Guide to Packaging Freight Shipments

Jan 7, 2019

It’s crucial to pack freight for shipments correctly. Failing to follow instructions can lead to your items being damaged, confiscated or even held by the authorities indefinitely. In some instances, you may receive a hefty fine. With Courier & Freight’s essential guide to packing and sending, you’ll have all the information you need to ensure your freight is sent safe and sound – domestically or internationally.

Stay on top of packing requirements and turn to these instructions whenever you need guidance moving items from A to B.

Packing & Sending: The Key Information

Before you bundle your goods into a box and send them on their way, you need to make sure the shipment meets all the key criteria. Packaging your goods appropriately is important. The nature of the goods dictates what constitutes “correct” packing, and it’s important to choose the right method to save money and protect the items inside.

  • It is in good condition and has not been used before
  • It contains 5cm of cushioning material at the base (bubble wrap, polystyrene)
  • Items inside are wrapped in cushioning material
  • Items inside are separated from one another by extra material
  • Any heavy items are placed inside double walled/reinforced cardboard boxes
  • Empty space is limited (fill gaps with padding material)
  • There is sufficient label space
  • Labels are not placed over seams, closures or on sealing tape
  • You put down an extra label with the sender’s and receiver’s addresses/contact details

Packing Boxes Checklist

Cardboard envelopes are best for lightweight documents. For small electronic items, keys and discs, it’s best to use envelopes with cushioning material built inside.

Small Freight Items

All small items (30kgs and under) MUST :

  • Withstand a drop from a height of up to 1.2m without damaging goods inside
  • Have a “heavy” label attached (if over 20kgs and up to 30kgs)
  • Have minimum space around packed items. Excess padding increases the risk of items getting crushed
  • Have items placed on top without experiencing damage


  • Have items protruding from them
  • Have holes, punctures, tears, or otherwise visible damages
  • Be wet, leaking or water damaged

Long Length Freight Items

All long length items (1.2m and above) MUST :

  • Have additional protection to prevents the ends becoming damaged
  • Have sufficient packaging to be picked up at its centre without breaking
  • Withstand a drop from a height of up to 1.2m without goods inside suffering damage

Items up to 1.2 can travel through the carrier’s automated sorting machines. Any items over 1.2 in length must be manually handled - which may involve additional charges.

Oversized Freight Items

Oversized, heavier items (35kgs and over) MUST :

  • Be placed on a suitably sized, undamaged, quality pallet, skid or crate
  • Attach to the pallet, skid or crate to form a single inseparable unit
  • Be able to support the weight of the items secured to it
  • Be securely placed inside a crate if machinery
  • Not have any sharp edges exposed

Items that are on a skid, pallet or crate need to be loaded and unload by a forklift. If one is not available, you may be charged for a tail lift or hand unload. Boxes with nuts, bolts and loose items need to be secured correctly so the box does not break due to the weight of the items inside.

Pallet Freight

Pallets must be constructed correctly in order to preserve the wellbeing and security of the shipment. Make sure that all pallets :

  • Have boxes stacked in columns with no overlapping
  • Have boxes with no empty spaces (as this can lead to crushing)- cushioning materials should be used to plug gaps

Before shipping pallets, bear these five points in mind: 1. Event Spread Divide the weight/volume evenly over the pallet and ensure that nothing overlaps 2. Cover Corners Place cardboard on all four corners 3. Wrap Right Wrap all pallets tightly as possible with high-quality film. Thicker does not automatically mean stronger. 4. Wrapping Strength Wrap all pallets tightly as possible with high-quality film. Thicker does not automatically mean stronger. 5. Wrap Overlap Check the wrapping layers overlap by 10-15%

Drums must be secured in the centre of pallets, with a corrugated sheet between the bottom of the drum and pallet to prevent damage. When shipping multiple drums, tie them together with tight strapping and an interface material between for extra stability.

Pipes should be fitted to wooden pallets, and like drums, need to be tied together in units when being transported in multiples. Steel strapping is required to secure pipes to the pallet, along with blocking materials to prevent slipping.

Keeping Shipping Safe

In order to guarantee the integrity of shipping, you SHOULD:

  • Utilise load protector pads and corner/edge to minimise damage to every area
  • Apply banding (steel, polypropylene, nylon or polyester) and strapping to secure loads to pallets
  • Use an appropriate crate in which to store items

It’s also worth considering shrink-wrapping – a technique whereby plastic is stretched tightly around the shipment to keep it firmly in place. To shrink-wrap correctly, tuck the plastic between the pallet and bottom of the load, whilst wrapping the plastic around the boxes in an upward motion several times over. Apply three layers minimum.

An alternative to shrink-wrapping is to add outer packaging – which will need to be glued/stapled between the package and the pallet. Keep boxes level and secure all tops/lids.

Plugging The Gaps

There are several ways to fill the empty space in a box: In order to guarantee the integrity of shipping, you SHOULD: 4. Wrapping Strength Wrap all pallets tightly as possible with high-quality film. Thicker does not automatically mean stronger. 5. Wrap Overlap Check the wrapping layers overlap by 10-15%

Dangerous Goods In Freight

Any items dangerous goods MUST :

  • Be approved, declared and labelled as dangerous goods with accompanying paperwork
  • Comply with IATA and ADR regulations
  • Have a MSDS and dangerous goods declaration accompanying the shipment

Not all dangerous goods are obviously harmful (like lithium batteries , for example), so it’s important to read up on which items fall into the “dangerous” category before you pack.

Failing to declare dangerous goods can put lives at risk and can land you fines of up to $50,000 per breach. Failing to declare dangerous goods can put lives at risk and can land you fines of up to $50,000 per breach.

Irregularly Shaped Freight

Irregularly shaped items MUST:

  • Use triangle mailers instead of tubes
  • Have triangle footers attached if tubes are used
  • Be placed in standard-shaped packaging or be secured to pallets/skids
  • If tightly rolled, be wrapped in plastic with sender and receiver address labels attached

All furniture must be flat-packed to ship normally. Any furniture that’s already fully or partly constructed must be transported via a furniture removalist or placed within pallets/crates. Televisions can only be shipped when in the original manufacturer’s packaging.

Liquids in Freight

All Liquids MUST :

  • Have lids/caps secured
  • Be packaged in leak-free containers with caps
  • Be placed inside plastic bags
  • Be packaged in strong protective material like Styrofoam
  • Be separated with cardboard dividers
  • Have labels attached so they can be handled appropriately

For more information regarding shipping dangerous goods, please visit our website:

Labelling, Connotes, Consignments and Documents

GENERAL LABELLING Always take extra when labelling your shipment. Remember to place routing labels in a visible spot on the side of the pallet load (this allows for fast, easy scanning). Also be sure to add orientation labels so the carrier can handle your shipment correctly (e.g. “Stack This Way Up”, “Fragile” etc)

CONSIGNMENT NOTE Also known as a bill of lading or airway bill, a consignment note is the central document accompanying your shipment. It provides all the necessary information to ensure fast and professional handling of your shipment, such as origin and destination address, account number and other important data.

CONNOTE Courier and Freight’s software system provides a connote for each shipment, which is then attached to the goods. If a connote is not attached to the freight, a manual connote may be used (although this involves additional fees of $35.00 will apply).

MANIFEST A manifest is used by the carrier to group all the items collected under one pickup. Two copies are provided: one for the carrier and another for the shipper. The shipper signs the carrier manifest to declare they accept the terms and acknowledge what they have provided to the carrier to collect. The carrier signs the shipper’s manifest and hands it back to acknowledge that the driver arrived and collected the goods.

INVOICES Any non-document items collected overseas to/from Australia must have a commercial invoice accompanying the shipment. Three copies must be provided. The first copy is for the country where the goods are collected, the second is a copy for the carrier, and the third copy is for the receiving country.

robert lynch headshot

Robert Lynch

Founder of Australia’s largest outside hire company Couriers & Freight, Robert Lynch is a seasoned business leader in the shipping industry with over 20 years of experience. His expertise spans from outside hire, taxi truck, and last-mile services to freight management, freight forwarding and warehousing. 

Robert has also incorporated technology into his business through custom software to enhance growth and efficiency. Robert is a valuable resource for business owners looking to improve their logistics operations.

Connect with Robert Lynch on LinkedIn.

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