Freight

Logistics:

Freight refers to the transportation of larger shipments typically carried on pallets or skids, utilizing both boat and truck for delivery. It's considered the safest and most cost-effective method for moving substantial volumes, especially when dealing with a cubic meter or more.

LTL, or Less Than Truck Load, applies to shipments of five pallets or fewer, while FTL, or Full Truck Load, pertains to six pallets or more.

The expenses associated with freight primarily revolve around administrative fees, dock unloading charges during the transfer of goods from vessels, among others. Notably, costs decrease significantly with each additional skid added to the shipment. For instance, while one skid may cost $1000, two skids might cost $1500, and three skids could cost $1700. Additional factors affecting costs include the mode of transport (plane, boat, or automobile), billing methods based on either size or weight, the necessity of lift gates, insurance, etc. However, when shipping enough to fill a skid, these secondary expenses become rather mandatory- since the cargo wouldn't fit into a suitcase regardless.

Quotes for freight services can be obtained either through freight brokers (intermediaries) or directly from freight haulers.

The packing of pallets depends on the specific requirements of the transportation method. For example, there are height restrictions for pallets destined for air travel, while weight limits apply to those using hydraulic lift gates.

Typically, pallets weigh around 450 kg (1000 lbs), and exceeding this weight incurs additional costs for trailer hauling and may pose challenges with lift gate restrictions.

In my experience, I've loaded a single pallet with rough rock weighing up to 2000 kg and shipped it by boat due to cubic meter pricing, bypassing heavier expenses.

For crystal shipments, properly packed from a gem show (including rough flats, polished tumbles, delicate specimens, metal stands, etc.), the average weight usually ranges from 1200 to 1500 lbs on a standard North American-sized pallet. In Europe, where pallets tend to be smaller, the weight is likely to be less.

Packing a Pallet

Weight Distribution

The common assumption is that heavy items should be placed at the bottom of the pallet, with lighter items on top, and this is indeed correct. This arrangement helps prevent the pallet from toppling over by keeping the center of gravity low and evenly dispersed. It's crucial to avoid allowing one side to become significantly heavier than the other, regardless of the packing method used. Otherwise, the pallet becomes prone to tipping over.

Stacking:

While many items initially arrive at the packing area in flats and boxes, it's advisable to repack them into larger boxes to create a more stable foundation. Simply stacking items without consolidating them into larger boxes can lead to instability. To begin, visit a hardware store like Home Depot and purchase a mix of large, medium, and small boxes (approximately four of each). While heavy-walled boxes were once favored when I was learning, they are not essential once you become accustomed to packing freight. Large plastic totes or cardboard shells that encase the entire pallet are unnecessary.

Utilize the large boxes to contain the heaviest and least fragile items. Consider acquiring "Paper Pillows" commonly found at gem shows from wholesale distributors; these are essentially garbage bags filled with paper shredding. They serve excellently to fill the tops of boxes and gaps between items within the larger box, preventing movement and relieving pressure on items beneath. Pour the shredding as needed.

As you progress through each level, strive to keep a uniform height, which makes it easier to arrange the next level in a varied pattern, thus avoiding the formation of individual tower-like stacks of boxes. Nevertheless, it's not uncommon to have columns of boxes of the same size, reaching up to six feet in height, albeit with some wobbling. This is acceptable as long as everything is securely banded with shrink wrap at the conclusion of the packing process.

Keep all boxes within the perimeter of the pallet to prevent protrusions that could shear against adjacent pallets. Forklift drivers typically aim to maximize warehouse space, meaning your pallet may be placed closely to others. Any protruding items are at risk of catching and breaking against neighboring pallets, so it's crucial to adhere to the pallet's perimeter at all times.

Shrink Wrapping:

Binding the boxes with shrink wrap is a key part of adding stability to the pallet. When binding, make sure you bind the pallet as well- all the way to the ground. This keeps the whole stack of boxes from sliding off the pallet. Forklifts will pierce the plastic shrink wrap when they pick it up- you want this to happen.

You can twist the shrink wrap, just once, to create what looks like a bowtie that bids in the middle. This is a way to thicken the plastic in areas and give added strength to the bind. Wrap the whole pallet, top included. You never know if it will end up in the rain- things happen. Bind it multiple times. Do not be stingy with the shrink wrap. Place the most fragile items on top.

Securing the boxes with shrink wrap is essential for enhancing the stability of the pallet. When applying the shrink wrap, ensure it is wrapped tightly around the pallet itself, extending all the way to the ground. This prevents the entire stack of boxes from sliding off the pallet.

For added reinforcement, consider twisting the shrink wrap once to create a bowtie-like shape at the center, which thickens the plastic in crucial areas and provides additional strength to the binding. Wrap the entire pallet, including the top, as a precaution against unexpected weather conditions such as rain. Apply multiple layers of shrink wrap without hesitation, as being generous with it is important.

Labeling

Print labels on printer paper with the message "Do Not Stack - Fragile" in the largest font possible. Affix these labels to at least two sides of the pallet. You can secure them under the shrink wrap as you finish wrapping the pallet.

Include your contact information, including address, email, and phone number, and place them in at least two spots on the pallet. This precaution becomes crucial in case a pallet is mislabeled or lost during transit by the freight companies. Having your contact information on the pallet increases the chances of it being returned to you if it gets misplaced.

Additionally, freight companies will generate bills of lading, tracking numbers, etc., and may place their own codes on the pallets.