How to Avoid Common Mistakes in Liquid Bulk Shipping

Posted on February 22, 2018 by Doug Grills

In the world of liquid bulk shipping, everything is ‘big’ – the loads, the tanks, the miles, and the costs.  One more thing is big relative to other shipments: the risks. So you would think every operational element would be examined, re-examined and altogether buttoned up.  Unfortunately, that’s not always the case as mistakes can and do occur.  In this post, we’ll look at a few of the most common mistakes and provide you with takeaways on avoiding them in your bulk shipping operation. 

Mistake #1: Lack of Communication

The most glaring issue in the liquid bulk shipping industry is poor communication.  Examples:

  • Interpersonal relationships are rare. As we’ve lamented in other posts, we’re losing the “people to people” aspect of shipment coordination.  An over-reliance on digital communication can lead to misinterpretations and lack of complete clarity on the shipment requirements. Miss a detail on a shipment of dry goods and it may result in an angry shipper and disappointed shopper.  Miss a detail on bulk shipment of a key ingredient and you might shut down a factory, losing tens of thousands of dollars, or more, in the process.
  • liquid bulk shippingOld information is used. Let’s say a shipper contracts a carrier to move a load that it has moved many times, in the same way, over the years.  However, the specs at the consignee have changed since the last delivery and, without proper planning, this will cause a headache for the driver upon arrival.  Will the shared information reflect this change?  Will anyone tell the carrier ahead of time so that it can plan accordingly?  Too often, the answer is “no,” and carrier frustration – along with the driver’s headache – is the result. 
  • Bad news is not communicated promptly. Another common communication shortcoming is the unwillingness to be transparent and relay bad news to stakeholders. An old associate of mine used to have a saying upon receiving bad news: “I’m not happy, but at least I’m informed.”  Too often, shippers and carriers find themselves both uninformed and unhappy.  This leads to mistrust, which then leads to further erosion of communication. 

If you have a trusted freight partner, lean on them to give you the straight story and to help guide you through the capacity challenges that lie ahead.  If you do not yet have that kind of trust with a freight partner, complete transparency and brutal honesty are traits you should seek.

Mistake #2: Lack of Material and Equipment Understanding

Another oversight that occurs in liquid bulk shipping involves matching chemicals with the wrong types of tanks.  When this occurs, the tank and other equipment can be damaged – sometimes severely – in a variety of ways.

To protect both your load and the equipment, it is vital that the chemical’s properties are fully understood and matched with the appropriate tank.  For instance, it is not enough to match “phosphoric acid” with a “stainless steel” tank.  There are different types of each and some might not play nice with each other (e.g., for commercial types of phosphoric acid, stainless steel 316L or 317L is likely a better option than other types of steel). 

Too often, this due diligence is neglected.  To prevent this – and the potentially dangerous and costly ramifications – from happening, you should look for the following characteristics in a liquid bulk carrier:

  • Experience – has the carrier transported your type of product successfully?
  • Knowledge – does the carrier demonstrate understanding of the chemicals, materials, and equipment involved?
  • Communication – does the carrier communicate this experience and knowledge adequately, while working to ensure that your needs and their capabilities are in alignment?

Mistake #3: Lack of Collaboration

When capacity is tight, like now, shippers and carriers should work together to proactively adapt to tank truck scarcity.  For shippers, this means making concessions like scheduling as far in advance as possible and allowing for wider delivery windows.  For carriers, it means arranging schedules to accommodate shippers when possible. 

Too often, however, this spirit of collaboration is missing, and companies can remain set in their ways. Bulk shipping is now very much a seller’s market. Shippers may need to adjust their expectations and standard ways of sourcing tanker truck capacity.  Reluctance to adapt may put your supply lines in jeopardy. 

Lean on Bulk Connection for Liquid Bulk Shipping

For over 30 years, Bulk Connection has specialized in the liquid bulk shipping of chemicals, pulp and paper products, paint and solvents, and many other products.  We have the largest network of bulk tank carriers in North America and can often find capacity when others can’t.  Contact us today to learn how we can help. 

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This entry was posted in Liquid Bulk Transport by Doug Grills