“Frah-gee-lay”: How To Get A Leg Up On Your LTL Shipping Claims (And Why You Really, Really Need To)

LTL Shipping Claims – Fragile
A Christmas Story leg lamp     A Christmas Story broken leg lamp

When we say this article contains breaking news, we mean it quite literally.

Over the past few months, we’ve begun to see a steep increase in the number of LTL shipments that have arrived broken, partially damaged or missing some of their components. In fact, these incidences have nearly doubled for many shippers since July.

Part of this disturbing trend can be explained as many LTLs attempted to absorb Yellow’s freight volumes almost overnight. After all, when carriers have to handle a sudden surge in demand, something occasionally has to give. And in this case, that something has been cargo safety/integrity.

Much of it also can be attributable to the recent drop in LTL rates. Faced with declining profit margins, a large portion of any carrier’s overall expense is linehaul, the movement of shipments between terminals. As such, LTL carriers are looking for ways to reduce cost where they can, including putting a larger amount of freight in each linehaul movement regardless of whether that freight will actually fit or remain secure throughout its journey.

Either way, it’s a huge problem for you and your company – especially if you’re not adept at filing and bird-dogging claims, which is why we’d like to offer up a few helpful do’s and don’ts to help ensure these activities flow more smoothly.

Do: Be on the lookout for clues that part of your incoming shipment was mishandled or over-handled.

Shipping packaging that appears to be mangled, bent, torn or water-stained doesn’t necessarily mean that the product within it is damaged or broken. However, it does suggest that such damage is more likely. Ditto with pallets that are covered with a different-colored shrink wrap than their counterparts (a possible indication of extra handling, which equals extra risk), and pallet counts that don’t match up to what’s reflected on the delivery receipt.

While you may not have the opportunity to open and inspect every pallet or carton you receive, these kinds of outliers are the ones you should absolutely try to take a closer look at during receiving – or whose condition you should make a note of on your delivery receipt.

Don’t: Let a driver dictate the terms of what you can write on your delivery receipt.

We’ve recently been hearing about this issue from a lot of consignees, who report that many drivers are becoming more vocal – and dare we say almost pushy – about what consignees can and can’t write on their delivery receipts. (A common refrain is, “We tried to note X. But the driver wouldn’t let us.”)

No matter how authoritative a driver seems, it’s important to remember that he or she is not – as our kids would say – the boss of you. Ultimately you have the right to document every possible exception exactly the way you see it. You also have the right not to have your delivery receipt edited by a driver who doesn’t agree with your assessments (and yes this really does happen), so hold off on providing your signature until after you have carefully noted all of your concerns in writing.

Do: Make your comments as factual and detailed as you can.

A vague claim is a weak claim, as is a subjective one, which is why putting statements on your delivery receipt like, “Package appears damaged,” or, “Condition of cargo is subject to inspection,” won’t get your request for reimbursement very far.

For greater success, use more detailed observations like, “Exterior box appeared crushed,” “Tear noted on upper right-hand side of shrink wrap,” or, “Package rattles when handled.” Then use your cell phone to back them all up with photographic or video evidence. It will make any claim you file much more compelling – and considerably more difficult for a carrier to contest.

Don’t: Hesitate to ask a delivery driver for an exception number.

Because the nature of many claims is similar, it can be easy for some to get confused with others, especially during the early stages of the claims process. (“Oh, a crushed shipment. Didn’t we already send you a reimbursement check for that?”)

Just like stock keeping units (SKUs) play a key role in helping businesses differentiate between similar products or components, exception numbers go a long way toward helping you keep each of your claims straight – and keeping carriers on the straight and narrow.

In light of this, try to ask for these numbers sooner rather than later, preferably before the delivery driver who dropped off a damaged or partially lost shipment leaves your facility. You’ll be glad you did.

Do: Be ready to go the distance.

Did you hear the story about the LTL carrier that paid every claim right out of the gate? Yeah, neither did we, because the truth is many LTLs and other carriers will routinely find reasons to deny a claim the first time around—and sometimes for many back-and-forths after that.

Don’t take it personally. And don’t assume this means your claim isn’t valid. In many cases, carriers are simply trying to wear you down, because their previous experience has shown that some customers will indeed give up on a claim if pursuing it appears to be more trouble than it’s worth.

Don’t: Hesitate to ask for claims assistance if you need it.

There are many additional do’s and don’ts we could share about this subject, including:

  • Do take the time to inspect each and every incoming shipment carefully – even if you have to get some extra personnel to help you do it.
  • Don’t forget to include the cost of shipping in your claims.
  • And do remember that your company also has a responsibility to do everything in its power to ensure that shipments stay safe via stronger packaging, better dunnage and more.

Don’t forget that if you ever find the claims filing process to be more time-consuming and frustrating than you want to deal with, AFS is here to help. Give us a shout at 318. 798. 2111 or drop us a line to learn more.

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