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Dealing with Damaged Freight: Types of Freight Damage

Man damaged freight while looking concerned

What is freight damage? 

Damaged freight can affect your customer’s perception of your brand and ultimately, your profits. While many business owners are aware of the negative effects of damaged goods and packages, many still struggle to understand what freight damage is, how it occurs, and how to mitigate risks. In this guide, we will give you the tools you need to better your shipping strategy. 

Freight damage is any partial or total physical damage to goods during the shipment process. Imagine the long journey your package has gone to reach your doorstep. There are many different parties that handle the shipment process up to the point when it reaches the final destination. Your customers and partners might not receive the package in the same state you sent them! 

Parties involved in physically handling cargo include:

  • Supplier and factories
  • Local trucker or delivery
  • Origin and arrival port staff
  • Customs or warehouse staff

Receiving damaged freight requires complicated paperwork, so you will want to eliminate any chances of your products arriving in a damaged state. The course of action you need to take will ultimately depend on the type of damage that affects your shipments.

What are the types of freight damage? 

Physical Damage

Packages that have obviously been dented or cracked due to physical mishandling. This also applies when the cargo itself damages other shipments. The packages that are the most vulnerable to physical damage are made through sea freight, especially during strong typhoons and through rougher seas. Besides dropped or dented goods, shipments can also be damaged due to poorly planned stowage.

Water Damage

The most common way freight can be subjected to water damage is when shipping using open, flatbed trailers that are not covered and do not protect from bad weather. 

There are other ways freight can be damaged by water, regardless of the transportation method. For example, changes in climatic zones and moisture content result in container rain. Water damage is also inevitable when improper or damaged sealing gaskets and containers are used in shipments. 

Reefer-related Damage

Refrigerated containers and reefers are used to preserve the freshness of agricultural goods during the shipment. In an ideal situation, reefers maintain a controlled environment to avoid over-ripening or degrading the products. Some signs of reefer damage include shriveling, discoloration, and bruising.

Specific causes include:

  • Cargo is packed and shipped despite premature harvesting
  • Improper stowage and poor air circulation
  • Improper setting of temperature
  • Insufficient pre-cooling

Infestation and contamination

Your shipment may be polluted or contaminated with substances that make cargo unsuitable for use or consumption. Contamination may occur in conjunction with an infestation of pests and rodents as products can pick up odors, parasites, and microbes.

How can businesses deal with damaged freight? (Step-by-step guide)

Dealing with an angry customer who threatens to give you one-star reviews due to freight damage can be overwhelming. As a responsible business owner, the next course of action is to ultimately guide your customers to get a refund on shipping fees.

Step 1: Ask your customers to accept the damaged goods 

Assure your customers that accepting the damaged freight will be better than washing their hands of the situation completely. Turning away the package will cost them more in the long run due to storage and processing fees.  

Depending on your discretion and refund policy, you might want to assure your customers of replacing the product or giving a full refund. 

Step 2: Document the damages

Once your customer has received the package, ask them to document any shortages and damages. They may take note of these on the documents provided by the carrier, such as the Bill of Lading (BOL) or the proof of delivery (POD).

Step 3: File Freight Claims immediately

If the contents are damaged, it will be a good idea to file a claim. Claims are possible to win, especially when issues are documented and noted immediately. BOL are legitimately used as proof of damage, so fill it out immediately and contact the claims department for the additional paperwork.

Assist your customer or business partner on these matters – the sooner you file a claim, the faster it will be resolved.

Step 4: Keep the damaged freight and packaging

Carriers have the right to inspect freight damage claims in person. Failing to provide proof could mean that the claim will not be paid in full, or it can be denied outright.

Remind your customers to keep any evidence of damaged package contents to avoid any complications.

Step 5: Keep copies of invoices and receipts

Ask your customers or partners to send you copies of all documentation and evidence secure in a folder to strengthen freight claims:

  • Bill of Lading
  • Paid freight bill
  • Paid invoice for damaged goods
  • Packing slip
  • Claim form or letter identifying shipment and claim amount
  • Photos of damage

No Use Crying Over Spilled Milk

Nobody likes dealing with missing or damaged cargo. These occasions are unavoidable as shipments circumnavigate the globe and brave extreme weather along the journey.

Damaged freight is the last thing businesses want to deal with. But for a growing business, it is necessary to guide your customers and partners every step of the way. Follow our guide to deal with damaged freight seamlessly.

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