image decription

How to Improve Trade Show Shipping Logistics

Tips for Better Trade Show Shipping

Ideas on Dealing With 4 What If Shipping Scenarios

Trade show shipping and logistics is obviously a critical part of your trade show management process. The process can be complicated and sometimes frustrating. Some good news is that it can be made easier and more cost effective when you better understand the process. This article provides you with tips and ideas to improve the trade show shipping process.


Besides your booth itself, you may have a lot of other items that also need to be shipped to and from the show, like literature, premiums, samples and so on. Ideally you should always consolidate these items with your booth shipment or with your Exhibit House and send everything to the Advanced Receiving Warehouse. That isn’t always realistic. So how do you get these items to the show economically? If you do have multiple items that need to go direct to show after the booth has shipped, instruct your team members not to send any packages to the show without consulting you first. You are probably aware that the General Service Contractor will assess a minimum charge per item for receiving small packages. Usually it is a small package-handling fee, but sometimes they will have a 200 lb. minimum and I’m sure they love it when an Exhibitor sends in 30 or 40 individual packages to the show. Cha-Ching!

According to Exhibitor Magazine’s national survey, the average drayage charge for shipments to the advanced warehouse is $89.93 (per CWT). It could cost up to almost $180.00 per package for the General Service Contractor to receive them individually. If you can, consolidate everything onto a pallet. In those cases where you just have two or three small boxes going, try to tape or strap them together into a single unit. Not only will you avoid having to pay the minimum handling fee for each box, it is also less likely you will have one come up missing on-site.


Each General Service Contractor will make it appear that they are the actual carrier. In actuality, most are just brokering your shipment to an actual Freight Carrier (YRC, UPSF, to name a few). They prefer you arrange your shipping through them so they can broker it to an actual Freight Carrier and add their mark-up. If you identify the chosen House Carrier, you can arrange the shipment directly with them for less and still enjoy the perks of using the House Carrier. For instance, if you miss the advanced warehouse cut off date, you can send your freight directly to the show site address and not worry about it getting there early and being refused.

The House Carrier will deliver, unload, consolidate and reload your freight at terminals along the way. Ultimately, it will be delivered to and consolidated at the Advanced Receiving Warehouse for your show and delivered to the show with the other advanced freight. It is easier and more economical for them to do this. Since you sent your items to the direct-to-show address, they will not assess that missed advanced deadline surcharge which can only help the event budget. A good Exhibit House like Team One has ways of uncovering which freight carrier is the “Official” Show Carrier.


If your booth and other items actually require a full, dedicated truck, that means you have much less to worry about. Make sure your truckload carrier knows to stop at the truck scales prior to picking up your freight for the show. Some larger facilities actually have a truck scale at the marshaling yard, but this means your driver has to go across twice. Once before fully loaded (heavy weight) and once empty (light weight) after the freight is unloaded at the show. Many marshaling facilities do not have truck scales. This means your driver will be turned away and asked to find a truck scale to get their “heavy weight,” then come back and check in again. Meanwhile, other trucks are arriving in line in front of your driver. Your freight will be delayed and can cause that domino effect that costs money.

Even if your freight will only require half of the trailer, ask your broker or carrier for a quote on dedicated truckload anyway. The way the common carriers calculate LTL rates is based on cubic dimensions and weight. They will charge whichever calculation is higher, which results in a higher charge to you. Since the rate calculation for a full truckload is essentially based on miles driven rather than by volume or weight, you may find the full truckload rate is less expensive than the LTL calculated rates.

You can also ask your broker or carrier for a quote on a partial trailer. A partial trailer is essentially a full trailer that is “shared” with another shipment. Typically, you only want to do this if your carrier agrees your freight will be loaded on the tail of the truck so it has to be unloaded first, or the shared shipment is bound for the same destination or show as your freight. In this case, coordination is key. If your target date or time is earlier than the companion shipment, but your freight is loaded on the nose of the truck, your delivery will have to wait until the companion shipment is unloaded. Besides the costs of the delays associated with late freight, the General Service Contractor may also assess an off-target surcharge based on the weight of the entire load if it cannot be unloaded on time. A good Exhibit House like Team One will coordinate with the carrier to make sure each shipment on that shared truck is loaded according to the assigned target times and dates.


If you do end up having a small shipment like a pallet or two shipping after the booth freight, remember that it can be an extremely difficult and expensive option to guarantee delivery happens on your Direct-to-Show Target Date and virtually impossible to have your driver check in by your target time when you are sending those items LTL (Less Than Truckload) via a common carrier. Consider sending to the Advanced Receiving Warehouse after the cut-off date but before the first day of event move-in. It is true that the General Service Contractor will impose a surcharge (usually 25%) for missing the cut-off date, but they will still receive it in almost all cases (Caveat: unless it is first day of event move-in or after). This may be the safest and least expensive option, because the Carrier will have a much bigger window of opportunity to deliver the freight vs. delivering direct-to-show and having to meet your target date and time. At the Advanced Receiving Warehouse, the carrier will likely not have a long wait to get unloaded, which means you can select a cheaper shipping option that does not have that “guaranteed” delivery date. Short wait times are never the case when delivering direct-to-show. Besides the detention fees that may be imposed by your carrier waiting on-site, you run the real risk of the driver leaving. A common carrier will have a lot of other time-sensitive freight to deliver that day, and decide to leave to deliver all of that other freight and come back when there is less wait time. This happens, and when it does, it starts a domino effect.

So, what would that missed cut-off date surcharge actually cost? Try using the same Exhibitor Magazine national survey rate of $89.93 (per CWT) for Advanced Receiving to calculate the likely impact of that surcharge. A couple of pallets will probably not weigh more than a couple of hundred pounds apiece…..but for the sake of argument, let’s say your two pallets weigh 1000 pounds each – the surcharge in this late receiving scenario will be less than $90.00 each pallet. Compare that known cost to your average carrier detention fees of $65.00 per hour, or the unknown costs associated with late or missing freight: that surcharge is your best option in the long run.

For those smaller stragglers that miss the boat, consider sending them to your hotel or your coworker’s hotel. And don’t be afraid to reach out to your Exhibit House to assist. Many Exhibit Houses will send an I&D Supervisor to supervise the union labor setting up your booth. That supervisor can receive the package and carry it to the booth. Exhibit Houses also have relationships with Independent Labor Contractors all across the country. Ask your Exhibit House to contact their I&D labor provider on-site and arrange for them to receive the package and deliver it to the booth. Be sure to ask if there are any additional charges associated receiving items. If there are costs, hang up and call Team One! We are here to help and make your life easier.


If you are using a common carrier for trade show shipping — including the Official Show Carrier — to deliver your critical booth freight directly to the show, recognize that the truck that picks up your freight when it leaves for the show is not the same one that will be delivering it on the other end. It’s a given that your LTL freight will be unloaded and shuffled onto other trailers multiple times during the journey to the show. This means that your freight could potentially arrive on as many separate trucks as you have pieces of freight. If the last truck to unload at the show happens to have those things you need first, like your carpet and pad, you can imagine how the costs associated with idle union labor and having to get caught up once your freight is delivered begin to add up. Even worse, what happens if you don’t receive crucial items before the show opens? Avoid these risks by selecting the proper carrier for each unique scenario. A good Exhibit House like Team One will be able to assess the circumstance on a case-by-case basis and recommend the safest and most economical option for you.

These are just a few on a long list of common trade show shipping scenarios that if handled the wrong way could result in unnecessary costs or even disaster. Each individual situation has to be evaluated and dealt with independently. Trade show companies like Team One Display Services, Inc. have learned through years of experiences to instinctively react to every dynamic trade show shipping scenario with the safest and least expensive solution. To learn more about cost effective shipping for trade shows we invite contact us with your questions.