These can be loosely grouped into two broad camps: Marketing and Logistics. For this article, the latter can include exhibit freight, the venue, the show decorator (or General Services Contractor), sub-contractors, hotels, travel, the show’s producer/owner, an exhibit house, or any combination(s) of these entities.
Lately, we’ve seen an explosion in “Forced Freight,” which I define as when the General Contractor releases an exhibitor’s items to a shipper of the GC’s choosing. There are several reasons the often expensive, usually frustrating phenomenon occurs:
New Exhibit Staff– may not be familiar with procedures or Material Handling forms for outbound shipments. Even if a veteran marketing person at the home office schedules things correctly with a preferred carrier, they will usually be turned away if the at-show paperwork isn’t handled correctly. Companies that exhibit should train their on-site staff on the correct way to prepare labels, and paperwork, when or if there’s a need to call your carrier, and how to coordinate with the show service desk.
Fewer workers at a show on the GC staff – Things have improved a lot in the year since the convention industry came back to life, but the sector still suffers from a labor shortage. If a significant show in the past had 3 or 4 staffers at the show services desk collecting outbound material handling forms, perhaps they now have 2 – 3 doing the same job. And, the people doing it probably don’t have the same level of experience as in the past. Similarly, some I&D staff may have the requisite skills to install and dismantle, but new folks may not be familiar with shipping paperwork.
Less time to clear a hall – Some expos that formerly had two and a half days for dismantling may now have two days. So if things aren’t removed by the end of day two, they are gathered by the GC, and the freight is forced. This can happen even if the proper Carrier has already checked in and all paperwork is correct. It just is a matter of the hours running out, and that show has to be gone.
Babysitting is expensive – Whether an exhibit staffer or an I&D Team member is charged with “making sure the freight is given to the right truck,” there is a cost. It seems silly that extra expense is required for “things to go correctly,” but paying for extra I&D labor hours or your staffer’s extra hotel night is one way to minimize things going awry.
Revenue for the GCs – Pre-covid, it seemed that when there was a forced freight issue for one of our clients, it more often than not was with a smaller (Read: not Freeman or GES) general contractor. Those more minor GCs constantly are getting a share of freight billed by the show’s official freight carrier, and opportunities for Revenue were more aggressively pursued. Post-covid, that trend seems to be holding.
Staffing in the trucking Industry – has been a growing problem for half a decade. Fewer drivers and less experience mean less awareness of tradeshow-specific freight needs and less willingness to wait at a dock or marshall yard.