When it comes to shipping your products, it can seem like there is an endless amount of rules to take into account. However, unless you learn to play by the rules of the game, you won’t be able to play at all. Getting smart on shipping requirements and regulations early on will help you save time and money.
Getting It There
Unless customers are coming directly to your warehouse to shop, chances are that at some point, your products will have to be shipped. Despite the fact that getting your product from point A to point B seems pretty simple, rest assured that it has its fair share of challenges. In today’s world, there are specific rules and regulations that govern product shipments. If you don’t play by the rules, you run the risk of delays, legal issues, and shipments ending up in the wrong place (or getting lost altogether). Any one of these mishaps makes for unhappy customers who may not give you a second shot to get it right.
You’ve poured way too much time and money into your business only to fail in the eleventh hour. That’s why we’re here to help you get smart on shipping documentation and related regulatory requirements. Understanding the relevant shipping rules for your business will ultimately enable you to ship like a pro…no matter where your final products need to go.
Shipping Documentation Requirements
First things first: make sure that you have your shipping documents in order. One of the main types of shipping documentation is referred to as a bill of lading (BOL), which is required for moving freight shipments. The BOL plays a number of different roles – it serves as a receipt of freight services, conveys the freight terms, serves as a contract for carriage, and also serves as a delivery receipt. This kind of official document is issued by the shipping company and is admissible in a court of law.
The freight bill is similar to the BOL, except that it cannot serve as a key piece of evidence in potential disputes. It can include additional charges, information, or stipulations that further clarify the information that was included on the BOL. On the other hand, a freight claim is a demand by a shipper or consignee upon a carrier (as for the reimbursement of an overcharge, or for loss or damage to goods accepted for transportation). Freight claims can occur for a variety of different reasons – some are real, some are contrived, and some can be prevented. All claims, however, can be controlled, understood, and kept to acceptable and reconcilable levels.
If your company is shipping products internationally, the required documentation is a bit more complex. Shipping rules and regulations differ based on location, so be sure to do your research before promising to ship to a new part of the globe. Please refer to the table below for additional information on international shipping documentation.
Avoiding Shipping-Related Hazards
It’s also important that the environment in which you ship is up to snuff. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA), employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace. OSHA’s mission is to ensure that this is the case by setting and enforcing standards, and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. As an employer, you have to make sure that your company complies with all applicable OSHA standards. This includes compliance with the General Duty Clause of OSHA, which requires employers to keep their workplace free of serious, recognized hazards. Since conditions within shipping warehouses can sometimes get a little crazy, make sure that you have the necessary protocols and operating procedures in place to keep things running smoothly.
When it comes to other environmental concerns, normal shipping hazards in the freight environment can vary by shipping mode. Truckload, LTL (less than truckload), railcar, oceanic, and airfreight shipping environments typically include hazards that are unique to those particular modes. Many of the severe hazards are due to the number of separate handlings required and the mechanized material-handling equipment used in the process. Make sure that you do your research when it comes to your selected mode(s) of shipping so you can apply necessary preventative measures.
Moving Shipments Overseas
In today’s marketplace, most companies need to know how to ship their products overseas. Oftentimes, the best way to determine the method of international shipping is to consult with a freight forwarder. International shipping generally consists of large and bulky shipments, thereby requiring a long lead time and advance booking for a space on board a transport. One common practice is to use multi-modal transit operators to help handle international shipping. That way, even if you are using more than one means of transportation (i.e. truck, rail, barge, airplane, ship, etc.), the multi-modal transit operator will take full responsibility for the entire movement of goods from the factory to the final destination – in the hands of your customers.
There are lots of elements to consider in order to determine the international shipping method that’s right for your business. You need to factor in the cost of shipment, delivery schedule, and accessibility to the shipped product by your foreign buyer. If you’re planning to ship via passenger aircraft, you need to look into the mandatory screening of cargo that occurs on these types of aircrafts. Think about the logistical details of packaging and labeling, and whether or not cargo insurance is necessary for your items. If you’re shipping agricultural products, check out the US government regulation on those items.
Importing and Exporting Products
To prepare your products for export, you need to ensure that they comply with both US and foreign government regulations. This starts with having the appropriate product classification. Finding the Harmonized System (HS) code is the first step to classifying a product and preparing it for export. The international HS is administered by the World Customs Organization, and serves as the foundation for the import and export classification systems used in the United States. The U.S. import classification system, the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) administered by the U.S. International Trade Administration Commission, and the U.S. export classification system, the Schedule B administered by the U.S. Census Bureau (Foreign Trade Division), both rely on the international HS codes for their four-digit and six-digit headings and subheadings.
To take advantage of the reduced-duty benefits under a free trade agreement (FTA), an exported product must originate from an FTA party, or contain a specified percentage of U.S. imports and components. Keep in mind that each FTA has its own rules of origin (ROO) that describe how exported goods shipped to a country or a region may quality for duty-free or reduced-duty benefits. Because ROOs are FTA-specific and product-specific, make sure that you follow them carefully. Research U.S. trade partner countries to understand the trade benefits due to free trade and other agreements.
If you’re importing products into the United States, there are a few best practices that you should keep in mind. First, review relevant import rejection laws and trade barriers. If you have the ability to do so, build relationships and network on the ground in the export country – knowing the right people can oftentimes accelerate the overall process. Consider hiring a customs broker that is empowered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to assist you in meeting the Federal requirements governing imports. Be sure to check license or permit requirements for importing certain goods, and don’t hesitate to seek out additional assistance or training. Finally, consult the U.S. Customs Industry Import Guide, a comprehensive report with information on packaging requirements, customs documents, internet purchases, intellectual property rights, and international trade agreements.
Get Smart on Shipping
When it comes to shipping your products, it can seem like there is an endless amount of rules to take into account. However, unless you learn to play by the rules of the game, you won’t be able to play at all. Getting smart on shipping requirements and regulations early on will help you save time and money. Avoid the hassle by doing your research on shipping up front – your customers will thank you for it.