Receiving, Shipping, and Traffic Clerk
Receiving, Shipping, and Traffic Clerk
Education and Training High school and on-the-job training
Salary Median—$24,400 per year
Employment Outlook Poor
Definition and Nature of the Work
Receiving, shipping, and traffic clerks help keep the flow of merchandise moving from one company to another. They pack and unpack merchandise and perform clerical tasks. They also keep records of incoming and outgoing merchandise. Receiving, shipping, and traffic clerks work for manufacturers that receive products from suppliers and ship finished goods to customers. They also work for wholesale and retail distributors. In some large firms the jobs of shipping clerk, receiving clerk, and traffic clerk are distinct and performed by different people. In many smaller firms, however, all three jobs are performed by the same person.
Shipping clerks are in charge of all items that are shipped from the company. They carefully check the merchandise that is taken from the stockroom against each customer's order to see that it is filled correctly. If some items are not available, they notify the customer. They may be responsible for sending the goods at a later date. After the order has been checked, the merchandise is specially packed for shipping. All shipments must be weighed and the cost of postal or freight rates recorded. Shipping clerks prepare mailing labels, shipping documents, and invoices. When the merchandise is ready for shipment, shipping clerks move it to loading docks—sometimes with the help of a forklift. They may direct other workers to load the shipment on trucks for delivery to customers.
Receiving clerks work at the other end of this process, but their tasks are very similar to those of shipping clerks. They receive and check the goods that are sent to their firm, comparing the original order form, bill, or invoice with the merchandise to see that the order has been filled correctly. If a shipment has been lost or damaged in transit, they notify the transportation firm to make the necessary adjustment for this loss. Receiving clerks are usually responsible for moving the shipment to the stockroom, warehouse, or appropriate department. Like shipping clerks, receiving clerks keep careful records that company officials
use to determine the profit and loss of their firms. Much of the information needed for these records is on bar codes attached to the products or packages. The clerks read these codes with handheld scanners, and the information in the scanners is fed into a computer to update the company's computerized inventory-control systems.
Traffic clerks maintain shipping records. They track and record the destination, weight, and charges on incoming and outgoing freight. They verify any rate changes by comparing what is being shipped to prices on rate charts or computer databases. In addition, they may keep a record of claims for damaged goods or for overcharges on shipping.
Education and Training Requirements
Most employers prefer applicants who have a high school education. Some employers also require good typing ability and a basic knowledge of computers. Shipping and receiving clerks may need physical strength to handle heavy or bulky packages. Traffic clerks must be good at basic math. Clerks are trained on the job. At first they may do routine tasks under the guidance of a supervisor. These tasks may include studying the tracking software, labeling packages, learning postal and freight rates, and practicing safe procedures for packing or unpacking merchandise. With the growing use of computers, the jobs of traffic, shipping, and receiving clerks have become machine oriented.
Getting the Job
Students interested in becoming receiving, shipping, or traffic clerks should visit their school placement office. They should check newspaper want ads and career sites on the Internet as well. Prospective clerks can also apply directly to companies for which they would like to work. Private or state employment offices may be helpful.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
With training and experience, receiving, shipping, and traffic clerks may be given a range of duties and responsibilities. Some become heads of their department. However, higher-level jobs such as purchasing agent require further education.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 751,000 people were employed as receiving, shipping, and traffic clerks in 2004. Employment of receiving, shipping, and traffic clerks was expected to increase slower than the average for all occupations between 2004 and 2014. Openings are likely to occur as experienced workers retire or leave their jobs, but some jobs will be eliminated as automated package-handling equipment and computerized record-keeping systems come into use. New jobs may be created if the amount of merchandise shipped from the United States increases.
Receiving, shipping, and traffic clerks do physically strenuous work, some of which may be done outdoors on loading platforms. Sometimes their work is done in large, often drafty and cold warehouses. Receiving, shipping, and traffic clerks have a forty-hour workweek. Overtime is often required when shipments are late and materials are required for production lines. Overtime may mean working nights, weekends, or holidays. Many receiving, shipping, and traffic clerks belong to labor unions.
Where to Go for More Information
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
25 Louisiana Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001
Earnings and Benefits
Clerks' wages vary with experience and employer. Receiving, shipping, and traffic clerks earned a median annual wage of $24,400 in 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest-paid 10 percent made in excess of $37,610. Benefits often include paid sick leave, health insurance, and retirement plans.