What is Cross Docking?

So, what is cross docking?

Cross docking is a logistics process where goods are offloaded from their inbound truck, and immediately loaded onto an outbound truck. Cross docking facilities are designed to be sorting centers, as opposed to traditional distribution centers. The goal is to remove the “storage” portion of a traditional supply chain.

Here’s how it works: an inbound truck comes up to the facility via the inbound lanes. The truck is unloaded, the goods are immediately sorted and loaded onto an outbound truck waiting in the outbound lanes. The goods are typically sorted by destination – whether they be close together or all going to one.

Advantages of cross docking

Cross docking is known to streamline supply chain operations. When done right, it removes the storage and inventory handling fees as goods spend less time in storage and are handled fewer times. Cross docking can lower the cost of transportation because trucks are moving larger loads and are travelling to fewer destinations. And goods typically get to the end user faster than traditional supply chain methods because they’re not sitting in storage and are spending less time in transit.

Types of cross docking

First, continuous cross docking. In continuous cross docking, the inbound truck arrives and is unloaded. The goods are transferred in their entirety to the waiting outbound truck. Should one truck arrive first, they must wait until the second truck arrives so that the transfer of goods is done quickly.

Second, consolidation cross docking. In consolidation cross docking, multiple inbound loads are broken down, they are resorted and loaded onto outbound trucks. For example, a department store has ordered more supplies and inventory. All the different orders are sent to one cross dock facility where the orders are combined and loaded onto one outbound truck for delivery to the store.

Finally, deconsolidation cross docking. Deconsolidation cross docking is the exact opposite of consolidation cross docking. In deconsolidation cross docking, multiple similar orders are sent to a facility where they are broken down and loaded onto different trucks for outbound delivery. For example, a ping pong manufacturer has three orders going to different customers. The orders are sent to a cross dock facility, where they are separated and sent out for delivery to the individual customers.

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Q&A with Mark K

What is involved in working with an Indirect Air Carrier vs a company who is not TSA regulated? What are the advantages of working with an Indirect Air Carrier?

An Indirect Air Carrier is a designation granted by TSA to entities that have successfully passed rigorous training and testing and are able to work directly with airlines to tender freight.

The biggest advantage to being an Indirect Air Carrier is that we can utilize the extensive passenger aircraft network to move freight.

Being an Indirect Air Carrier is no easy task. A customer must be known in the TSA’s Known Shipper Management System before we can ship their items via passenger aircraft. And every pickup and delivery agent and their drivers must be accounted for and checked against a TSA database prior to the tendering of any freight to passenger aircraft. This is just part of the extensive security measures taken prior to moving freight this way.


What was one of the most interesting jobs, or projects, you’ve done for our local hospitals? Tell us about it!

We receive and store a lot of equipment for some of our local hospitals. One of the more rewarding requests we had was for our warehouse team to travel to one of the hospitals and install non-medical equipment in new OR rooms. Our team was able to help the construction and medical device teams get the OR rooms ready more quickly by stepping in and handling part of the installation.

The most satisfying job we do is moving stem cells all over the country for one hospital!


What was the most difficult jobs, or projects, you’ve done for a client in our warehouse? Tell us about it!

A few years back, a client was constructing a 12-story building in downtown Washington, DC. The construction was very much behind schedule and material was about to start arriving, but the client had no storage capabilities downtown. We were asked to store the windows that would eventually be installed and to expect one or two ocean containers a week of windows to arrive at our warehouse.

Before we knew it, we had two containers per day for three weeks straight of 12-foot long windows that were roughly palletized. At this point, there was no delivery date to the jobsite in sight. The warehouse was so stuffed with window pallets that you could hardly walk between them.

Fast forward six months later, they are finally ready for the windows. The difficult part was that they needed certain windows on certain days, and they could be buried anywhere in the slew of pallets. When it was time to ship the windows to downtown DC, we had to load the 12-foot pallet side by side on flatbed trucks. We only had inches to spare for the forklift on either side of the pallets.


About Mark! Mark is our Sales Operations Manager by title, but his work goes much deeper than that! Mark has been with US Express for 12 years and there’s nothing he isn’t involved in.

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Common Carrier vs. Freight Forwarder

A Common Carrier is a person or company that transports goods on regular routes at set rates. A Freight Forwarder is a person or company that organizes shipments for individuals or corporations to get goods from origin to destination; forwarders typically contract with a carrier to move the goods.

Common Carriers typically use a Hub-and-Spoke model to transport goods from origin to destination. A Hub is a city, and a Spoke is the route from city to city (or, Hub to Hub). At the Hub, goods are offloaded from one truck, and loaded onto another truck until the goods reach their final destination.

This model can be more cost effective because it is best suited for high volume, low weight freight (i.e. small packages). Because the Common Carrier uses established routes at established rates, they are able to move goods from city to city at a lower rate.

However, the Hub-and-Spoke model is known for increasing touchpoints (the amount of times goods are handled). Increasing touchpoints leads to an increased risk for damage to occur, and makes it more challenging to pinpoint service failures that lead to damage or lost freight. Additionally, the Hub-and-Spoke model limits customizable service options for clients.

Freight Forwarders typically use a Line Haul approach to transport goods from origin to destination. A Line Haul approach looks like this:

  1. Goods are picked up by a contracted carrier (selected by the Freight Forwarder) and delivered to the closest Line Haul Agent.
  2. The Line Haul Agent transports the goods from origin to the final destination city.
  3. The goods are picked up from the Line Haul Agent by a second contracted carrier (selected by the Freight Forwarder) and delivered to their final destination.

The Line Haul approach offers more direct service that is highly customizable. Freight Forwarders are able to offer customer service options to fit individual client needs, such as inside pickups and deliveries, liftgates, air-ride trucks, pallets, and more. They can also utilize multiple modes of transport to further customize their service, including rail, ocean, air and ground.

This approach has noticeably fewer touchpoints than the Hub-and Spoke model. This leads to increased transparency during transit, the ability to provide more accurate tracking information and better pinpoint service failures, delays and damage to freight.

To wrap this all together, it’s important to know WHAT you’re shipping so you can decide HOW to ship it. You don’t need a Freight Forwarder to ship an envelope, and you don’t need a Common Carrier to ship an industrial microscope. Making an informed decision will ensure your goods arrive safely and on time!

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Distribution vs. Trade Show Shipping: Are They the Same?

Shipping is shipping is shipping, right? Nope! When it comes to distribution shipping and trade show shipping, there are some key differences. 


Distribution is defined as “the act of sharing something out among a number of recipients.” Looking at this definition through the lens of a shipping company, we can infer that the same item will be sent to multiple destinations and that there will be no return shipment.  


We can also expect distribution shipping to be carried out over time, whether it be a short burst of information packets sent out or a continuous dissemination of information or goodies. Lastly, we can expect there to be an element of packing involved, usually according to a certain standard.  


As is typical with distribution shipping, marketing managers prefer recipients to receive a package that is packed methodically and is visually pleasing. By packing methodically, we can ensure the safety of the contents during transit and we can pack the box/case in a manner that makes logistical sense – such as needing the item on top first, and the item on bottom last.  


Trade show shipping involves sending multiple items to one destination, either an advance warehouse or show site venue, in one consolidated shipment. We can expect a return shipment after the event has ended. 


With trade show shipping, we can usually expect there to be a series of events that the same items will need to be shipped to. And, we can expect there to be little to no packing required of the shipping company.  


Trade show materials are typically packed in a manner that ensures their safety, minimizes internal damage and leaves room for small extras (cords, pens, business cards, etc.). This packing is first done by the booth manufacturer and is maintained by the exhibiting company or their labor team.  

There are so many different types of shipping and they all have their nuances, thankfully US Express is here to help you determine your needs and provide workable solutions! 

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What to Look for in a Logistics Partner

Choosing the right Logistics Partner to meet your needs can be overwhelming. Here are a few things to consider when searching for the best partner.


First, geography. Not every shipping company has the capability to ship to or from anywhere in the world so it’s important to make sure that the company you choose can at least meet your basic needs. Look at your most recent shipments, where did you pick up from and deliver to? Do you ship to the same location(s) or a new destination every time? Look at your expansion plans. Where do you plan to develop new business? Can your new Logistics Partner meet these requirements?


Second, services offered. The range of services offered by your Logistics Partner should allow you to completely customize your shipping experience. Not every shipment will be a standard ground, dock to dock shipment as much as we wish it could be so offering a wide variety of additional services is key to providing a great experience. Some offerings should include liftgate trucks, inside pickups and deliveries, multi-modal transport (including air, ground, ocean, rail, less-than truckload, full-truckload), palletizing and wrapping, and various other shipping accessories (including bars, straps, blankets, and pallet jacks). Being able to accommodate any type of request is what separates a partner from a vendor.


Third, flexibility. Continuing the conversation from our last point, your next Logistics Partner should be quite flexible. Being able to accommodate requests as they come up regardless of when they come up can make or break any shipment. Whether it’s the day before a pickup, while in transit, or day of delivery, being able to make your request a reality shouldn’t be an issue.


Fourth (and probably the most obvious), pricing. It’s true when they say “you get what you pay for” even when looking for your next Logistics Partner. A shipping company will send you a bill for the services rendered regardless of whether or not you needed or wanted them. A Logistics Partner will work with you to determine exactly what you need and how to go about it. And, when issues arise, they can help you avoid unexpected costs that could result in shipping delays.


Last, but not least, customer service and communication. While this needs no explanation, it’s still important to highlight. Look for a Logistics Partner that has the same philosophy on customer service and communication as you do. Your Logistics Partner should be an extension of your team, not a separate department.


Your business is your business, so your Logistics Partner is there to support your goals, not hinder them. Finding the right Logistics Partner can be challenging and time-consuming but will always be worth it in the long run.

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Actual Weight vs. Dimensional Weight: Why Does it Matter?

Actual weight is exactly what the shipment weighs, it includes the product and all packaging. Dimensional weight refers to the amount of space your shipment takes up on a truck. Dimensional weight, or DIM weight, is calculated by multiplying the length, width, and height of your shipment, and dividing the total by the dimensional factor.
The dimensional factor is typically different for domestic and international shipments. However, the basic rule of thumb is a dimensional factor of 139 for domestic, and 166 for international.
Space on a truck is limited so dimensional weight is an industry-wide pricing practice used to establish a minimum charge for cubic space occupied by a package. As such, a lightweight/low density shipment becomes unprofitable for shipping companies due to the amount of space the shipment takes up in proportion to its weight.
Because the price of your shipment will be determined by whichever is greater: the actual weight of your shipment, or the dimensional weight of your shipment. This becomes your Billable Weight.
So, why does dimensional weight matter? Dimensional weight rewards those who pack their shipments efficiently. For example, if you have a large box of feathers, you are more likely to be charged for the dimensional weight. The size of the shipment will be greater than the weight of the shipment.
It’s important to be aware that dimensional weight exists and that you can be charged for a shipment based on that rate. But don’t worry, your US Express Logistics Consultant can help you calculate your rate and determine the best way to ship your goods!
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Q&A with Christine

Q&A with Christine!


Logistics is a key component to many companies’ success and bottom line. US Express has 40 years of freight forwarding experience assisting our client’s transport-sensitive equipment, machinery, products, exhibit materials, and most recently, PPE.


What advice would you give logistics professionals?

Develop an understanding of your client’s needs and what is important to them. Competitive pricing tends to be the assumption of most logistics professionals however, this assumption would be a mistake. Many companies place a higher priority on reliability and customer service. They find value in peace of mind knowing they can trust their logistics partner that their shipments will be delivered on time and in good condition. I find communication is also an important component to logistics. Tracking information and accessibility for any questions speaks volumes to our clients. Our standard operating procedure is to keep our client’s needs as our top priority and continually provide the best solution to meet the needs of each individual client.


What are some common problems you hear businesses encounter with deliveries?

The Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) distribution environment exerts unique forces on freight, which results in various points along the supply chain that could cause damage to equipment. The Hub and Spoke approach often account for a pallet that can be touched 4, 5, 6 or perhaps additional times before reaching its final delivery destination. US Express utilizes a city-to-city Line Haul approach, we have a local team pick up the shipment, they then transfer it to the line haul carrier that is selected. The line haul carrier transports the shipment directly to the destination city. Once the shipment has arrived in the destination city our local team recovers the freight, and final delivery is made limiting the touchpoints to a total of three. Every new touchpoint creates a potential for damages to occur, our approach limits the potential for damage.


What insight can you provide about international shipments? 

Many businesses find international shipments challenging as requirements vary and language can certainly factor into the process and create additional hurdles. Gathering all the information about your shipment contents and value will help the shipper manage the process. Generating a commercial invoice is a good place to start. This itemization along with associated costs will be needed to clear customs and determine duties and taxes. What are the terms of the sale or is this a round trip shipment? The country of origin for the contents along with tariff codes will be needed. Documents and requirements vary by country so having a knowledgeable Logistics Consultant can make this seemingly complicated process much easier.


What do you want your clients to know about your process? 

I would share with them that US Express puts our clients’ needs first! We are strategic with how we schedule shipments to ensure we utilize the most cost-effective approach, keeping our service at the forefront of every shipment. Our team monitors shipments in transit to ensure the proper milestones are met throughout the process, ensuring transit remains on target for on-time delivery. A key component in our process is communication and accessibility. Our Logistics Consultants take pride in how accessible they are to their clients. Clients are able to communicate with their Consultant and our Operations team 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Continuously striving to meet our clients’ needs while delivering superior customer service is how we have maintained our long-term client relationships.


 About the Author: Christine Hackelberg is a Logistics Consultant that has been with US Express for over three years! Her daily focus is to be a valued partner to her clients, not just a shipping vendor.



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