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Big Load Alert: What You Should Know Before Shipping Heavy Equipment

Every day, your company ships a lot of freight. You know the ropes, so you're able to ship your exports with a minimum of fuss—until you decide to ship heavy machinery. Suddenly, the entire shipping process is more complicated than it was before.

At this point, you face more risks than you once did, not to mention greater shipping costs. You may also worry about your equipment getting to its destination in one piece.

If a smaller product is damaged during shipment, that's one thing. You can generally replace the product without major financial repercussions. But if you lose a sophisticated piece of equipment during shipping, your entire business can be held hostage while you scramble for a replacement.

Pay attention to the following details so you don't lose your shipment and hurt your bottom line.

The Process Varies by Destination

It's not surprising that distance plays a significant role in your shipping method and costs. Shipping locally is less complex than international shipping. Here's how each variable works.

Short Distance Shipping

If you need to ship a tractor across the city, it's pretty simple to hire a flat-bed truck to haul your machinery for you. What's more, such trailers are relatively easy to load and unload. All you need to know up-front is whether your chosen hauler can handle the weight of the tractor.

If your machine has wheels (and if it only has to travel a short distance), contact a few towing companies that regularly tow big loads. An experienced towing professional will see to gear box preparations and other safety measures. But be sure you ask about experience and credentials. Towing still carries risks, and you need to trust the towing company to carry your equipment safely.

Oversize Loads

In some cases, you'll need to ship oversized (tall, extra heavy) machinery from point A to point B. If it's a regional shipment, investigate a double-drop or step-deck trailer. Remember to check for the right travel permits and learn about any road restrictions for oversize loads.

If you work with a reliable, experienced packing and shipping company, ask them if they can obtain the permits before shipping. This is standard procedure for most transport companies.

Long Distance Shipping

If you ship your heavy machinery nationally or internationally, make sure the shipping method matches the shipping distance, time, and equipment.

For example, if you ship vehicles, you'll likely use a roll-on/off method of transportation. This method makes it easy to drive the vehicle directly into the shipping container or cargo ship. If your equipment doesn't have wheels, your shipper will use either a flat rack or heavy-duty pallet as a base. Once the machinery is secure, dock workers can load it easily for transport.

Aside from shipping method, the most important factor for safe transit is the weight of your equipment. Find out the weight limit for each piece of equipment. If you plan to ship heavy items regularly, find effective ways to transport items to the shipping port or warehouse. Always ask the weight limits when you choose a shipper.

Risks Come With the Territory

When you talk with your packing company, ask them about their risk management policies for heavy-duty shipments. If your machinery is delicate and/or expensive, look into hiring a surveyor to assess value and supervise the entire shipping process.

If your transport company doesn't provide a surveyor, you'll need to account for your shipment value within your commercial insurance policy.

It also pays to ask your shipping company whether they use military specs for shipping sensitive, bulky, or expensive equipment. There's no better way to keep your goods in top condition during the trip. Military specifications are a valuable upgrade when you can't afford to lose/damage critical machinery.

Of course, the fact that you've hired an outside shipping specialist for heavy load transport is a bonus. You can avoid the most obvious risks by letting a logistics pro take care of the packing, handling, and loading. Your shipping specialist also knows what needs to happen at your product's destination.

It Pays to Prepare Ahead

If you decide to ship a fleet of crawler tractors, prepare in advance so the equipment looks good even before it arrives at your shipping company. Here are a few tips to follow beforehand:

  • Follow shipping protocols by removing detachable parts (if required).

  • Disconnect batteries and drain any fluids before you ship the tractors.

  • Clean the equipment and do a safety check to be sure everything works.

  • Confirm loading details with your shipping company.

  • Obtain permits and—for international shipments—any other critical documentation.

  • Pay shipping insurance and fees.

Most importantly, stay in frequent contact with your shipping company. If something changes on your end, they need to know about that sooner than later.

When you trust your shipping company, all things are possible—even shipping bulky or heavy equipment so that it reaches its destination in perfect condition. Just contact your shipping professionals about the details. Like you, they're in it for the long haul.

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