COVID-19 and the New Normal in LTL Shipping
The impact of COVID-19 has been felt across the logistics industry in many ways. Within the domestic LTL landscape, there have been some immediate and significant changes to long-standing processes that require a thorough understanding. Some examples of the most important are listed below.
No-Touch Delivery Receipts
In the past week, numerous carriers have enacted some form of “no-touch” delivery receipts (DR). This means that if a consignee’s receiver or a carrier’s driver is uncomfortable with physically signing a paper-based DR, carriers are offering various alternatives. Some options include the driver printing the receiver’s name on the DR so the consignee does not touch the paperwork, the driver inputting the receiver’s name into a hand-held electronic device, or the receiver logging onto the carrier’s website to accept the delivery. Some carriers are also encouraging all parties to take pictures of the shipment to confirm pickup, delivery, and the condition of the product at every step.
While these procedural alternatives seem reasonable and practical in today’s new normal, downstream concerns may arise. Will damage and shortage notations be handled accordingly? Will a DR without an official signature adequately serve as proof of delivery? These are questions that Echo’s experts are monitoring closely.
Suspension of Reimbursement for Service Failures on Guaranteed Shipments
Many carriers have suspended their guaranteed shipment services and/or suspended their refunds of the guarantee fee if the shipment fails to deliver on time. Because there are many uncertainties with open or closed businesses, carriers feel the need to suspend some of their guaranteed options. Congested terminal docks with freight awaiting disposition and drivers making stops that may not result in pickup or delivery activity have become considerable headwind for LTL carriers. During this time, you should be aware that a failed guaranteed shipment may not result in a refund. However, guaranteed services still provide benefits to shippers and expedited handling of freight within terminals. Most carriers still treat guaranteed shipments with the utmost attention, and faster transit times and expedited handling of freight within their networks still occur.
Changes in the Handling of Disposition on Undeliverable Freight
Some carriers are also changing the way they handle disposition on undeliverable freight. Typically, if a carrier cannot make a delivery, a call is placed to the shipper for disposition. With an unprecedented number of businesses temporarily shuttered, this process has become incredibly burdensome for LTL carriers. Some carriers have taken the considerable step of returning the shipment to the origin without permission. In this case, return freight charges would be applied, resulting in double freight costs without a completed sale. And if shipments sit on a carrier’s dock for longer than a day or two, storage charges will undoubtedly begin to incur.
Carriers’ Back-Office Functionality Suffering
A great number of carriers outsource their invoicing functions, and many of those outsourcing companies are located in India, which went into a country-wide lockdown earlier this week. Because many of these companies did not have the technology or the readiness to have their employees work remotely, many carriers have scrambled to get their invoicing back to the U.S. Invoicing often kicks off other tracking functions. Consequently, many carriers’ invoicing and tracking information has been delayed. We encourage our customers to visit Echo.com or log in to EchoShip to get the most recent tracking information for their shipments.
It remains to be seen what the short-term future holds for the logistics industry in the United States during this situation. What we do know is that trucking will remain one of the most essential businesses that we all need and depend on. At Echo Global Logistics, we are at the forefront of legislative and carrier changes and instructions. For further details, please do not hesitate to call your Echo representative so we can help you manage through this situation.