Up to bat! Nursery freight

Posted by Harriet Mills on May 3, 2018 11:36:57 AM

Nursery Header

Quick fact: Did you know that 75% of nursery freight is shipped between March 1 and June 1, directly competing with capacity from the produce market which is ramping up at the same time? That can mean fewer available trucks (especially temperature-controlled ones) and higher freight rates.

3pl freight tipsTo make matters worse, most shippers are concerned with finding reliable, experienced, nursery-savvy carriers as they are about getting those budding blossoms to their destination. Timing is everything with potted plants delivering before they bloom and tree saplings reaching the customer’s floor displays before the ideal planting season comes and goes.

Do away with the 3 “P”s of shipping nursery freight – perishable, problematic and perilous

Nursery CartsThere is no doubt that shipping truckload nursery freight can be a challenge, with so many variables in play. It’s important to know how to handle each type of shipment to ensure its safe delivery.  Each product category requires specialized knowledge of how to ship, such as frozen and refrigerated, flatbed - with or without tarps, straps, step-decks, LTL and over sized loads.  3PLs that do this kind of freight frequently can add a lot of value to your business’s logistics. 

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Knowing you are working with an experienced 3PL can take away the worry

Here are a few nursery-specific requirements that your 3PL should know: (View our Infographic)


  • Roof barriers: Metal roofs can get very hot. When loaded with stacked carts or trees that hit the ceiling, the leaves can burn from the generated heat. A barrier constructed of plywood, Styrofoam®, or heavy-duty tarp is sometimes required to protect cargo. Sometimes translucent (fiberglass) roofs will be used.


  • E-track logistics vans & reefers: E-track strips are long pieces of metal running from the front of the van to the rear of the van.  These strips are fastened to the van walls and have hooks on them that allow that straps to be installed easily around the carts. The process keeps the product from shifting during transit. 


  • Product knowledge: Before a shipment leaves the point of pick up, drivers are sometimes given instructions about the load to avoid problems at delivery.  For example, when a dormant load of trees delivers, the trees are sometimes mistaken as “dead.” The driver often will have literature to give the receiver that offers validation that the shipment is good. 


  • Loading Techniques: There are several ways a truck can be loaded with nursery freight. Tier-stacked and decked are two of the more common ways of shipping nursery items.  Another interesting loading technique is called bare-root loading.  This type of shipment requires the floor of the van or reefer to be covered with straw and then a layer of mud with the product alternating in-between.  The trailer is loaded from floor to ceiling and intermittently hosed down to keep the roots moist.  After the van is unloaded, it needs a thorough cleaning! Another method is floor-loaded, where the product is loaded pot-by-pot.  This is a very time-consuming process with sometimes as many as 1,500 – 2,000 pots being loaded at a time.  It is important to note on the load agreement that it may require 4-6 hours minimum loading and unloading time so no one incurs any detention-time charges.Nursery Truck

It is so important that everyone is on the same page when shipping nursery freight and like all freight, communication is key. Working with a 3PL that is available 24-hours a day is also especially important with seasonal loads.

The easiest nursery loads are those that are palletized.  These shipments can be easily loaded and unloaded by electric or pump jack, which saves time.  Even with this type of shipment, there are requirements.  Straps are a must to secure the load in transit.

At Choptank Transport, we are very particular about our carriers. We depend on these drivers to be the ambassadors of our company. Most nursery loads require driver unload, and they have a lot of direct contact with customers.  It is important that they are courteous and professional.  We believe it is important to take care of our regular carriers and we try hard to keep them loaded both ways!  As a shipper, you can help attract reliable, regular carriers by being a shipper of choice! (learn more).

For more information on Choptank’s nursery freight capabilities, contact sales@choptanktransport.com

Tags: Shipper News

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