10 Reasons Shippers Need an Expert in Dry Bulk Goods

Maria Callegari Maria Callegari June 21, 2023
10 Reasons Shippers Need an Expert in Dry Bulk Goods

It may not seem like it at first thought, but moving dry bulk commodities like sand, clay, plastic pellets, grains, cement, and fertilizers require tremendous experience and logistics prowess. Dry bulk shipping requires coordination, specific equipment, and specialized drivers. 

As a crucial component of the supply chain, dry bulk transport is critical for industries such as plastic manufacturing, construction, and agriculture, which rely on the timely and intact arrival of raw materials. Each load has individual considerations, and a small mistake could render it unusable. That lost load or late truck could shut down an entire manufacturing operation.

With so many challenges associated with dry van shipping and its essential nature in many industries' supply chains, shippers must use an expert to manage the logistics of the load.

What Is Dry Bulk Shipping?

Dry bulk shipping involves the transportation of raw materials used in the daily manufacturing of consumer products that are not packaged in boxes, barrels, or containers. It consists of hauling commodities such as: 

  • Plastic pellets
  • Agricultural materials
  • Coal
  • Cement
  • Sand
  • Lumber
  • Steel

The process of dry bulk shipping is a crucial aspect of industries like general manufacturing, construction, steel production, and plastics manufacturing. For example, the yogurt a consumer eats wouldn't exist if the plastic pellets required for making the plastic container don't reach the manufacturing facility. A single truck carrying dry bulk goods could be responsible for causing an entire supply chain to go idle.

Dry Bulk vs. Dry Van Shipping

Dry bulk and dry van shipping differ in many ways, beginning with the cargo's lack of containerization or packaging for dry bulk. Dry bulk requires an entirely different skill set and equipment.

The loading and unloading of freight, like pellets needing a specialized trailer, are unlike placing and removing boxes or pallets in a regular dry van trailer. Contamination risk is a significant consideration for many loads, as even a small amount of contaminant could render the entire load worthless, necessitating post-load washing from certified facilities. 

10 Reasons Shippers Need an Expert Partner When Dry Bulk Shipping

Due to the complexity and costs of dry bulk shipping, having an expert partner makes all the difference for shippers. Finding trucks, cutting costs, and managing a schedule are some of the reasons why shippers need an expert partner.

1. Finding the Right Drivers

At a minimum, dry bulk drivers need a tanker endorsement. However, due to the sensitive nature of dry bulk goods, it requires a well-trained and experienced driver to ensure their safe delivery and operate the specialized equipment. Finding a dependable driver is a difficult task best handled by experts who have previously worked with various drivers. Additionally, the driver would need additional endorsements for any hazmat or waste shipment.

2. Insurance Premium Considerations

The significantly higher premiums to ship dry bulk goods makes savings an essential consideration. By working with numerous insurers, an expert partner can match the shipment with the best insurer, ultimately saving shippers money.

3. Equipment Expertise

Dry van trailers require minimal knowledge to operate, sometimes limited to just opening the rear door. On the other hand, pneumatic trailers are characterized by high complexity and numerous moving parts. Given the potential for a simple mistake to result in the destruction of a shipment, having a driver with the necessary knowledge to operate the trailer becomes essential.

4. Contamination Worries

The potential for a significant financial loss due to a small amount of contamination leading to a lost load is not limited to the costs associated with the shipment alone. It can also result in millions of dollars from plant shutdowns that impact the entire supply chain. Even a few black plastic pellets mixed in with white ones could destroy an entire production run.

5. Weight Woes

Dry bulk freight varies tremendously in density, resulting in significant differences in weight for a cubic foot of different materials. For instance, while a cubic foot of plastic pellets weighs only 10 pounds, a cubic foot of sand could weigh 90 pounds more. This weight disparity has important consequences. For example, a 1500 cubic foot trailer filled with pellets may weigh just 15,000 pounds, whereas the same trailer one-third full of sand would weigh 45,000 pounds.

Transporting those plastic pellets would demand multiple trucks to carry 30,000 pounds of product. Similarly, hauling an entire trailer of sand would require numerous trucks due to its weight.

To comply with government-mandated limits and ensure safe transportation, the driver must know the accurate weight before hitting the road. This entails taking the truck to a certified scale to determine the loaded weight within a few hundred pounds. Understanding the correct trailer weight involves weighing the empty trailer to establish the baseline and then weighing it again when fully loaded to determine the cargo weight.

6. Expensive Equipment

The equipment required  for transporting dry bulk goods comes with a significant  expense. According to FreightWaves, a new dry bulk transport trailer can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000. In today's volatile transportation market, this steep price tag often poses an unreasonable investment for shippers seeking growth opportunities. However, by collaborating with a trustworthy dry bulk commodities transportation provider, shippers can obtain immediate access to the reliable dry bulk shipping capacity they require, without having to bear the budget-busting overhead of owning a dry bulk shipping asset.

7. Driver Shortages

The shortage of drivers in the trucking industry remains a persistent problem, compounded by the impending retirement of many truckers in the coming years. Presently, the industry faces a shortage of approximately 80,000 drivers, a situation further exacerbated by the logistics challenges triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Finding a suitable driver is no easy task.

8. High Fuel Costs

The rising cost of fuel has become a significant concern, particularly because dry bulk transportation consumes a substantial amount of it. With fuel costs closely intertwined with the increasingly volatile geopolitical landscape, shippers are grappling with an uncertain price forecast. As reported by The New York Times in November 2022, the cost of diesel experienced a staggering 40% increase in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Although diesel costs have been relatively stable in recent months, shippers are actively seeking strategies to mitigate fuel expenses in dry bulk shipping.

Shippers can maximize the efficiency of transporting crucial dry bulk commodities to their destinations by collaborating with experts in the field of dry bulk shipping. By leveraging advanced route optimization strategies and utilizing an intuitive transportation management platform, shippers can achieve unparalleled efficiency in their dry bulk shipping operations. 

Coupled with the number of deadhead miles potentially coming from cleaning the trailers or finding trucks that need to drive a long way to secure the cargo, an expert will find the most efficient route using GPS.

Extra fuel consumption also damages a shipper's sustainability goals, using resources and contributing to carbon emissions. 

9. Difficulty Accessing Capacity

Shippers use dry van trailers more frequently than specialized dry bulk trailers, so finding reliable capacity takes time and effort.

10. Tech Troubles

The time demands associated with dry bulk shipping are considerably higher due to the intricate loading and unloading processes, as well as the mandatory post-load washes. These requirements add complexity to supply chain collaboration compared to dry box shipping.

An expert provider of dry bulk shipping brings technology to the equation. Cloud-based apps can enhance collaboration across the supply chain, simplifying once complex tasks and bringing visibility to the process.

An Expert Makes All of the Difference In Dry Bulk Goods Shipping

Dry bulk goods represent highly valuable cargo with the potential to cause significant disruptions in downstream supply chains if any of the various scenarios occur. The transportation of these goods requires meticulous coordination, and the dynamics within the industry only add to the challenges faced in achieving seamless operations.

The scarcity of drivers, limited availability of trucks, rising fuel costs, and the challenge of empty miles pose substantial barriers in efficiently moving dry bulk freight.

An expert freight broker who has successfully coordinated and resolved these challenges in the past is an invaluable partner for shippers involved in transporting dry bulk goods. By partnering with such a broker, shippers can benefit from cost savings, enhanced collaboration, increased efficiency, and a reduction in their overall stress levels.

Edge Logistics stands out as a leading freight broker with expertise in dry bulk goods shipping. With years of experience in finding tailored solutions for shippers, Edge Logistics offers a comprehensive service that addresses all variables while leveraging advanced technological solutions to improve collaboration.

As a full-service brokerage equipped with award-winning technology and experienced brokers capable of handling various shipping requirements and freight types, Edge Logistics enables its partners to save money and efficiently transport their freight with utmost safety. Request a quote from Edge Logistics today.


About the Author

Maria Callegari

Maria Callegari