Freight Loading and Unloading: 9 Tips and Tricks

Illustration of freight loading and unloading

If you don’t have a business with a dock, freight loading or unloading can become very stressful very fast. This is why we’ve prepared a few tips for you in case you’re unsure of how to proceed.

1) Be prepared. The best thing you can do is think ahead

If the carrier arrives and your location doesn’t have the means to load or unload the cargo, the driver will simply leave. This will cause avoidable delays or extra charges since carriers tend to charge for missed pickups/deliveries.

That’s why it’s important to always think ahead and plan for the means to load/unload

2) Use a forklift, it’s as good as a dock

A forklift is a small vehicle with two power-operated prongs at the front that can be slid under heavy loads and then raised for moving and stacking materials in warehouses, shipping depots, etc.

If either location has a forklift instead of a dock, you don’t have to specify that part at the time you’re booking your shipment. Feel free to say you’re shipping dock to dock.

If a forklift is not available to you, but you really need to receive a shipment as scheduled, consider renting one. If a shipment is too large or too heavy for a tailgate(see below), then this might be the best option for you.

Illustration showing freight loading and unloading



3) Request a tailgate/liftgate

If you don’t have a dock or a forklift, simply request a tailgate at the required end (pickup or delivery).

Tailgates are small hydraulic lifts at the back of a truck that are used to get a shipment from a truck to ground level.

Carriers do charge for the tailgate service, but paying for this service beforehand is much more affordable than paying for a missed pickup/delivery charge and for the tailgate service, when the carrier attempts the pickup/delivery the second time.

Freight offloaded via tailgate



4) Use a loading ramp

As the name suggests, a loading ramp is a ramp on wheels used instead of a dock. Or to be a bit more technical, it is an inclined plane used to load and unload materials.

It is useful since you can move it out of the way when you’re not using it and bring it out as needed. It serves the same purpose as a dock.

Example of a loading ramp


5) Handbomb your shipment

This one will only work for lighter shipments (up to about 120 lbs) or shipments made up of smaller boxes. If you don’t have loading equipment and you’re shipping something light — feel free to load or unload it by hand.

The important thing to keep in mind is that, depending on the carrier, you will have either 15 or 30 minutes of free time before waiting time charges start.

Example of handbombing


6) Request a Terminal dropoff/pickup

Your consignee doesn’t have a forklift and a tailgate is too expensive? Why not have them pick their shipment up from a nearby carrier terminal?

This is generally the cheapest option for those without docks.

This will count the shipment as going to a business with a dock. The consignee can then pick it up and unload at their location at their own pace.

Example of a carrier terminal


7) Request driver assistance

This one technically falls under handbombing as well. Since drivers will not allow anyone to climb on board the truck, sometimes time is a limiting factor. In such situations, driver-assist services are available.

Not all drivers provide these services, but if you make a note of this request ahead of time, the carrier will let you know if they can accommodate your request.

Driver assistance also falls under the special handling category and comes with a fee.

Illustration depicting a driver assisting with offloading


8) Load/Unload via crane

If you’re shipping a very large shipment on a flatbed truck, chances are you will need a crane.

If you’re planning on shipping items on a flatbed, you might want to get familiar with loading and unloading with a crane. Cranes are used for larger than average shipments that cannot be unloaded by a forklift from the side of the truck.

Your shipping specialist will likely be able to spot a shipment that requires a crane in order to unload and will let you know in time. Cranes, due to their specific nature, are charged as special services.

Illustration depicting a crane truck


9) Use Google maps

If you are having trouble reaching your shipper or consignee and are unsure whether their location is equipped for shipping, feel free to cheat a bit using Google maps.

Google Maps is Google’s free service that offers satellite imagery, aerial photographs and street view of the globe, including city maps.

If you enter your desired address or company name into google maps, you can see whether they have a dock or forklift most of the time.

This will help you get an accurate quote the first time around and you will know whether any special services are required on time.

Still, it is good to keep this option in mind if you’re looking to expand your shipping business.

Google earth pin of Freightera's location


Found what you need?

By this point, you should be fully informed about your shipment’s requirements and ready to ship.

However, if you do have any further questions regarding shipping, feel free to visit our blog which has most of the information you could need when it comes to shipping.

For a free freight quote, head over to Freightera and start quoting in seconds!

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