If an Item Is Damaged in Shipping, Who Is Responsible?

COVID-19 gave rise to online shopping since consumers still needed to shop, but could not go to their local stores. Convenience-based shopping experiences continue to trend across the United States. While damaged products have always been a possibility, many consumers have traded in their opportunity to find visual flaws for the convenience of curbside and home delivery. It can be overwhelming to discover that the items purchased for a rush occasion arrived in pieces, yet it happens too often. Shippers understand this feeling well, sometimes regularly dealing with damaged in-transit freight. However, the current state of the retail supply chain leaves little room for shippers to experience losses such as this. So when damaged freight happens, what's next?

Common Causes for Damaged Shipments and Freight Claims

Carriers and shippers understand that the fingers start pointing as soon as a load of damaged freight arrives at the dock. While proven carrier damage is often beneficial for shippers' bottom line, it is essential to get to the real cause of wreckage. The most common reasons for damaged freight in transit are:

  • Poor Packaging – While the trailer trucks of today have a smoother ride than old trucks, shipping companies must ensure that fragile items get packaged for any bumps in the road.
  • Incorrect Shipping Mode – As trucking costs' inflation steers transport decision-making, shippers must understand that they will lose more than they save if they opt for the wrong shipping mode.
  • Drops and Impacts – Of all the standard damaged freight causes, this error continues to reign as one of the highest sources of partial damage to a load.
  • Cargo Loss or Theft – While shippers cannot prevent all cargo theft, shippers can minimize this by contracting with reputable carriers.
  • Inadequate Item Count – Miscounted items can cause a carrier to cram a load into the trailer or leave things behind, resulting in a partial or damaged delivery.
  • Weather Damage – Shipping companies must stay vigilant about changing weather patterns to make the best choices for contracting capacity.
  • Contamination – Although consolidating LTL truckloads into one full truckload can be an upfront cost saver, it's essential to consider whether the contents will contaminate each other and result in the loss of both.
  • Temperature Fluctuation – Shippers who choose a low-quality reefer due to high diesel prices may bear the consequences of spoiled temperature-sensitive freight loss.
  • Missed Delivery Deadline – When perishable or non-perishable goods get sent for a specific date, shippers can cost their customers a whole load by missing a deadline.

Who Is Responsible for Damaged freight?

Even when the cause of damage appears to be clear, shippers must be able to prove that they loaded undamaged items onto the truck. Despite this being nearly impossible amidst the sheer quantity of freight getting moved by a single shipper at any given time, shipping companies benefit from obtaining shipping insurance at the start of each shipment. With a proper understanding of what that insurance covers, shippers can prepare themselves for the type of paperwork and proof they will require on the front end of every shipment in case of damage on the back end.

This is especially relevant as freight cost management in damage claims is not just about shipper loss of assets, time and money but also brings about a negative customer experience. Many 'intangible costs' occur from damaged in-transit freight, including labor, storage, and salvage. In addition, reviews stemming from damaged freight get posted by the consumer and shared online, resulting in fewer new customers as the brand reputation suffers.

Reducing the Financial Impact of Damaged Shipping

As logistics cost-saving opportunities become a trend, shippers must grasp that preventing damaged freight is the best solution. While a load's physical damage is short-lived, it can continue to affect future customer and networking opportunities. Smallbizgenius echoed this thought with 2022 data that found, "13% of unsatisfied customers tell 15 or more people that they're unhappy with a particular product or service. Additionally, 59% of consumers worldwide say they have higher customer service expectations today than they had a year ago." Whether looking at erased customer opportunities or the increased potential for freight invoice errors, the costs from damaged freight are often too much to bear. This increased pressure demands that shipping companies prioritize the safety of their cargo, as well as a streamlined damaged freight claim process for when damage does happen.

Partner With Intelligent Audit Today and Reduce Freight Claim Expenses and Manage Finances More Effectively

While many of the most common causes of damaged freight claims are preventable with the right decision-making back-office team, mistakes happen. Shippers can invest in the resiliency of their business by partnering with a team that understands the freight claim process. Start a conversation with Intelligent Audit today to learn how to take your claim management expenses to the next level.

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