Receiving Procedures

Receiving Procedures

The following “Do’s” and “Don’t’s” will help shippers and receivers prepare an instructional manual or poster for their employees education and guidance. Special emphasis should be placed on specific problem areas for the commodities shipped by your Company, or for the geographic regions in which your products are to be delivered.


  1. The proper procedures for receiving truck load traffic begin with the security guard at the gate or with the supervisor responsible for signing for deliveries. It is imperative for them to inspect and confirm that all seal numbers are recorded before they are broken. Instruct drivers delivering full truckloads that you will record seal numbers only if you can confirm that the seals were intact on arrival. Be especially alert to the possibility of shortages on truckload shipments when the driver hands you the seal with an explanation that he removed it in order to open his doors prior to backing into your unloading dock. While this might well be the case, your refusal to give a clear seal record in these instances will prevent future tampering or removal with seals without your supervision. The origin seal numbers should not be recorded on the bill of lading by the shipper. It enables a receiving clerk who has a copy of the bill of lading to copy those seal numbers on the delivering carrier’s delivery receipt without actually checking the seals on the vehicle. Shippers should record the origin seal numbers on their internal records. If the vehicle has more than one door, check all doors for seals and record the fact that all doors are, or are not, sealed, recording their numbers. Watch for “gimmicks” devised by transportation cargo thieves, professional organized crime rings and nonprofessionals to break the integrity of seal records. If you catch a thief in the act, PROSECUTE. The “word” will soon spread that your Company “means business.” One of the most effective means of reducing thefts is to post a notice where drivers and dock workers must report, reminding them that theft of an interstate or foreign shipment is a federal offense (18 U.S.C. 659), and that the unauthorized breaking of a seal or lock on an interstate or foreign shipment is a federal offense (18 U.S.C. 2117). Post the fines and penalties in bold print! 18 U.S.C. Section 2117

    Whoever breaks the seal or lock of any railroad car, vessel, aircraft, motor truck, wagon or other vehicle or of any pipeline system, containing interstate or foreign shipments of freight or express or other property, or enters any such vehicle or pipeline system with intent in either case to commit larceny therein, shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned not more than ten years or both.

  2. Count and Inspect All Pieces. Keep an UNLOADING TALLY. If your delivery is short or is damaged, note the count and/or damage on the delivery receipt in detail, and the have driver sign and date it at the same time. On shortages, note which items were short, if possible. If damaged, be specific and factual: “corners bent, wrapping torn, tarp torn and shredded, two sheets missing”, etc.S hortage and damage notations on the delivery receipt provide the evidence required to establish a “prima facie” claim that the carrier is liable for a loss or damage. The legal significance of these notations should be explained to receiving personnel for better compliance and understanding of the importance of their function in the distribution cycle. If a delivery receipt with no indication of loss or damage is obtained by the carrier and a discrepancy is discovered later, it becomes a “concealed loss or damage.” This will severely limit your chances of full recovery from the carrier.

    All damage, even if only slight markings on the exterior of a carton or skid, should be noted, because it may offer a clue to damage to the contents discovered later. If the banding, shrink or stretch wrapping is broken upon receipt, inspect and count the contents in the driver’s presence. If any product is missing, write a clear exception notation on the delivery receipt such as; “Two (2) ctns. Paint #1234 short.” Consignees should note that in the event of a claim that carriers have the right to perform an inspection and will try to determine whether the damage could have been discovered and noted at time of delivery. If the answer checked is “yes,” the carrier will generally decline the resultant claim on the basis that the damage happened after the delivery and, therefore, they are not liable.

  3. Take Photographs of the damaged merchandise and of the trailer or car if the load has badly shifted and damaged. If possible, get driver in the picture along with the trailer number or license plate. Get rail car number in the picture. Record on the back of the photograph the date, car, or trailer number, driver’s name, carrier’s name, identity of shipment, etc., and sign the photograph. Also record the time the shipment was inspected and photographed. It is also recommended that video cameras be installed at all receiving and shipping locations as well as at guard gates, and that films be stored for future review when necessary.

  4. When a shortage or damage is discovered, CALL the CARRIER IMMEDIATELY to give them an opportunity to schedule an inspection (whether or not an exception was noted on the delivery receipt) and confirm in writing the date and time and the names of the persons who were notified. Also, report all damage and shortages to the shipper in writing, particularly if they are repetitive. Send photographs of the damage, as many shippers do not know how well their packaging is performing in transit. Receiving personnel must be trained in proper procedures in order to protect the interests of the owner of the goods in damage situations. An immediate call to the carrier with written confirmation builds credibility in the eyes of the carrier and provides the beginning of hard documentary evidence for the eventual claim file. It also establishes the time schedule for the carrier to perform its inspection. If the carrier fails to make the inspection within the time limit, or within a reasonable time, the consignee should perform the inspection and submit a copy of its findings with its claim.

  5. Save all packaging! One of the most important steps to take in cases of CONCEALED DAMAGE is to set aside the damaged goods awaiting the carrier’s inspection. RETAIN ALL OF THE ORIGINAL PACKAGING. Failure to comply with this provision deprives the carrier of the opportunity to inspect the goods and the packaging, which will in turn, severely hinder your chances to recover damages (unless, of course, you have preserved the evidence by taking photographs, obtained an affidavit from the person having actual knowledge of its condition, etc.).

  6. Create an “OS&D” area. This area, used for retaining damaged goods and containers, should be in a space that is out of the way of the normal traffic in the receiving area so that further damage or pilferage is not incurred by your own personnel in conducting normal business. This area should also be secured against pilferage and theft.

  7. If a corporate policy manual exists, ensure that there is a section devoted to “Receiving Practices” and that it contains the “Do’s and Don’t’s”, herein, together with material relating specifically to your products. In the absence of a formal manual outlining proper receiving procedures, posters are a simple, inexpensive, and effective method to educate the receiving personnel on the correct manner to accept deliveries, perform inspections, and generally conduct business. Add photos of damaged freight received by your company.

  8. Provide the receiving department with INSPECTION FORMS so that they can perform factual and precise inspections on those occasions when the carrier waives the right to do so. In preparing such a form, add those items which might more effectively describe your product and the conditions which frequently exist on delivery based on your past experiences.

  9. Maintain a RECEIVING LOG. Record the date, arrival and departure times, carrier’s name and pro number, vendor’s name and order number, description of goods, actual count, notation of damage, if any, and the initials of the person making the entry. All of these pieces of information could be used at a later date in documenting a freight claim. Management should decide if receiving personnel should be given a copy of the purchase order, as it often encourages personnel to merely check each line without counting. Not having a copy of the purchase order forces receiving personnel to actually count, inspect and/or weigh the shipment contents.

  10. Rust. All metal products have a natural tendency to rust, and therefore, special precautions must be taken to prevent rusting in transit and in storage. Receiving personnel must carefully inspect such products for evidence of rusting, and note the extent and degree of rusting when discovered. Delivery receipts must be noted in detail, such as:
    Edges rusted on 2 coils, #_____and#_____.
    Heavy rusting notes on #_________.
    Light rusting noted on #_________.
    Top sheet only rusted and pitted, etc.

  11. Refrigerated product should be pierced with a thermometer to record pulp temperature rather than the temperature of the package.


  1. Do not REJECT the shipment from the carrier unless:
    a) The shipment is “practically worthless,” considering the cost of repair, salvaging, etc. (make sure to take photographs if you do reject, and get the driver to acknowledge and confirm the damage on a separate report).

    b) The shipment may contaminate, infest or damage other freight in your place of business. (Leaking drums, insects, etc.)

    The reason for this rule is that the owner of a damaged shipment must mitigate the loss to the greatest extent possible under the circumstances. The law presumes that the owner of the goods is in a better position to repair the goods or maximize the salvage value of the damaged product since it is in that business. The carrier usually cannot recoup as much money as the owner of the goods can in the salvage market.

  2. Do not accept deliveries without inspection. Marking the delivery receipt “subject to further inspection” is not a good practice. It does not help the claimant establish carrier liability, as the carrier will generally allege that the real damage occurred after the product was delivered! The time to inspect and report on damage is while the driver is present to sign and confirm the exception notation on the delivery receipt! Occasionally, the person charged with inspecting deliveries is not available at the time of delivery. In such cases, the inspecting party should note that fact on the delivery receipt. It may explain why a shipment was later discovered to be damaged, without an exception notation appearing on the delivery receipt.

  3. Non-confirming goods should not be rejected to the carrier if the carrier is not at fault. These goods should be accepted and held for disposition instructions from the seller.

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