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Why is delivery of my shipments so often late?

On-time delivery of shipments to your customers is essential to the smooth operation of your business – not to mention maintaining the confidence and loyalty of your customers. Are you ever frustrated by late delivery of shipments? Let’s look at the reasons why your deliveries may not happen within the timeline you were expecting.

Jargon and ambiguity 

The following phrase is often contained within the terms and conditions of a carrier’s bill of lading:
“No carrier is bound to carry goods … in time for any particular market or otherwise than with due dispatch, unless by agreement that is specifically endorsed in the contract of carriage and signed by the parties.” [emphasis added]
“Due dispatch” can be roughly translated to “as per the company’s normal operating procedures.” This does not exactly give you a specific schedule you can hang your hat on!


Many variables can delay the delivery of a shipment, including:
  • Human error,
  • Traffic congestion,
  • Equipment breakdowns, and
  • Inclement weather. 

Different service levels at different rates

Carriers often provide different levels of service at different rates. For example, a trucking company may offer attractive-seeming rates but at the cost of using an intermodal service, which can be slower than consistent over-road shipping. Or a low rate may reflect the fact that the shipper will hold onto shipments for several days while it consolidates a full truckload. These things happen behind the scenes and can mean a delay in your shipment beyond what you expected. 

What can you do to ensure your shipments will be delivered on time?

Carriers develop delivery schedules to meet various customer needs – in order to maximize their own efficiencies. The best way to avoid embarrassing misunderstandings with carriers and customers is to take nothing for granted. As a business owner with unique shipping and delivery needs, take advantage of the variety of shippers and services by understanding their operating processes and aligning your delivery commitments accordingly.
Here are some tips for avoiding surprises and disappointment when it comes to the timely transportation of your goods:
  1. Know the expectations of your customer and find a carrier that can meet them; sometimes it may be worthwhile to pay more for faster or more predictable delivery.
  2. Ensure you understand carriers’ definitions of service levels. Clarify the mode, cost and expected timelines for delivery.
  3. When specific delivery performance is required, consider paying extra for the carrier to pick up and deliver shipments to match your schedule.
  4. Follow up with carriers and customers to ensure your expected results were achieved.
  5. Check in on your competitors’ delivery performance so you know where you stand. You may be able to get a leg-up by improving customers’ delivery satisfaction.
  6. Establish performance indicators that align with your company’s goals and identify carriers that can meet them.
We are knowledgeable and passionate about helping businesses find the best shipping solutions. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you make the best use of your shipping dollar.
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Information provided by: Freight Dept. - Cole International
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