Bulk Liquid Logistics: Who’s Responsible for What?

Posted on September 13, 2018 by Jim Cordock

Shippers ship, receivers receive, and carriers carry.  Simple, right? 

Well, not always.  Bulk liquid logistics is a complicated business that can create opportunities for misunderstanding and finger-pointing if and when a problem arises. 

In this article, we’ll help you avoid these misunderstandings by delineating responsibilities between liquid bulk shippers, receivers, and carriers to see exactly who is (or at least should be) responsible for what.

The shipper’s responsibilities

bulk liquid logisticsShippers rely on carriers and receivers to transport and unload their goods safely while maintaining product quality, but they’re also responsible for vital elements of the transportation process.  These include:

  • Understanding the properties of the product being shipped and communicating all key information (e.g., equipment and certification requirements, product safety information) to the necessary parties
  • Understanding and communicating the regulations that apply to the product being shipped
  • Providing placards, seals, and anything else the driver will need related to the product along with the bill of lading (BOL) and necessary paperwork
  • Inspecting the carrier’s trailer before loading to make sure it’s clean, dry and odor-free

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The receiver’s responsibilities

The shipper is typically responsible for loading a liquid bulk shipment, while the receiver is responsible for unloading it and performing the following:

  • Verifying that the correct commodity is received prior to unloading, and ensuring that it’s unloaded into the correct tank or receptacle
  • Providing a clean and safe environment for unloading
  • Providing an associate to monitor unloading so that the driver can monitor the truck-related portions of the process

The carrier’s responsibilities

In addition to the actual transportation of the product, carriers have the following bulk liquid logistics responsibilities:

  • Providing a clean trailer that is covered by appropriate insurance
  • Providing a well-trained professional driver
  • Providing hoses, fittings, pumps, compressors and other equipment as specified by the customer and/or standard equipment (i.e., two 20-foot lengths of hose and a pump)
  • Providing drivers with all necessary safety equipment, including personal protection equipment (PPE) for hazmat deliveries

What goes wrong?

It is important to note that the roles described above are outlined in accordance with common industry practice.  There can be – and often is – variation in where the responsibilities of each party begin and end as long as these variations are understood by all.

Too often, however, poor communication among the parties results in misunderstandings and subpar service.  Examples include:

  • A lack of clarity in establishing loading and unloading responsibilities up front, leading to confusion and finger-pointing when the truck arrives
  • Over-reliance on digital communication – sometimes a quick phone call is the best way to clear up uncertainties and ensure that key details are understood by both parties
  • Failure to inform other parties of key changes affecting service (e.g., the driver needs to have a new piece of equipment to unload at the consignee and no one informed the carrier)
  • Failure to properly alert other parties about situations that may lead to delays (e.g., long wait times at unload)

The role of the freight broker

By working closely with both shippers and liquid bulk carriers, freight brokers can coordinate the entire transportation operation to the satisfaction of all parties.  Better still, there are freight brokers who specialize in bulk transport and have the experience and insights to ensure that no stone is left unturned in the planning and execution of a shipment.

If you’re a shipper, many bulk freight brokers have established large (and fully-vetted) carrier networks from which they can source tank truck capacity for your load.  If you’re a carrier, brokers typically have relationships with many shippers that need your services. 

With over 30 years in the bulk liquid logistics industry, Bulk Connection is the first call for shippers and carriers across North America.  To learn how we can optimize your bulk operations, contact us today


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This entry was posted in Liquid Bulk Transport by Jim Cordock