are fully responsible for correctly labeling your items. 

Ensure that your labels include accurate delivery and load information, such as: detailed recipient address, order numbers, item specifications (e.g., sensitive cargo) or any other description that would be useful for the carrier.

Moreover, you should double-check that labels are appropriately placed and secured on the final load to be easily visible to anyone handling your freight.

  1. Unpredictable Conditions

No matter how well you prepare, various unforeseen circumstances may occur during transit (and result in damaged freight). These include severe weather conditions, engine failures, bad road conditions, etc.

For perishable goods (such as frozen foods or pharmaceuticals) that demand refrigerated shipping, temperature fluctuations during transportation can cause spoilage. 

Shippers, carriers, and logistics providers must handle every detail when shipping freight to ensure quality and optimal condition upon delivery. 

For damaged freight, claims processes and replacements are time-consuming and expensive. In fact, the cost to replace a damaged product is 17 times more than the original shipping cost. 

How To Prevent Freight Damage?

On top of proper packaging, labeling and handling, some additional things you can do to prevent freight damage include:

  • Select The Right Trucking Option

Consider consolidating items and choosing FTL (full truckload) or partial shipments that demand less loading and unloading than LTL.

Depending on your freight type and delivery schedule, you should conduct thorough market research for the best options available.

For example, grocery distribution with Pinnacle Freight Systems Inc. ensures timely, damage-free deliveries thanks to our unique load-to-ride operating model and superior temperature-controlled service.

  • Ensure The Right Warehouse Conditions

Partner with a respectable logistics provider that offers top-notch warehousing services

The ideal warehouse should follow best practices, including a logical layout, proper lighting and security systems, well-trained staff, uncluttered aisles, and modern infrastructure.

  • Adopt A Culture Of Continuous Improvement

As a business that depends on damage-free shipments, you should ensure supply chain visibility and a mentality of continuous improvement.

Gathering and assessing data is a cornerstone in shaping your logistics practices. 

Freight Damage Claims

When freight is not delivered in perfect condition, the shipper can file a freight damage claim.

However, because carriers are only liable for some types of damage caused during transit, it’s always safe for shippers to have additional “All Risk” cargo insurance

Types Of Freight Claims

Some of the reasons that lead to freight damage claims include:

  • Damage
  • Loss
  • Shortage
  • Concealed damage or shortage
  • Carrier Accident
  • Contamination

As a shipper, it’s always best to take photos once your goods are on the trailer at the point of origin. Also, inspect your loads in front of the carrier representative at drop-off.

The Freight Claims Process

Once you detect some type of damage in your order, you should contact the carrier immediately, ideally within 24 hours of delivery.

What Do I Do When I Receive Damaged Freight?

Here’s a quick overview of how to handle damaged freight.

  1. Contact your carrier

When contacting your carrier to report damage, you should mention if the damage was visible (at the time of receipt) or concealed. 

  1. Gather Documentation

You need to provide all required documentation that proves the damage happened during transit and also states the cost of the damage.

Such documentation includes: the vendor’s invoice, paid freight bill, delivery receipt and any other documentation that supports the claim, like photos.

  1. File The Claim

You, or your 3PL, can typically file a claim online, but also by post or in person. Make sure that you keep copies of all submitted documents and that you include correct contact information.

Remember to keep the damaged freight (and its packaging) in the condition delivered as much as possible.

  1. Negotiate With The Carrier

After reviewing your claim, the carrier can either accept to reimburse you in full/partially, deny the claim or negotiate a settlement. If you are unsatisfied with the offer, you can always negotiate a bigger amount.

Once you agree, make sure you get the offer in writing. 

What Should You Do With The Damaged Freight?

Once you see damage, you should keep the shipment in the condition delivered as much as possible until you make the initial arrangements.

Sometimes, the carriers send their own inspector to check the cargo’s condition. They also have the right to salvage the damaged freight if they choose to.

However, the carrier’s salvage rights may be displaced for perishable goods or hazardous materials (HAZMAT). In any case, you must contact your carrier before disposing of your damaged cargo. 

What Is The Timeline For Cargo Claims?

According to the Carmack Amendment, motor carriers have 120 days to provide a cargo claims offer (payment, decline, settlement) in writing. However, this deadline can be formally extended for 60-day periods in case a claim cannot be processed.

At Pinnacle Freight Systems Inc., we are dedicated to offering superb logistics services. This is why we have optimized our procedures to provide quick and sound claims resolutions.
We boast an average of 33 days to close a freight damage claim, while a striking 83% of all claims are closed in less than 30 days! Impressed? Contact us for a quote.

Contact Us

Phone: 732.667.5261

Fax: 732.667.5265

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Pinnacle Freight Systems, Inc.
Pinnacle Trucking, LLC
500 Cedar Lane, Florence, NJ 08518

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