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Trade Shows


Shipping TO the Show

1. Review the kit from the Show Contractor

Look over the kit and familiarize yourself with the show. The kit will include everything you need including transportation providers, exhibit builders, rentals, fees and penalties.

  • Order booth equipment before the show to save money.
  • Alert your traffic manager ahead of time about the upcoming tradeshow shipment

2. Look for the section that gives your move-in date and last arrival date to the advance warehouse

  • Move-in dates are usually assigned by booth number and/or size of the booth. Check your kit for details. Always know the last move-in date. If your shipment is going to be late, you will need to contact the contractor and find out the late fee penalty (per pound charges). This is in addition to your normal drayage fees.

3. Go to the transportation section of your kit and select a carrier.

  • Your kit will typically have a HOUSE carrier and a few RECOMMENDED (or PREFFERED) carriers and an air carrier. The HOUSE carrier works directly with the show contractor. In exchange for that relationship, the HOUSE carrier will have their freight “to the floor” first and at the conclusion of the show, they are “first to load”. The RECOMMENDED carriers also receive the same advantage.
  • Most exhibitors use the same transportation provider in and out of a show. You will need to decide if you will use the same carrier.
  • If you don’t have a pricing program set up with a carrier (or maybe you are using them for the first time), you have several payment options. Remember an exhibit shipment cannot be billed collect to the show, those payment arrangements must be taken care of in advance. You can:
  • Pay by check – make check payable to the carrier and give to the driver at time of pickup. The details will be discussed when you schedule your pickup.
  • Pay by credit card – Use your credit card when you schedule the pickup. Check which credit card your carrier accepts.
  • If you have a pricing program (meaning the carrier is offering a discounted rate on the transportation costs) that may drive your decision to use your carrier.
  • You will also need to decide what type of shipping service will meet your needs. Do you need less-than-truckload (less than 7,500 lbs.), a full truck (over 7,500 lbs.), small shipment (less than 150 lbs.) or loose and uncrated. Next you need to consider the service offering. Do you need guaranteed delivery, expedited (faster than normal transit) or next day air. Make sure your carrier has a service offering to meet your needs.

4. Are you ready to ship? Need some help deciding when to ship to meet your move-in date?

  • The key to your transportation decision should be “how much time do I have before my move-in date?” If everything is ready to ship (and its 3 to 4 weeks before the show) – go to the advanced warehouse. Depending on the show (for further information check the show kit), there may be a discount on drayage fees if you go direct to the advanced warehouse. Most importantly, going direct to the advance warehouse ensures your freight is available to arrive at the show early and without delays.
  • If you are pressed for time, check your move-in date against your carriers transit schedule and let that drive your decision. Most carriers also offer some type of ‘expedited service’ for those really late shippers.
  • Check to see if your carrier offers “guaranteed services”.

5. Getting your transportation quote

Your carrier should be able to provide you a rate, but there is some information you will need to have prior to making the call:

  • Where you are shipping from (including city, state, and zip),
  • Where you are shipping to (including city, state, and zip),
  • How much the shipment weighs and the number of pieces.
  • If you are shipping by air, your shipments dimensions will be required.

You should also know the contractor name, the show name and the move-in date You may want to inquire about a pricing program. Most carriers offer some type of discount pricing on the transportation costs. Inquire with your carrier prior to securing your move.

Always ask for a faxed confirmation of the price you were quoted. This will be helpful if the freight bill does not match what you were quoted to pay. Remember a quote is just an assumption based on the information given on the call. The freight charges will always reflect the actual shipment size, weight and class.

Your quote may also have an accessorial fee. This is a fee for additional services at the time of pickup. Some examples of additional services are:

  • Lift-gate truck needed (when you don’t have a dock)
  • Inside pickup (the carrier needs to go beyond the front door of your facility or dock)
  • Single shipment charge (a fee accessed when the shipment is less than 500 pounds).
  • There may be other charges directly associated to tradeshow shipments by the carrier

6. Complete your bill of lading

Most often the contractors bill of lading will be in the kit. Some key points to remember when completing your bill of lading are as follows:

  • Shipper- Your business name and the physical location the carrier is picking the freight up from.
  • Consignee- This is the physical location the freight is being delivered to. Also include the show contractors name (i.e...McCormick Place c/o Freeman Transportation)
  • Show Name- The name of the show
  • Show Site- The name of the exhibitor hall
  • Booth Number- identifies your booth space
  • Freight Terms- Always prepaid into the show, always collect out of the show or third party prepaid
  • Always have the accurate number of pieces and the accurate weight
  • If you are shipping an air shipment, the dimensions will be required

Shipper hints:

  • Be sure to fill in the desired arrival date on the move-in section of your bill of lading. This will eliminate confusion about when your freight needs to arrive (this does not guarantee the shipment).
  • Talk to your carrier about guaranteed shipping options.
  • Make sure you sign your bill of lading
  • Only provide one bill of lading for the shipment going to the show at the time of pickup. Some exhibitors try to handle both moves (in and out of the show) with two bills of ladings on the initial pickup.
  • Bring with you to the show a small “must have” kit. In this kit you want to include scissors, a penknife, wide packing tape and a magic marker. Then penknife will help open boxes and the marker will be handy marking out old labels.

7. Labeling your freight

We recommend that you label each box. A label should include where you are shipping from and where the shipment should be delivered. Put a copy of the your name, address, and phone number inside each box to ensure your freight is not lost even if the label is removed. A packing label in each box is also recommended. If, in the event, your shipment becomes separated in transit, good labels and good information will quickly help locate your freight and get it to the show as soon as possible.

8. Packaging Most LTL carriers don’t offer packaging.

If you need to ship loose and uncrated materials, there are carriers that offer this service. If you have questions regarding how to crate your shipment or packaging questions in general, contact your carrier.

9. Planning

Make sure the person from your company that is chosen to assist with the booth setup has the necessary information for who is handling the booth (including a name and phone number of the carrier and the installation/dismantle service, if applicable). Put a photo of your completely assembled booth with your display.

10. Call your selected carrier for pickup

If you follow the above steps you should be ready to call your carrier. After the pickup is complete, you should have a copy of the bill of lading (with the drivers’ signature) and the carriers’ tracking number (so you can track the shipment in transit).

11. When you arrive at the show

Look for the papers (bill of lading, service contractor information, etc.) that were either in with the freight or left by the show manager at your booth location. Keep these in a safe place for move-out.

Make CMS Shipping your Mexican partner and we will take care of it all.


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Shipping FROM the show

1. After the close of the show, locate the service desk and get a bill of lading

  • Prior to the end of the show, locate the contractor service desk. You will need a copy of the service contractors’ bill of lading for the move-out.
  • Make sure you are aware of the move-out schedule established by the service contractor. In most cases if you are not off the exhibitor floor by your target move-out time, you will be charged a per hundred weight fee.
  • All outstanding bills must be paid in full prior to exhibit materials being loaded and removed by the service contractor.

2. Things to ask when you are at the service desk

  • What are the move-out hours?
  • When will the service contractor bring my empties (depending on the size of the show, could be 4-8 hours). Empties are usually returned after the carpet is rolled up at show end.
  • Determine if your outbound carrier is the HOUSE carrier. If you have chosen the HOUSE carrier, then there is no need to make shipping arrangements.
  • If your carrier is not the HOUSE carrier, what is their cut-off time? Each carrier is assigned a block of time to make the pickups for the show. If your carrier does not make it to the marshalling yard prior to the carrier cut-off time, your shipment will be FORCED to the HOUSE carrier. You will also be subject to the HOUSE carriers’ transportation rates.

3. Step-by-step (the move-out)

  • Go to the service desk and get a bill of lading
  • While you are waiting on your empties, fill out the heading on the bill of lading.
  • When your empties arrive, pack up your booth (unless you have arranged for someone else to do this). Securely tape all of your boxes.
  • Complete your bill of lading. You must write your carriers’ name on the bottom of the bill of lading. You should have the actual pieces and a good idea of the weight. Give yourself ample time to pack your booth, make sure you have it completed within your carriers’ cut off time. Please give the carrier flexibility.
  • Remove or mark out all old freight labels. Replace with the new ones. Make sure you label all of your freight.
  • Leave the freight in the booth space and turn the bill of lading into the service contractor.

Important Notes:

  • The service contractor moves the freight from the floor to the dock. Your carrier does not come onto the show floor.
  • Drayage Fees: Service contractor fees for handling your booth from the carrier to the booth space and from the booth space back to the carrier. This is General Contractor Labor. Everyone pays drayage fees.
  • Many exhibitors have very tight travel plans after the show. Always factor in breakdown time, return empties time and packing time. Good planning will avoid delays and additional charges. Make sure whoever is left with the booth at the close of show knows what to do and has the papers you saved (giving move-out hours, instructions, etc.)
  • If you are using an exhibit builder or a dismantle service, you will not be required to pack your display but you do need to pack other materials. All materials that can’t be taken with you need to be securely taped with a completed bill of lading prior to leaving.
  • Ask for additional PRO numbers for each of your packages. This makes it easy to track during transit.

CMS Shipping offers a wide variety of shipping solutions to help meet your needs:

Exhibit Transportation Expo Line 1 (844) 688-8600

  • Exhibit specialist to answer questions, assist with rating, tracing, transit times and multiple shipment coordination

Multiple Transportation Solutions

  • TIME CRITICAL SERVICES- ANYWHERE, ANYTIME, GUARANTEED. Next-day, two-day and three-day air or ground deliveries. All deliveries guaranteed to deliver on time and intact or it’s free (you will receive no invoice).
  • Sealed Trailer – Dedicated tamper resistant trailer, with a lock that can only be removed with a bolt cutter. Once the trailer is sealed at pickup, the shipment remains undisturbed until delivered. Make CMS Shipping your Mexican partner and we will take care of it all. Simplifying cross border solutions with 20 years of experience.


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One Number with Endless Solutions 1 (844) 688-8600 On Time All the Time!


Call: 1 (844) 688-8600
CMS Shipping offers a guarantee service on all your exhibit shipments. Our compromise is to have one of or agents meet with your assigned contact at the show to hand deliver your goods.
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