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Category Archives: Freight Solutions

How to load and unload a shipping container

Prior to loading containers with goods, there are a number of important factors that need to be taken into account when shipping freight. To ensure no money is wasted, goods are not damaged and employees stay safe, it’s imperative that everything is done by the book, from making sure everything inside the container is securely stored and packaged to ensuring the loading process is safe for those charged with loading and unloading. 

Whether you’re looking to improve loading times or find more efficient and safe ways to pack and secure your goods when shipping freight overseas, read on for professional advice on how you can make loading and unloading shipping containers a slicker, safer and more efficient process.

How to load a shipping container

Accidents involving shipping containers are surprisingly common. It is thought that each year approximately 1,000 containers are lost at sea, while thousands more are significantly damaged due to incorrect loading by the freight companies. This causes significant financial losses for both the logistic companies involved, as well as their partners. It can also be extremely dangerous for people working on cargo ships and those who unload each container when they reach their destination. For this reason, knowing how to safely and efficiently load a shipping container is vital. Luckily, this can be done in four simple steps:

1. Check the container’s condition

The first thing you need to do before you even start loading a container is to check it thoroughly. Over a lifetime, these containers can take a real battering, leading to damage – as an overseas shipper, it is your responsibility to ensure the container you’ve been provided with is in good condition and safe to use.

Your first job is to establish what the container’s official weight payload is to ensure it meets your requirements, and also check if it is displaying a valid Container Safety Convention (CSC) plate. This should be attached to the door of your container. If it does not have one of these, it will need to be returned to your supplier. If the CSC plate is in place, it’s time to check the exterior and interior of the container for signs of damage. Be sure to look out for the following:

  • Tears, holes or extreme rust to the outside panelling of the container.
  • Damage to the exterior door handles/locks.
  • Dirty or unclean container interiors which could make loading your goods unsafe or produce an unhygienic freight environment.
  • Damage to the floor of the container – look out for items such as dangerous protruding nails or screws, or loose packaging from previous shipments.

If you notice any of these issues, contact your supplier and request a new container. 

2. Create a stuffing plan

Next you need to think carefully about how you are going to load your container based on the weight and size of your goods – this is called a ‘stuffing plan’. Remember – randomly placing your goods in a container until it reaches capacity can lead to an unbalanced and potentially dangerous situation. Instead, think about how your cargo can be equally distributed across the floor of the container.

According to the Department for Transport, you should never load more than 60% of the payload in less than half the length of the container. This is because it could result in a dangerous axle overload. With this in mind, consider the size and weight of every item carefully and be sure to always securely store heavy cargo and liquids at the bottom, evenly distributed, and lighter goods stowed on top. This should make for a secure container with a safe, low centre of gravity. 

3. Secure cargo

Once your goods are correctly positioned in the container, it is time to ensure it is securely packed as tightly as possible. Working from the bottom up, try to fill any empty spaces between items with packing material, empty boxes or blankets. This will give items less space to move around in during transit, preventing unnecessary damage. 

It is also a good idea to use strapping devices, such as tie-downs, fasteners, friction lashings or other bracing solutions to secure items in place. Heavy seas and wind can put a huge amount of strain on shipping containers, meaning if the items inside are not correctly secured, they can move around, become damaged or even displace the container inself. This is dangerous and can cause costly damage.

4. Final checks

Finally, before you send your cargo on its way, taking the time to do one final check is always a good idea. Ensure all items are stored and secured correctly and that all goods are evenly distributed and space has been used effectively.  If everything looks good, securely close the container’s doors and lock them using a heavy duty padlock. 

Can a forklift load a shipping container?

Yes, forklift trucks can be used to load shipping containers. Thanks to an array of different attachments that can be used on forklifts, these handy vehicles are used at many ports to load everything from pallets and boxes to large drums and coils. 

How long does it take to load a shipping container?

The time it takes to load a shipping container depends on what you are loading (how heavy your cargo is and if it is made up of fragile or hazardous materials), how much help you have in terms of manpower, forklifts and cranes, and what size containers you are loading. 

However, as a rule of thumb, to pack a 20-foot container it usually takes around three hours, while a 40-foot container will take closer to six hours. 

What is a full container load?

A full container load (FCL) is a full shipment which contains cargo owned by one party. This is the opposite of a less than container load (LCL) which describes a container that features cargo from multiple shippers, packed together. 

How to unload a shipping container

Unloading a shipping container is typically easier than loading, especially if you are prepared. There are two main ways to do it – from the ground or from a raised container. 

A raised container simply means that the shipping container is still mounted on the chassis of a truck during the unloading process. This method is typically used to unload containers holding regular or palletised cargo. To unload a raised container, you may want to move the cargo inside it either by hand or using a pallet trolley. A forklift can then be used at ground level to lift the goods out of the container. Alternatively, a mobile yard ramp can be used. These smart pieces of equipment can be rolled into position, temporarily fixed to the back of the container and used to quickly unload cargo. Although these ramps are large and difficult to store, it means forklifts and pallet trolleys can easily be rolled in and out of the container, speeding up the unloading process.

If you are attempting to unload a container that is holding very large or extra heavy cargo, it is not always safe or even practical to unload while the container is still raised. For this reason, sometimes a shipping container will have to be lifted onto the ground while still full to make the unloading process safe. To do this, a crane, heavy-duty forklift, reach stacker or side loader will have to be used. Once the container is on the ground, a regular forklift or hand-operated pallet trolley can be used to safely unload your cargo. While the specialist equipment needed for this type of unloading can be expensive, whether you are purchasing or renting it, if you will be unloading shipping containers regularly, this is the most efficient and economical way to do so.

Can you unload a shipping container sideways?

While side opening shipping containers are available from some suppliers, they are not very common. Standard shipping containers, both 20 and 40-foot models, tend to only feature doors fitted at one end. For this reason, if you think you require a shipping container that is capable of sideways loading/unloading, you will have to speak to your supplier. 

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What is part load and full load?

For any business transporting goods between two locations, the cost of shipping can be expensive. As such, it’s important that they choose the most suitable haulage option as a method of cutting costs and maximising profits.

One of the most important factors is the size of the load being transported, with every load falling into the category of either part load or full load. In this blog, we explain what exactly part load and full load are in relation to logistics, as well as explaining how part load and full load haulage is calculated.

What is part load in logistics?

Also known as partial load, less than truckload (LTL) or less than container load (LCL), a part load is a shipment that doesn’t use the entirety of the space available for carrying it.

As not every load will fill out the method of transport it’s being moved in, freight forwarders have to find ways to use up all of the leftover space. A common way of doing this is by consolidating multiple part loads into one truck or container, utilising all of the available space and cutting the cost clients will pay to transport goods.

How to calculate a part load

If a company or client has paid for a load that fills out an entire shipping container or method of transportation, the cost of the shipment will be the price of the full container load. However, if the container or vehicle isn’t completely full, the cost will be based on shipment volume.

Freight shipment loads are usually calculated in cubic metres (CBM), and the same method would be used for calculating a part load. Simply take measurements for the height, width and length of the load, multiply them together and convert the final measurement into CBM.

What does full load mean?

Also known as full truckload (FTL) or full container load (FCL), full load is a shipment that uses all of the space in a container or method of transportation. For example, this could be an entire shipping container on a sea freight ship or all of the storage space in a road freight truck, rail freight train or air freight ship.

Although using a part load means that the cost will only be for the space taken up in the container or vehicle, full load poses several benefits. For instance, as they’re filling the entirety of the container or vehicle, the charge will be set at the cost of the vehicle rather than the cost of the load. It’s also likely to be transported quicker as, if there’s nothing else in the mode of transport, it won’t need to stop multiple times to pick up and drop off other loads.

How to calculate a full truck load

As previously mentioned, a full load is a shipment that takes up all of the space in a container or freight vehicle. As such, rather than being based on the load itself, the measurement and cost of a full load is determined by the units of measurement of the container or storage space in the freight vehicle.

For all other costs involved with moving a load, a freight forwarder will be able to use their contacts and knowledge of the logistics industry to calculate the total price paid by a business or individual requesting the freight service.

Alternatively, a business or individual could decide to carry out this process themselves. However, by doing this without the expertise of a freight forwarder, they would need to consider the cost of the container or vehicle space as well as the cost of petrol, the mileage, the type of vehicle, any fees that would need to be paid to anyone hired in the process, such as the driver of the vehicle and any fees associated with tolls, customs and additional charges that will occur as a result of moving the load from the source to the location.

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What do third party logistics companies do?

According to research experts Gartner, over 80 per cent of professionals suggested that outsourcing logistics to third party companies was important and they would intend to increase their budget for doing this beyond solely fulfilment and warehousing. Likewise, 42 per cent of the same professionals claimed they would want to invest in third-party logistics if service providers can offer an all-encompassing logistics management solution.

Third-party logistics companies can save the time and money of e-commerce companies as well as improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their logistics process and every touchpoint of the supply chain. As such, businesses that aren’t fully aware of third party logistics companies and the benefits they offer could be missing out on the opportunity to optimise the service they provide, as well as significant savings. 

In this blog, we explain exactly what third party logistics companies are, what they do and the reasons why many businesses choose to outsource logistics.

What is a third-party logistics company?

Simply put, a third-party logistics company is an external business that manages specific parts, or the entirety, of a business’ transportation operations. More specifically, areas a third-party logistics company may take control of include inventory, material handling, packaging, storage, unitisation and warehousing

A concept that became more popular in the 1970s and 80s, outsourcing to third-party companies is a common process for many businesses globally. Since the start of the 21st century, outsourcing to third-party logistics companies has continued to develop due to the growth of e-commerce and a broader range of logistics services becoming available.

Many businesses decide to put their faith in third-party logistics companies as it means delegating certain tasks and duties to an experienced, knowledgeable and functioning company. Providing a trustworthy and reliable company is chosen, outsourcing logistics can pose multiple benefits and lead to improved efficiency across the supply chain.

Why do companies use third-party logistics?

As previously mentioned, businesses often outsource their logistical responsibilities to external companies as it can offer several benefits. In an effort to offer more insight, we’ve listed some of the common perks to outsourcing to third-party logistics companies below:

Cost –

When businesses carry out logistics processes independently, the price can run high. A third-party logistics company, however, will usually perform each task in bulk, lowering the cost. Likewise, the price of logistics will be less as they will possess a number of contacts, understand the industry, the value of certain tasks and processes and have the ability to negotiate with service providers across multiple stages of the supply chain.

Efficiency –

Not only can using a third-party logistics company save time through internal members of staff being able to work on other tasks, but someone with experience in logistics is also more likely to complete tasks quicker and more efficiently. Additionally, the use of technology by third-party logistics companies often means arranging shipments and filling out paperwork are significantly less time-consuming.

Performance monitoring –

For many businesses, it can be difficult to assess the effectiveness of a supply chain alongside other ongoing tasks. However, as third party logistics companies are experts in identifying errors, gaps, inconsistencies and shortcomings in the supply chain, they can offer methods of optimising every stage, potentially benefiting the running of the business.

Resources –

Working with a third-party logistics company means that a qualified and experienced professional can handle logistics matters rather than internal members of staff. However, it also allows the business to gain access to the knowledge and resources of the third-party logistics company. Depending on the relationship between the business and the third-party logistics company, it may even be possible to access the company’s contacts, warehouse space and achieve priority over other businesses.

Technology –

Software programmes that are designed to manage logistical tasks can be expensive, and yet, it may be necessary to invest in this type of technology if a business has chosen to manage logistics internally. However, as a third party logistics company will use some form of the transportation management system, a business can acquire important data, reports and analysis from the company they’ve outsourced to and use this information to improve their supply chain.

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What does logistics mean?

An umbrella term used to describe a huge global industry, in its most basic form, logistics is simply the process of planning and implementing the efficient movement, transportation, storage and distribution of goods, typically from one point of origin to a separate point of consumption. Covering everything from road haulage and air freight to warehousing, packing and distribution, the ultimate goal of logistics is to ensure customer expectations and requirements are met in an efficient, timely and cost-effective manner.

In this blog, we explain the definition of logistics before looking at the logistics industry in more detail. 

What is the definition of logistics?

As touched upon above, logistics refers to all processes involved in the coordination and transport of people or resources – be that individuals, goods, raw materials, products or equipment – from one location to another. 

Traditionally used to describe the movement of military personnel, goods and weaponry, in the modern world logistics is more commonly applied to the transport, storage and distribution of commercially available goods within different supply chains. For this reason, logistics is an essential cog that keeps the global economy moving. 

Although some companies choose to manage their own logistics services, the majority of day-to-day commercial logistics is carried out by specialised logistics companies, such as Freightline Carriers. With the growth of international business during the 20th century, and then the explosion of online retail in more recent years, the need for efficient, cost-effective professional logistics services has never been greater. The logistics industry has grown rapidly as a result of this. This has contributed to the rapid growth of the logistics industry.

What is the logistics industry?

Part of the wider transport sector, the logistics industry is made up of both private and public organisations that provide professional logistics services. As covered above, these services can include everything from road and air freight solutions to warehousing and distribution services. 

The logistics businesses that sit inside this industry typically work alongside organisations from other industries, such as retail, pharmaceuticals, events and automotives, to provide specialist advice and solutions to an array of logistical challenges. As the face of modern business continues to change, becoming more fast-paced and consumer-driven, the logistics industry continues to become increasingly significant. This has allowed many companies to carve out a lucrative area of the economy to operate within. Indeed, the UK freight and logistics industry is expected to grow by 2.5 per cent before 2026. 

Here at Freightline Carriers, we are dedicated logistics specialists that sit at the very vanguard of the logistics industry. We work with a wide range of diverse business partners from a broad spectrum of industries. This, combined with our unrivalled level of experience and seasoned team of industry professionals, ensures we fully understand and appreciate the sometimes complex and unique needs and expectations of clients from an array of industries. 

To find out more about our services and to discuss how we can help your business, get in touch today. All inquiries are responded to within 15 minutes.

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What cannot be transported via air freight?

While it’s true that almost anything can be shipped from one location to another, including hazardous materials, when it comes to air freight, some restrictions are in place. This is simply because some items – be that explosive materials, flammable liquids, and compressed gasses, for example – can become dangerous and/or unstable in transit due to the changes in pressure that occur during flight. 

To make sure you don’t fall foul of these restrictions and you’re able to organise the most appropriate form of transportation for your goods, we have put together this handy guide which outlines the items that cannot be shipped via air freight. 

Restricted air freight items 

While some items that are restricted from air freight in the UK are obvious, such as illegal drugs and prohibited weapons for example, you may actually be surprised to learn about other restricted items and materials. That’s why it is important to check out the list of restricted items below before booking an air freight service. If you want to ship items that are included on the list below, you may have to consider alternative methods of transportation. 

Restricted air freight items and materials include:

  • All forms of explosives, including fireworks, firecrackers, sparklers and detonating fuses. 
  • Compressed gas. This includes dry ice, gas cartridges/canisters, fire extinguishers, respirators, automotive airbags, aerosols, light bulbs, etc. 
  • Flammable solids. Such as activated carbon, copra, castor products, titanium powder, rubber debris, matches, etc.
  • Flammable liquids. This includes petrol, diesel, alcohol, camphor oil, engine oil, engine starting fluid, turpentine, insect sprays, air fresheners, etc.
  • Items that contain corrosive materials, including standalone batteries.
  • Toxic and potentially infectious items such as standalone lithium batteries and some pesticides.
  • Magnetic items/materials (without degaussing packaging). This includes currency detectors and heavy duty industrial magnets. 
  • Natural oxidizers, peroxides, radioactive materials and corrosive items. This includes some medicines and common lab chemicals, such as potassium permanganate and sulphuric acid.
  • Potentially dangerous biohazards, such as corpses, bones, human ashes, untanned animal hides, etc. 
  • Potentially dangerous biochemical products (including infectious materials). For example, dangerous pathogens, medical wastes and bacillus anthracis.
  • Any powders, liquids or pastes that display a danger sign on their packaging.

If you are still unsure whether or not you can ship a certain item via air freight, get in touch with us here at Freightline Carriers. We can talk through the contents of your cargo and advise on the most suitable form of transport for you.

Can you air freight lithium batteries?

The use of lithium batteries is significantly growing, meaning more and more common consumer products now contain them. This has posed a logistical challenge when it comes to shipping these items. But what exactly are the rules when it comes to shipping lithium batteries by air freight?

Well, the fact is, all standalone lithium batteries are prohibited as cargo on all international flights heading out of the UK, unless the shipper follows the correct battery packaging regulations. However, depending on the size and capabilities of the lithium batteries in question, some are allowed on flights, as long as they remain inside their associated devices. 

For example, the likes of smartphones, smartwatches, laptops, tablets and cameras that contain lithium batteries are typically permitted on air freight services. However, many air freight services will not accept cargo that contains standalone or very large lithium batteries. It is also important to check the laws surrounding the safe transportation of lithium batteries in the country you are planning to fly your goods to, as if your cargo breaches these regulations you could stand to have your goods confiscated or face a hefty fine. 

If you are planning on shipping cargo that contains lithium batteries, but are not sure if air freight is a valid option, contact us. We guarantee to respond to all enquiries within 15 minutes.

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How to load a pallet for shipping

The key to running a successful road freight service is efficiency. From warehousing and distribution processes right through to delivery and returns, finding the quickest, safest and most cost-effective methods of operating is essential. This includes loading your trucks in the most efficient way and managing and optimizing your pallet loading strategies. 

Pallets are usually constructed from rigid wood or durable plastic and facilitate the transportation of goods in large quantities by making them more portable, protective, safe to use, and generally easier to move. ‘Palletising’ a load can also make sure loading and unloading cargo is easier and faster, as well as ensuring you are best utilising the space inside your vehicle.  

However, just how is palletising done? What are the best methods of loading pallets onto a truck? And how many pallets are in a full truckload? For answers to all of these questions and more, read on as Freightline Carriers explores how to load pallets for road freight services.  

How are pallets loaded onto trucks?

Although designed to make large or multi-item collective shipments more portable and easier to transport, pallets are typically heavy and require specialist equipment to be loaded onto trucks and other HGVs. Loading crews therefore should be fully trained and equipped with forklifts and/or pallet jacks to make the loading and unloading processes as quick, safe and efficient as possible. 

While the physical side of loading pallets onto trucks is relatively simple, especially with the help of forklifts and pallet jacks, the different ways in which space can be best utilised by the methods in which the pallets are configured can be more complicated, with a range of different techniques available. The different methods you can choose, which we discuss in more detail below, all have different benefits and weaknesses, and are all suited to different types of loads and trucks. For this reason, to ensure you choose a method of loading your pallets onto your truck that takes safety and efficiency into consideration, as well as legal requirements, such as weight limits and safe load distribution, it’s important to familiarise yourself with each and calculate how many pallets you can safely fit in the vehicle before you start.

How to load pallets on a truck

There are three common methods of loading pallets on a truck, which are:

Side by side loading

As the name suggests, this method sees pallets loaded next to one another with the short end of each pallet (the end with jack/forklift openings) facing forwards and backwards. While not the most efficient method in terms of space utilisation, side by side loading is the quickest way of loading and unloading pallets, meaning valuable time can be saved. 

Turned loading

Essentially the opposite of side by sideloading, the turned loading method sees pallets placed on the truck in a way that sees the long end of each pallet facing forwards and backwards, and the jack/forklift openings facing sideways. This method provides better space utilisation than the side by side method, meaning more pallets can be loaded. It also provides more protection for the goods stored on each pallet as there is less room for shifting and sliding to occur during transit. However, not all vehicles have enough space to accommodate the turned method, while loading and unloading from the rear can also be more challenging. 

Pinwheeled loading 

This method combines side by side and turned loading and sees every other pallet loaded in a different direction. If your trailer is not large enough to turn load throughout, this method is ideal when you want to best use space. 

Whichever method you choose, it’s crucial to remember that all pallets must be inspected for signs of damage and/or weakness prior to loading, and calculations must be made to ensure payload and axle weight maximums are not exceeded. Lashings may also be required if there is too much space between pallets. This will prevent them from sliding during transit. 

How many pallets are in a full truckload?

The amount of pallets that make up a full truckload clearly varies based on the size of truck you are using and the type of pallets being loaded (UK and Euro pallets differ in size). However, here in the UK, a standard flat 13.6m trailer can carry 26 UK pallets (13 on each side), loaded using the turned method. Alternatively, the same standard UK truck can carry 33 loaded Euro pallets (15 ‘turned’ pallets on each side, plus an additional three pallets side by side across the back).

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What do logistics companies do?

An important cog in the machine that drives domestic and international economies alike, logistics companies come in many different shapes and sizes, and each specialise in different areas. Ultimately, they all have the same objective – to facilitate the transportation and storage of goods for other businesses. 

From international air freight services and freight forwarding to warehousing and distribution solutions, the term ‘logistics’ covers such a wide range of services, meaning it can sometimes be difficult to understand exactly what companies in this industry offer. With this in mind, here at Freightline Carriers, we thought we’d put together this handy guide to let you know what logistics companies actually do, what services they offer, and how they usually operate. 

What does a logistics company do?

Essentially, logistics companies are hired by businesses to plan, implement and manage the transportation and storage of products, goods and raw materials. A key part of the supply chain of almost all goods-based industries, these companies may specialise in different aspects of logistics, with some focusing on haulage, for example, while others may be warehousing experts. However, some larger logistics companies, such as Freightline Carriers, are experienced in all areas of the field and can adapt to the needs of clients. 

While it’s true that some businesses manage certain aspects of their supply chain themselves, logistics companies are there to partner with them and take control of any areas of logistics a business may require help with. This means logistics companies essentially operate as a third-party conduit that help to facilitate some or all of the following areas of the supply chain process: 

Domestic transportation and distribution

It’s common for goods-based businesses to not invest in their own fleet of vehicles and drivers. This is often expensive and time-consuming, so instead, many organisations choose to outsource transportation, shipping and distribution processes to logistics companies. Companies such as Freightline Carriers already have the vehicles, staff and experience in place, meaning slotting into your existing supply chain is typically quick, seamless and a good way to cut internal costs. This option is much cheaper than investing in the in-house logistical infrastructure and technology that would be required. Courier services are usually also available for smaller loads that require urgent delivery. 

International shipping

If your business is only based in one country but involves trading with businesses and customers located overseas, organising your own overseas logistics is a tough and expensive challenge. Logistics companies that specialise in international freight forwarding take this burden out of your hands, using their specialist expertise and professional links across the globe to provide quick, efficient and cost-effective overseas shipping solutions. These services will typically involve ensuring customs and border checks run smoothly and returns are properly managed. 

Warehousing and storage 

An often overlooked aspect of logistics, in today’s modern age of online shopping, next day delivery and fast fashion, storing goods using strategically planned warehousing systems has become increasingly complex and expensive. Logistics companies can take control of a business’ warehousing operations, finding affordable, well-located and size-appropriate storage spaces, and overseeing the ongoing management of these locations and how they will interconnect with shipping and distribution services. 

Inventory management

Most logistics companies can provide professional inventory management solutions as part of their warehouse management services.. This could involve devising and implementing a new strategy to make the inventory management processes of a business more coherent in order to become more efficient. These services are especially helpful if your business needs to store potentially hazardous or oversized products or materials, and require specialist help. 

How does a logistics company work?

Logistics is a highly lucrative industry. With the ability to partner with practically any business, whether that’s in the retail, pharmaceuticals or events industry, or the automotive, hospitality or catering sectors. Any business that requires goods, materials or products transporting from one location to another, or simply needs professional help with storing and distributing, are potential clients for logistics companies. 

However, in order to operate effectively, and successfully offer the services discussed above to their clients, these companies must be strong in three key areas: 

  1. They must have the necessary experience, both in terms of management and more junior staff, to successfully plan, implement and manage the transportation and storage of goods for their clients.
  2. They must have the professional links and networking skills needed to forge and maintain strong relationships with other logistics companies and individuals located both domestically and abroad, knowing they can be called on if needed. This is especially important if the company specialises in overseas shipping solutions.
  3. They must have the hardware needed to successfully carry out the services they advertise. This includes the fleet of specialised vehicles, professional machinery and cutting edge technology needed to fulfil their client’s requirements. 

As an industry-leading logistics company, here at Freightline Carriers, we work hard to ensure we excel in all three of these areas. This has enabled us to successfully work closely with a wide and diverse portfolio of clients, offering everything from road and international air freight services to specialist warehousing and distribution solutions.

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Spotlight on sustainability: paving the road to a greener supply chain

The issue of sustainability has risen up the agenda in many industries in recent years due to the ever-increasing threat posed by climate change and the growing consumer demand for more eco-friendly solutions. Industries are also facing pressure from governments around the world to reduce their impact on the environment in an attempt to meet national and global sustainability goals. The logistics industry is no exception. 

But how does an industry that’s founded on the international movement of goods take on the monumental challenge of creating a more sustainable global supply chain? Where does sustainability sit in relation to the industry’s traditional aims: efficiency, productivity and customer satisfaction? And what are the risks of not taking action? In this blog, we cover all this and more. 

Why is sustainability important?

Before we explore the steps that logistics companies can take to create a greener supply chain, we need to be clear about why this issue matters. 

Of course, there are multiple reasons why logistics businesses need to place sustainability at the heart of their ethos and their day-to-day operations, with everything from ethics to profitability playing a part. 

Moral responsibility

Firstly, it’s important to understand that the scientific consensus is that the world is facing a climate emergency and human activities are at the root of the problem. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the concentration of greenhouse gases has been increasing since the Industrial Revolution, causing global temperatures to rise with it. 

In 2015, the Paris Agreement saw countries around the world commit to limiting global temperature rises to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels and making pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. However, these commitments have been deemed insufficient to meet targets, and governments are expected to review and adjust their pledges at COP 26, a climate change conference due to be held in Glasgow in November 2021. 

In short, too little is being done to reduce global warming so every sector must now do its bit to tackle this problem head-on, and the logistics industry has a big role to play. After all, according to the International Transport Forum (ITF), global trade-related freight transport makes up approximately one third of all transport-related carbon emissions from fuel combustion, and over 7% of global emissions.

The business case

But beyond the ecological and moral motivations, there’s also an excellent business case to be made for greater sustainability in logistics. More and more, a good sustainability strategy is becoming a necessity in order to stay competitive and survive in the long term. According to a report commissioned by HSBC in 2019, almost half of all UK companies planned to increase their environmental expenditure in the next two years. Why? Well, in the transport and logistics industry, higher sustainability scores have been linked with greater TSR (total shareholder return), according to Boston Consulting Group. While traditionally, the industry might have viewed sustainability as a compliance chore and unnecessary expense, more logistics and transport businesses are waking up to the fact that sustainability offers the opportunity to increase market share, attract new customers and create new revenue streams. It can also support some of their major business goals: making cost savings, creating efficiencies, increasing employee productivity and raising customer satisfaction levels.

Dealing with the direct effects of climate change

Furthermore, the logistics and transport industry lies at the sharp end of the climate crisis. The industry is directly impacted by the effects of climate change, including heatwaves, flooding, storms, wildfires and rising sea levels so it’s in logistics and transportation companies best interests to act before it’s too late. 

What sustainability means to your business

So what about your business? Can you afford to do nothing? The reality is, companies that do not keep pace with industry changes in relation to sustainability risk falling behind the competition as more businesses make environmental credentials a key consideration when choosing companies to partner with.

In order to preserve the future of your company, developing and implementing a rigorous sustainability strategy should be at the top of your priority list. Each stakeholder in the global supply chain must decide what sustainability means to their business and they must set ambitious, strategic and achievable goals if they are to fulfil their ethical obligations, meet consumer demand and reap the benefits of being a greener business. 

Key focus areas

There are several areas that logistics companies can focus on in order to offer sustainable logistics. Here are some of the most important:

Calculating carbon footprint

In order to reduce your carbon footprint, it’s important to know how much energy you’re using in the first place. Calculating emissions can be challenging as it requires lots of different information, such as load types, equipment types, distance travelled and more. Companies may only have some of this data and, in many cases, it may be spread across multiple systems. 

To get the most accurate picture of your carbon footprint, it’s important to invest in systems that can centralise data collection. Real-time visibility platforms, for example, can be used to collect pivotal information that can be leveraged to calculate your emissions.

Once you know your current carbon emissions levels, it’s easier to set ambitious, strategic and achievable goals in order to reduce them.

Space utilisation solutions

Logistics companies need to focus efforts on developing solutions that reduce the use of space. The use of stackable and collapsible pallet boxes, for example, can help to increase the fill rate of a freight vehicle. This can decrease the number of journeys or vehicles it takes to transport a consignment, thereby reducing carbon emissions and transportation costs.

In warehousing, businesses need to make the most of every square inch of space in order to optimise storage and picking processes. If space is not used efficiently, labour costs can go up, productivity can be reduced, and companies can find themselves consuming more energy than necessary – which is bad for business and the planet.

Load optimisation

Load optimisation should be an everyday practice for logistics and transport companies. By combining shipments into larger loads to reduce the number of vehicles required to move goods, firms not only stand to save energy and have a positive environmental impact, they can also save money and increase efficiency.

Utilising load optimisation software can help to enhance your load management by ensuring that you are not carrying empty space and that goods are packed in the right order for your route. Such software can help to reduce the number of vehicles required and ensure that your drivers can stick to the most energy-efficient routes possible.

Route planning

When planning the routes of their journeys, haulage companies need to keep the number of vehicles, the fuel consumed and the distances travelled to a minimum. Businesses must also consider how fast vehicles will be travelling, the nature of the roads that will be used and load size in order to construct the best possible route plan. Nowadays, more companies are turning to algorithms and specialist logistics firms to aid with route planning in order to save time, money and reduce emissions. 

Renewable energy

With consumer demand for greener solutions increasing and governments setting ambitious goals in regard to carbon neutrality, making the move to renewable energy is likely to be a move that will pay off in the long term. Investing in renewable energy now, such as wind and solar power to heat and light warehouses and electric vehicles to transport goods, could help your business to stay competitive and could future-proof it against new eco regulations. Not only that, but renewable energy is associated with reduced costs over the long-term so this is an all-round good business decision.

When it comes to the climate emergency, logistics and transportation companies cannot afford to sit back and do nothing. If companies in this industry want to remain attractive to clients and minimise future costs and challenges, it’s imperative that they act now. 

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How does a freight forwarding company work?

For companies that trade large quantities of goods in multiple countries and rely on seamless exporting and importing in order for a business to run smoothly, third party help when it comes to managing freight can be an essential tool. Taking care of everything from distribution and shipping tasks to completing tricky importing and exporting documentation on your behalf, help from outsourced experts can make the shipping and logistical aspects of your business much easier. This is where freight forwarding companies come in. 

But what exactly is a freight forwarding company? How do they work? And how can partnering with one benefit your business? In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into the world of freight forwarding to answer all these questions and more, highlighting just how crucial these freight experts can be in your business’ overseas shipping operations.

a crane lifting up a cargo container in a port

What is a freight forwarding company?

In the simplest terms possible, a freight forwarding company is an organisation which arranges for goods to be safely and securely transported from one location to another. Acting as an intermediary or ‘middleman’ between the various stages and transportation services involved in long-distance shipping, these third party companies work with their clients to create tailored transport solutions based on timeframes, budgets and any special requirements.

While freight forwarding companies will not typically carry out shipments themselves, their value lies in their ability to establish and take advantage of the relationships they hold with a network of expert air, road, rail, and sea freight companies that can help your business create the most efficient routes possible for your goods. As each freight forwarding company has its own trusted contacts in each branch of the shipping industry – from road and rail haulage companies to airlines and transoceanic liners – they have the ability to negotiate the best possible prices. They can do this by simply using established commercial routes at knocked-down prices, or by using their connections to gain access to and/or create bespoke chartered routes that better suit your business’ logistical needs, without breaking the bank. 

While some businesses may not see the value of freight forwarding companies and view the shipment of goods from one location to another as a relatively simple process involving only two separate parties – the manufacturer/wholesaler and the final customer – it’s important to remember that shipping operations can become very complex. This is particularly true when it comes to documentation and VAT settlements involved with customs checks. For this reason, aside from taking care of the physical logistics of your business’ shipment needs, freight forwarding companies will also typically handle all of the paperwork required to legally import and export your goods, including any VAT declarations and customs clearance documentation needed in the port of each country/trade zone your goods may pass through on its way to its final destination. 

This process is usually much easier for freight forwarding companies than individual businesses, as most forwarders are recognised as Authorised Economic Operators. This allows them to take advantage of streamlined customs clearance procedures that individual businesses cannot enjoy, including the ability to defer the payment of import duties when necessary, ensuring goods are released promptly and not delayed or held-up in transit. This can be particularly useful if your business deals in perishable goods.

How a freight forwarding company works

The ways in which a freight forwarding company operates will vary depending on individual preferences as well as the specific services it offers. However, typically freight forwarding companies will follow a similar process. This will usually involve either all of, or a selected number of, the following procedural steps: 

  1. Prior to collection, your chosen freight forwarder will negotiate and book the best possible form of transport for your goods – be that sea, air, rail or road freight – based on the destination, budget and other specific requirements. At this point, specialist insurance and shipment tracking options may be set up as and when required. 
  2. Your freight forwarder will arrange to take control of your shipment from your requested origin location on an agreed date. This location can be a factory, warehouse, store, office, depot or private address. Checks will be completed at this stage to ensure all goods are itemised, packaged and labelled compliantly. The carriers selected by your forwarder will usually open your cargo to inspect it before resealing it for transit. This may also be repeated at various checkpoints throughout the journey. 
  3. Before departure, additional goods checks will be made to ensure everything is in order and all relevant paperwork, export documentation and licences are prepared, ready for seamless inspections at UK customs authorities and each border checkpoint your shipment may pass through on its way to its final destination.
  4. At this point your goods will typically also be loaded onto their initial transport option by trained professionals. The pre-arranged carriers will then formally collect your goods and either start their journey by road or simply take the shipment to a carefully selected port or airport. 
  5. Throughout their journey, your goods will go through customs checks in each country or free-trade zone they pass through. This will involve customs agents inspecting your goods and ensuring all documentation is in order. As previously discussed, these processes will likely be quicker when you use freight forwarders who are recognised as Authorised Economic Operators.
  6. Finally, your shipment will arrive at its destination. At this point, a separate mode of transport – typically provided by a rail or road freight company, for example – may be needed to carry your shipment from its final port or airport destination to a distribution centre, factory, warehouse or store of your choice. This final leg of your shipment’s journey will also be arranged and overseen by your freight forwarding company.
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How to load a truck

When it comes to transporting road freight, efficiency matters. This is true at every phase of the process, from warehousing right through to delivery. In this article, we focus on loading. If time or space is mismanaged during this vital stage, you could end up wasting money, damaging goods and slowing down deliveries. Safety is paramount too. If you cut corners and overlook this important factor, your negligence could cause workers or members of the public to be harmed. You may also face legal action. 

Whether you want to ensure deliveries arrive at a distribution centre on time or safely maximise your vehicle capacity when shipping goods to retailers, read on for expert advice on how you can make truck loading a slicker process.

forklift operator using a forklift to load a pallet onto a truck

How to load heavy objects into a truck

First and foremost, you must make sure that the vehicle you’re using is safe to use and can take the weight of the goods that need to be hauled. You should inspect the condition of the truck, including your tyres, lights, brakes and anchor points. At Freightline Carriers, we have a fleet of vehicles of different sizes and can advise you on choosing the correct vehicle for your specific consignment.

Next, you must prepare for loading. This step is critical as nearly half of all driver-related injuries occur during loading and unloading. A risk assessment should be carried out to identify hazards and you should minimise the level of risk by adding control measures. You must ensure that the loading crew are wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and that everyone has been clearly briefed on their roles and responsibilities during the loading process. 

It’s important that the load is stacked against the headboard of the vehicle and the centre of gravity should always be as low as possible. You should also check that the freight is stable without the use of lashings. If the consignment could move about or topple over, you should consider ways to make it more secure. For example, you might put the goods in pallets or boxes. Once the load is stable, you need to secure it to the chassis of the truck using adequate load restraints, such as chains or webbing straps, Items or pallets that weigh more than 400kg should be secured with lashings, load-rated nets or tarpaulins with integral straps.

The type of loading equipment you will need will depend on the freight you are hauling. You may need forklifts, lifting slings, ramps or electric pallet jacks, for example. In the next section, we will look at how a forklift can be used for loading.

How to load a truck with a forklift

Using a forklift to load a truck is a high-risk activity so it is vital that care is taken when undertaking this job. The process usually involves a delivery driver and a forklift operator, however,  it is the delivery driver who is responsible for ensuring their vehicle is safe. They should brief the forklift operator on where to place goods based on the vehicle’s load capacity and what order the goods need to be loaded in, if any. The forklift driver, on the other hand, is responsible for actually loading the freight onto the truck and ensuring that it’s stable and secure. The delivery driver must not get physically involved in this part of the process.

Forklift operators must ensure that the loading vicinity is free of any pedestrians, including delivery drivers. They must make sure that the vehicle is on level ground and can be accessed easily from both sides. They must also check that the engine of the truck is off, the key has been removed from the ignition and that the brakes have been applied. They must make the driver aware that loading is about to commence, and they should check that the bed of the truck is free of any objects or debris. 

To minimise the likelihood of the truck capsizing, the forklift operator should start loading at the front of the vehicle and work their way to the back, alternating from one side to the other as they go. They should place the loads closely together as this helps to prevent the freight from moving around in the vehicle. Loading in this way also helps to maximise the carrying capacity of the truck. 

The operator must be suitably qualified to use a forklift and must always use the correct techniques for loading. For example, they should

  • Be fully aware of their surroundings before attempting to load
  • Make sure the load doesn’t exceed the forklift’s recommended weight
  • Adjust the width of the forks so that they are as wide as possible for the load
  • Ensure the load is evenly balanced on the forks
  • Insert the fork all the way under the load
  • Be careful not to move the forklift while raising or lowering the load
  • Tilt the load back a little to prevent it from tipping forwards
  • Never abandon the vehicle while a load is raised. 

If appropriate, the operator should load the vehicle in order of delivery by putting the first deliveries to be made on the vehicle last. This should be done to make the delivery stage safer and more efficient as it prevents gaps in the consignment and reduces the need to rearrange goods as they are delivered. However, operators must also ensure that the weight of the load is evenly distributed so may not always be able to work in delivery order. 

The operator must ensure that goods are loaded safely and are as stable as possible. However, the driver is responsible for ensuring the load is secure before transporting.

How to load a truck with pallets

Pallets can be loaded using a forklift or a pallet jack. The loading crew should take all the precautions discussed above and make all the necessary checks before undertaking this job. 

There are various ways that pallets can be configured in a truck so arrangement must be carefully considered in order to reduce health and safety risks, prevent goods from being damaged, maximise the capacity of the vehicle and make the delivery process as efficient as possible. You must check that the consignment does not exceed the weight limit of the truck and calculate how many pallets you can fit in the vehicle before you begin. 

Here are the main ways that pallets can be arranged:

  • Side by side – loading the pallets so that the short ends face forwards and backwards
  • Turned – loading the pallets so that the long ends face forwards and backwards
  • Pinwheeled – loading the pallets so that half the pallets are turned and half are side by side

However pallets are arranged, they must not exceed the maximum payload or axle weights of the vehicle.

Before loading, pallets must be thoroughly inspected for signs of damage or weakness. They shouldn’t be loaded if they are not strong enough to carry the load on them.

Pallets should be packed together closely to prevent sliding. Lashings should also be used to restrain them if there are spaces between the pallets or between the pallets and the headboard or the vehicle sides.


Loading goods can be a dangerous job and should only be undertaken by trained professionals. For expert help with road freight, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team.

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