Cover Yourself. Cover the Machine. A Lesson in Tarping Freight.

16 Tips for Shipping Manufacturing Equipment

I just concluded a conversation with an insurance company representative that called me asking for a written description for properly preparing a machine tool for shipping. Not wanting to provide bad advice, I asked them what this is in reference to? This led to a discussion about tarping, who is responsible for it, and what does insurance do with a claim of rust damage? 

First off, I will tell you this was not a machine that we were involved with -- a breath of relief there. But that fact also greatly limits my ability to define what really happened using only a phone conversation with an insurance person as guidance.  I was told that a CNC Lathe was shipped from the Carolinas to Texas.  When it arrived, there was rust damage so significant that the person sent by the insurance company to assess damage deemed rust damage bad enough to make the machine tool unusable. This person was NOT a machine tool technician, instead it was one of those people insurance companies send out to take pictures and give opinions.  I do not know the extent of the damage, and I have not seen the pictures.  But the rust was to such an extent that the truck line's insurance company immediately looked for someone else to blame, NOT their insured client.

Before-and-after pictures taken of the machine interior indicate the damage occurred AFTER the machine was loaded onto the truck. Photos were taken of the machine tarped and on the truck prior to departure. The insurance company said that the buyer arranged the trucking and requested the machine to be tarped. Somehow somebody specified a tarp size to the truck line, and according to the photos taken prior to departure, the tarp was not large enough to properly cover the entire machine.  In short, the insurance company was looking to blame the used machinery dealer for not preparing the lathe properly for shipping.  This is all of the information I could get in the phone call; I am not going to try to determine any blame here.  It is however an excellent opportunity to revisit best practices when shipping a machine.


Have the buyer hire the truck line. You can help arrange the deal, but have the buyer hire them. 

Always take photos of your machine prepped for shipment, prior to it being loaded.

Always demand truck line to "fully tarp" machine and that it be on an air-ride trailer.

If you can get a Conestoga trailer, tarping is not necessary, and if your machine fits into a Conestoga, I prefer it to tarping.

Truck drivers are responsible for securing load on their truck, but if they are not tarping or securing properly at your facility you should give assistance.

Make sure your Bill of Lading states that drivers are responsible for tarping and securing load, even if assistance is given to them. Make driver sign that Bill of Lading.

Take photos of items on truck prior to tarping.

Take photos of items on truck after tarping.

If Truck Driver does not have proper tarps, refuses to tarp, has non-air-ride trailer, or does not have proper equipment to secure load, contact the buyer immediately and let them know.

If buyer approves of truck or tarping job done that you do not like, even against your advice, get them to sign a document that says so prior to departure of truck.

Avoid putting CNC Machines on "Hot-Shots" (Pick-up Trucks hauling Semi-Trailers). I have had bad experiences with that, and I always get buyer approval before loading one of those.


Always take photos of machine as it arrives.

Always take photos of machine once tarps are removed on truck.

Take photos of any damages as soon as you see them -- on the truck and right after off-loading.

Indicate on the Bill of Lading that the load was damaged.

Immediately contact the truck line to report damage and send them photos.

When there are damages, everyone points fingers. Sometimes there is someone at fault, sometimes #*it just happens. I like to follow these guidelines. They help diminish the chance of damages, and controversy when damages do happen.