If you’re responsible for shipping minerals like silica sand and clay, chances are you rely on a mix of transportation modes to get your bulk products on the move. From dry bulk trucking to railcars, there are multiple options for transporting your goods safely and efficiently. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at one of these modes – dry bulk trucking – and review some of the key considerations for mineral shipping companies.
Dry bulk trucking for mineral shipping companies
1. Know your product. As we say regularly on this blog, one of the most important things you can do as a shipper to ensure the safety and efficiency of your loads is to know your product and communicate that information to transportation partners. For minerals and other bulk powders, this includes information on the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and the grade and characteristics of your mineral products. This information enables your transport provider to ensure that the right equipment is used, that an experienced driver handles your load, and that your product’s integrity is maintained every step of the way.
2. Be flexible to source capacity. Right now, there is no bigger issue in the transportation world than tight trucking capacity caused by the driver shortage and pandemic-related issues. For shippers of products like minerals that require dry bulk trailers, capacity is even tighter because bulk transportation is a specialized industry. The most beneficial thing that you can do as a shipper is to be flexible with the carriers and freight brokers you work with. This includes giving transportation partners more advance notice when booking a load to give them more time to work it into their schedules.
3. Consider seasonal characteristics. If you’re shipping minerals like silica sand and clay, you’ll likely ship more in the spring and summer – just when companies that ship similar products are shipping as well. That creates intense competition for available dry bulk trailers and drivers. Work with your freight broker and carrier partners to plan ahead as much as possible.
4. Embrace intermodal capabilities and deal with interruptions. Bulk mineral shippers often utilize rail for at least part of their products’ journey and then lean on dry bulk trucking for the final mile. This is an effective strategy since rail, while much slower than OTR, is cheaper and doesn’t have the capacity constraints of OTR trucking. Sometimes, however, normal rail service is interrupted by storms and other hazardous events. When this happens, you can partner with a freight broker like Bulk Connection for emergency assistance. Such a freight broker can source trucks from far and wide to get your product off of immobile railcars and into dry bulk trailers and then on to their destination(s).
5. Don’t forget tank washes. While not as big a headache as it is for other products, tank washes are very much a part of any bulk mineral shipment. Fortunately, these mineral products are typically easier to clean out from a dry bulk trailer than plastics and chemical powders – often requiring little more than a thorough rinse. But you still need to plan for a tank wash in your driver’s route after product is unloaded, and you should also notify your transportation provider of any specific wash requirements and incompatible prior products (i.e., products that must not have been shipped in the trailer before your product). Looking for handy tool to locate convenient tank washes? Check out the Tank Wash Finder – the industry’s most comprehensive tank wash directory.
Mineral shipping companies lean on Bulk Connection
To ensure that you cover all these bases, it pays to entrust your shipments to a true dry bulk expert. At Bulk Connection, we’ve been shipping dry and liquid bulk products through our extensive carrier network since 1987. We’re here to support your regular shipments, as well as capacity-related interventions like top loading, in which a driver delivers product, returns to the shipping site empty, reloads, and heads back out. To learn more about working with a true bulk freight expert that will support you and your product every step of the way, contact Bulk Connection today.