Shipping to the Trade Show

Trade Show Shipping Terms You May Run Into

Though the Trade Show is a venue that expands across all professions, few professions are actually centered around trade shows.  If you are a business person or tradesman on your way to your first Trade Show, getting you equipment shipped and ready make take you through what feels like a foreign country with its own lingo and road signs written in an incomprehensible script.  So to help you prepare I offer you a few translations (with the understanding that there are international terms that may differ still from these. . .)  Let’s begin with some of the shipping terms you may run into:

Bill of Lading

This just a fancy term for a tracking form that your carrier will provide. Here you will include pertinent shipping information such as  the address (of origin and destination),  party responsible for the cost of shipping, the dimensions and weight of individual freight piece and any special shipping instructions.

Consolidated Carrier

A freight transportation company that consolidates the shipping needs of several customers and may deliver to several hubs along the route.  It may slow the shipment down, but can greatly reduce your costs.  The alternative is Line-haul Carrier which usually transports property to a hub and then out for delivery making freight pieces less likely to get separated, but driving up your shipping costs.

Customs Broker

You will need to go through a licensed agent (person or company) when traveling internationally in order to clear your freight through customs.


“C” is the Roman numeral for 100, so the C weight, or CWT is a shipments weight measured in hundreds.  The term CWT usually refers to the cost  for shipping per every one hundred (pounds) of weight.

DIM Weight

More a measurement of space than of weight, the DIM (short for “Dimensional”) weight is based on measurements of each box or crate’s length multiplied by its width and height and then divided by either 194 (for domestic shipments) or 166 (for international shipments.)

Drayage or Material Handling

Most convention centers and hotels are not equipped to handle the large gathering of vendors with displays and product that occur with trade shows, and individual vendors transporting their own equipment, on their own schedule could present an undesirable chaos on the exhibition hall floor. For this reason, many show sponsors will assign (or recommend) one particular drayage service for moving freight from the shipping dock to a booth, and then back to the dock at the end of the show.

Forced Freight

If your contracted freight company does not show up at the appointed time to pick up your packed display, or if you didn’t turn in your bill of lading when you turned in your house bill you could get charged for both a dead run and for freight charges from the carrier hired by the event decorator (the company responsible for providing drape, carpet, and sign services for the show).

House Bill

The event decorator will provide you with a form (or you may need to pick it up at the service desk) to complete at the end of dismantling your display. In some cases you will be asked to attach your contracted carrier’s bill of lading.

Site Shipments

Depending on the size of your display, may want to consider shipping your display directly to the site.  Check out how the shipping and handling charges vary between different methods of transportation. Molded cases  vary from medium size to extra large and are used primarily for transporting large quantities of trade event exhibition equipment over long distances.

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