Mastering the Trade Show Material Handling Agreement

material handling agreement
Mastering the Trade Show Material Handling Agreement

As your trade show draws to a close, it's time to turn your attention to packaging your exhibition materials and gearing up for outbound trade show shipping. An essential element in this process is ensuring the accurate completion of the Material Handling Agreement (MHA).

But what exactly is a Material Handling Agreement?

A Material Handling Agreement serves as a contractual arrangement between the show contractor and the exhibitor. It grants the show contractor the authority to handle and release your freight to the carrier specified on your move-out documentation. In most cases, general contractors will also provide trade show shipping labels for you to affix to your packed exhibition materials as you prepare to conclude your booth tear-down.

How do you fill out a Material Handling Agreement?

When completing your material handling form, it is crucial to meticulously review all the details provided and promptly locate an exhibitor service desk for any necessary updates to your paperwork. Even the smallest error on your material handling form can lead to headaches, so follow the steps below to help ensure a stress-free trade show shipping experience.

  1. Shipping Addresses: The first item to fill out is the ship from and ship to addresses. The ship-from address will be the trade show convention center and the ship-to address will be your selected delivery address. It is advised that you put the receiver's contact information for the carrier's convenience.
  2. Special instructions: Many trade show material handling forms have a section where you can enter any special instructions for the receiving location like lift gate, call before delivery, or special receiving hours. Some MHAs have checkboxes to select this and others have a box where you can write out your delivery requirements.
  3. Pieces and Weight: Do your best to match the product description on the MHA with your total number of pieces and shipment weight. Ensure you list your total number of pieces and weight.
  4. Freight Carrier: Ensure that your correct freight carrier is listed. If you work with a third-party provider, make sure that you have the carrier's exact name listed on the MHA. Even a small difference in carrier name like listing T-Force Freight vs. T-Force Worldwide can lead to major headaches.
  5. Bill to: For the bill to section, fill out the appropriate party that should be billed for your freight charges.
  6. Re-Routing: You might want to consider opting for the "return shipment to warehouse" choice on the material handling agreement. In many cases, the additional material handling fee for returning your freight to the show contractor's warehouse and then having your chosen transportation provider arrange for a new carrier pickup can often be more cost-effective than the alternative, which is having your freight forcibly removed from the show.
  7. Separate Destination Locations: When planning to ship some of your exhibition materials to one location and others to a different location, ensure that you indicate the number of separate destinations accordingly. Some general contractors require multiple MHAs for the same booth if you are shipping to separate locations, so double check with the exhibitor services desk to see if you need more than one MHA. This step is crucial for accurate and efficient handling of your materials.

Example of Product Description Section on a MHA.

material handling agreement product description

Examples of Sample MHAs

In the example below, we will be using the following scenario for the show move-out:

Show: Fabtech

Shipping to: LA Manufacturing booth A456

123 Main Street

Pasadena, CA 91001

Carrier: T-Force Freight

Trade Show Freight Details: 3 skids, 1000lbs, and lift gate req.

Freeman Material Handling Agreement

Freeman Material Handling Agreement

GES Material Handling Form

GES Material Handling Agreement

Shepard Material Handling Form

Shepard Material Handling Agreement

We Filled Out the MHA, Now What?

After successfully completing your MHA, it's advisable to perform a double-check to ensure both the MHA and labels are accurate. When your exhibition materials are fully packaged and prepared for carrier pickup, affix at least two labels to each pallet, box, or crate. With this process completed, you're all set to submit your MHA to the exhibitor services desk on your way out from the show.

Here are two Pro Insights surrounding turning your MHA into the exhibitor services:

  1. Some shows will not accept the MHA at the exhibitor services desk until after the show has officially ended. Given this, it is advisable to schedule your flights at least 3-4 hours after the show has closed if you are looking to get home quickly.
  2. A common question we receive is if it is okay to leave your MHA on your packed and labeled exhibition materials. It is highly advisable by the exhibitor services team to turn your MHA into them rather than leaving it on your packaged materials as there is no guarantee that they will receive the information they need that is provided on the MHA.

Trade Show Material Handling Form Summary

In conclusion, we hope that this guide has provided you with valuable insights for your outbound trade show shipping preparations and navigating the Material Handling Agreement. If you're gearing up for an upcoming trade show freight shipment, our dedicated team at DTS is here to support you. Whether you have questions or require a trade show shipping quote, we're just an email away. Reach out to us at or simply click the button below to request a quote.

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