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9 Surprise Freight Charges At Trade Shows

tradeshow freight chargesExhibiting at trade shows can be expensive and some of the most frustrating costs are those that don’t make an impact on your clients.  Then, just when you think the worst of the expenses are over, a freight bill arrives and you scream “Why is my freight bill so darn high?”

At my firm we hear this question often.  Sometimes the client is informed and simply shares our frustration; however, some exhibitors don’t take into account many trade show specific considerations.  Here are 9 things to think about regarding costs and trade show freight:

1)    First and foremost, the stuff has to both arrive and arrive safely!  There are often “cheaper” shipping options.  But, when your company’s largest branding piece is going to an important event, things like reliability, on-time delivery and the ability to track that item matter.

2)    Shipping directly to a trade show differs from shipping costs to that same show’s advanced warehouse.  Unless you’re up against an advanced warehouse deadline, you can usually ship to ‘advanced’ using a “deferred” or “ground” time frame.  Shipping directly to show site usually involves a more condensed time frame and a targeted delivery window, both of which add cost.

3)    Another cost that is factored into trade show display  shipments going direct to a show is (the potential for) “wait time.”  When your shipper provides an upfront estimate they can’t know if their deliveryman will be stuck waiting in the Marshall Yard for hours – or in drastic cases overnight.  Some shippers will build-in a cost for the wait time on the front side while others will either adjust and/or re-bill the actual.

4)    Like so many other trade show related costs the “when” often impacts the “how much!”  Deliveries or pick-ups after-hours or on weekends will incur premium pricing.

5)    While nothing new, Interstate Commerce regulations call for freight companies to maintain documentation on “what” is being shipped.  These “classification codes” impact pricing.  5000 lbs. of trade show freight (class 125) will cost more than 5000 lbs. of most other classifications.

6)    Unions that impact pricing on many show-related services also plus up the cost of moving freight to/from trade shows.  Many reputable (read: reliable) freight firms will only employ Union drivers.   In some cities, because venues are staffed by union workers, Fed Ex is prohibited from picking inside the show so sometimes even for smaller post-show shipments the less costly common carriers are not available.

7)    One of the biggest “gotchas” we see in freight costs are when an exhibitor bases their expectation of freight fees on ‘the weight of the shipment.’  The shipper will usually bill the higher fee based on actual weight OR, if higher, on ‘dimensional weight.’  Dimensional weight is usually higher (your crates are always larger than the items inside).

8)    The same frustration we all feel each time we pull up to a gas station to refuel our cars also impacts your freight bill.  Similarly, if you’ve shopped for a new car lately and had sticker shock, think about the cost of ultra-sophisticated truck cabs or chassis and know they too are going up.

9)    Changes that occur between getting an initial estimate and actual shipping are sometimes significant and often forgotten!  Those extra few cases of literature, that product sample, consolidating your co-exhibitors’ machine with your outbound items….And when you leave the show and decide to “ship” a week’s worth of dirty laundry back with your booth to avoid checking a bag on the plane – it too may be a ‘change.’  If you plan for “X” and “X” becomes “Y” then your original quote for “X” is no longer valid.

Don’t let the high cost of trade show transportation keep you from exhibiting.  Work with your trade show exhibit house to get both great results and great logistic efficiencies.

WWEAs you prepare for your future event and trade show planning, learn from your peers in the What’s Working in Exhibiting Benchmarks and Best Practices white paper. Learn how exhibitors have improved results, stretched their budgets, and reduced risk. Click here to request you free copy and learn more.

About the Author

Steve Hoffman, President of Skyline Exhibits & Design, Inc. has spent almost 30 years in the selling and marketing of marketing products. Following a successful career in the TV Program Syndication business, he joined The Holt Group/Skyline Displays as a Marketing Consultant, then moved into management, ultimately purchasing a portion of that company. He is the author of "The Reality of B.S. (Big Sales...That Is)." Steve is dedicated to helping his South Carolina trade show displays clients achieve their worldwide exhibit marketing goals while improving their efficiencies, too.

2 responses to “9 Surprise Freight Charges At Trade Shows

  1. Good article, it really points to a lot of the costs that event managers see but people in other positions aren’t even aware of.

    Case in point, I was hit hard by #6 one year when a distributor I was working with sent multiple last minute product shipments directly to the show floor via FedEx. They ended up paying more for drayage than what the resale value of the products were worth.

  2. Until recently I was a transportation/logistics manager for a company who specializes in tradeshows and general contractoring so I read your post with interest. Regarding the weight vs dims issue, we implemented an automated quote and booking sheet to communicate with the carriers not only a weight but the dimensions of all pieces. An added benefit in addition to accuracy, was the ability for the Carriers to alert us ahead of time to additional charges i.e. waiting time. We could dispute them or alert the customer before the invoice arrived. Much easier than disputed invoice!
    A How-To Guide was also created to help the sale people and the Clients understand
    the difference between the various types of service; vanline, motor carrier, brokers and small package carriers. It also covered basic information regarding international shipping.

    Thanks for your information. It was great to read.

    Marilou Schrimshaw

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