Tools > Answers to Frequently Asked Questions


Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is an Art Handling Company?
2. What kinds of service can I get from an Art Handling Company?
3. How do I find out about Art Handling Companies in my area?
4. What is a "shuttle" truck?
5. Is shuttle transfer safe?
6. How are shuttle transport prices determined?
7. What if my shipment cannot go via shuttle?
8. How will A4 track my shipment?
9. What’s an "air ride" truck?
10. What’s a "climatized" truck?
11. Is temperature control important, and can I rely on it?
12. What other special equipment should I expect on an art handling truck?
13. Do all Art Handling Companies use these features in their trucks?
14. What’s the difference between soft packing and crating?
15. What do "freight forward" and "cross dock" mean?
16. Can I wrap my own items for transport?
17. What type of insurance can I get for my shipment?
18. Does insurance cover every occurrence?
19. What value should I declare?
20. How do I get an estimate for shipping?
21. What can I do to make my shipment go as smoothly and safely as possible?



1. What is an Art Handling Company?

An art handling company is a specialized transportation firm that can move, pack, and install artworks and antiques. Art handling companies have trained personnel and specially equipped trucks and storage areas with which to make art work transfers. Many of the people working as art handlers are artists themselves and many others have come from museums and galleries. These specialists, combined with art handling tools and equipment, make up a team of people who are more than simple movers; they are also creative problem solvers when it comes to the demands of artwork in transit. Generally, art-handling companies (like A4) do not engage in household or other types of moving, although some are branches of larger moving companies and van lines.


2. What kinds of service can I get from an Art Handling Company?

There are many types of services that are needed to accommodate the wide range of artworks encountered. These generally include trucking (local and long distance), freight forwarding (domestic and international), wrapping and packing, crating, installation, and storage (regular and climatized). Some companies can offer highly specialized services such as inventory/registration, rigging, and curatorial assistance for large collections. It is important to note that not all companies offer the same services, and some companies choose to focus on only certain services as their forte. It is up to the customer to find out specifically what a particular art handling company may specialize in and we advise customers to ask specific questions of any art handling company that they may call. Please take a few minutes to peruse this web site and learn more about A4ís specialties.

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3. How do I find out about Art Handling Companies in my area?


Most art handling companies are based around key areas such as New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles and San Francisco. A4 is an excellent source of information for our customers. Feel free to call us if you need help finding services in your area, as we are glad to offer advice and referrals to other companies such as ourselves. Consumers can also contact their local museum curators or registrars for referrals. Finally, the American Association of Museums maintains a listing of recognized service providers. Visit their website or call 202-289-9132.


4. What is a "shuttle" truck?

Currently A4ís primary business is in shuttle truck runs and related support services based out of New York City. Shuttle truck runs exist for reasons of economy and efficiency. Most customers (consumers and institutions) cannot afford to reserve the use of an entire truck solely for their shipment; those costs would be prohibitive. To meet the needs of customers spread across the entire country, art handling companies have developed shuttle routes traveling throughout the continental US. A4ís shuttles proceed along preset routes and schedules and make stops in major cities and art centers. By making use of a shuttle transfer, a customerís artwork will travel in a specialized truck with other artworks belonging to other collectors and institutions. The company organizing the shuttle run will be in charge of distributing the items along the route as the trip proceeds.

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5. Is shuttle transfer safe?


While all shipments involve some form of risk, it is our belief that our shuttle system affords the maximum protection and efficiency for most shipments. Shuttle transfer can take longer than freight forwarding items with crated air freight. This is because the shuttle has been pre-scheduled to make certain stops along its route and will probably not travel in an "express" fashion. On the positive side, customers can be assured that during shuttle transfer their goods will not leave the care of the art handling company and will not be moved by untrained and unsupervised persons. In any sensitive shipment, customers would be wise to inquire about the details, methods, and timing of their shipment before agreeing to proceed.


6. How are shuttle transport prices determined?

A4ís prices are determined by tabulating the volume of the goods and the distance that they will travel. Volume is calculated by taking the measurements of the items and converting them to cubic footage. We do this because we operate our shuttle routes on a first come, first served basis as determined by space available in our trucks. The basic transport rate is calculated by combining charges for volume plus mileage rates for the distance that the goods are to travel. There may be extra fees added for special services requested by the customer, such as insurance, wrapping, extra labor, materials, etc.


7. What if my shipment cannot go via shuttle?

Some shipments are too sensitive to travel along a shuttle route. Provided that budgeting is available, customers may arrange "exclusive" use trucking. This means that no other goods will be carried in the truck and no unnecessary stops will be made until the goods are delivered. Customers may also request "Last on, First off" service for shipments that need to travel without making extra stops. In a last on first off shipment customers know that their goods will travel with other items in the truck, but that the truck will not make any additional stops until the goods are delivered. Besides shuttles, A4 can arrange these types of transports with our specialized trucks.

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8. How will A4 track my shipment?


Our trucks are monitored by a team of dispatchers at our office. Every pickup and delivery receives advance notification from our office and from the drivers themselves if necessary. Each shipment is tracked by a computerized manifest system that monitors the location of each shipment at any time. For regular shuttle operations, customers are always called at least two days before our truck is scheduled to arrive at their location.


9. Whatís an "air ride" truck?

Air ride is a type of suspension system that is added to a truckís rear axle(s) to help protect the load as the truck moves down the road. The factory standard leaf springs are removed and in their place, the truck is equipped with pneumatically air-fed cushioning bags to absorb shock and bumps. An air ride system on a truck is easily identifiable by its black mushroom-like cushions just behind and between the rear tires. All of A4ís trucks have this equipment.


10. Whatís a "climatized" truck?

The term "climatized" is often misapplied and misunderstood in the world of art shipping. So-called "climate control" can refer to either temperature control maintenance, or to full temperature and humidity control maintenance of the cargo area in a truck. Most art handling companies employ equipment that monitors and applies cold or heat to the cargo area when outside conditions require it. Some truckers can offer fully climatized service that maintains both the temperature and the relative humidity, although this is usually only available in tractor-trailer sized vehicles and at extra expense. Temperature control is maintained by a thermostat and switches on and off based on the temperature outside of the truck. A truck with this type of equipment must also have an insulated cargo body with well-sealed doors in order to keep the environment maintained. All of A4ís trucks have temperature control with extensive custom insulation and sealant built in to the cargo areas.


11. Is temperature control important, and can I rely on it?

Many items can suffer when exposed to extreme heat or cold. Wooden antiques react terribly to freezing temperatures as the joints can expand and crack, while some paintings do not fare well in extreme heat as the canvas behind the paint can settle improperly. While normal changes in the weather usually do not pose a risk, extremes can be harmful. However, it is a sad truth that no equipment can control Mother Nature. A4 advises that customers consult with us about any items that need special attention. We believe that the best protection is in the packing and we advise that exceedingly fragile items be crated to afford maximum protection while in transit.

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12. What other special equipment should I expect on an art handling truck?


Art handling trucks will usually have lift-gates that facilitate the loading and unloading of heavy items when the point of delivery does not have a tailboard loading dock. There should also be an alarm system protecting the freight. These systems usually function in a manner similar to car alarms, making a signal if unauthorized entry is attempted and also preventing the vehicle from being moved without the proper keys and codes. Many trucks are also equipped with a "high-cube" body, this being an especially tall cargo area to accommodate large contemporary paintings without causing them to lean when in transit. A sleeper cab is sometimes used to assure that the drivers can remain with the truck at all times. For reasons of safety and security, art handling trucks should be staffed by two drivers. At A4, we employ all of the above to protect you goods.


13. Do all Art Handling Companies use these features in their trucks?

Not all companies use the features described above. Most use a combination of features with temperature control, air ride, lift gate, and alarm being the norm. Since there is no standardized rule for art handling trucks, it is important that the customer inquire as to the type of equipment that will be employed in their shipment.


14. Whatís the difference between soft packing and crating?


Soft packing is a generic term that usually describes any type of packing short of a crate. Soft packed items are covered with malleable protective materials such as plastic, bubble-wrap, and cardboard. Soft packed shipping service is also referred to as "blanket-wrapped" service even though packing blankets are not always the appropriate method of packing. Crated items are surrounded by custom made wooden cases that afford maximum protection. Crates normally have sturdy outer wooden (or plastic) shells surrounding a foam protective inner layer that contains the item in transit. A crate may be required when an item is too fragile, highly valued or oddly shaped to entrust soft packing. A crate is always required when sending goods by airplane or common carrier. A4ís staff is fully trained in both soft packing and crating and we can assist you with any packing project related to your goods in transit.

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15. What do "freight forward" and "cross dock" mean?

Freight forward is term that describes the transfer of goods from one shipping firm to another. This can mean from one art handling company to another or to a common carrier who is not specially equipped to handle artwork. Whenever items leave the care of an art handling company and move on by either plane or common carrier truck it is highly recommended that crates be employed to protect the goods. Cross dock is a term that is commonly misunderstood. To some companies, cross docking means the same thing as freight forwarding; directing a shipment to another company. In the world of art handling, and at A4, cross docking means that shipments move from one of the companyís trucks to another via the companyís warehouse. Since there can be confusion about this terminology, we strongly advise that customers inquire as to the specific method of transit in any freight forward situation.


16. Can I wrap my own items for transport?

Yes. Many artists and institutions prefer to wrap their items for shuttle themselves. By doing so they can save money and pack their items to meet their own standards. Before pre-packing the goods, it is recommended that customers elicit suggestions as to what types of pre-packing are needed and acceptable for their items. At A4 our dispatchers and office staff are all trained art handlers (many are former drivers) and we are glad to offer suggestions and any advice that customers may need when undertaking their own wrapping.


17. What type of insurance can I get for my shipment?


Most art handling companies provide additional insurance if needed for a customerís shipment. It is important to note that at A4 insurance is never automatically provided; customers should never assume that their goods are insured simply because they are moving via an art handling company. By insuring items in transit, a customer asks a shipping company to assume the risk for the full value of goods from one point to another point. To have the company assume the risk and put the coverage in place, there will be an additional fee for the premium added to the customerís bill. This fee is determined by the overall value of the goods in transit. It is advisable that customers check with their homeowners or business insurance to see if their shipment could be covered under an already existing policy as this generally saves money over purchasing the coverage from the art handling company.

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18. Does insurance cover every occurrence?


No. Some mishaps cannot be covered by insurance. Most shipping companies have exclusions that the customer should review in advance. When a loss or damage happens due to an excluded occurrence, the customer will be denied a claim settlement even if insurance was purchased in advance. Most exclusions involve conditions which are out of the shipping companyís control. Examples of common exclusions are acts of nature (such as a flood) and concealed breakage (as when a shipping company received a pre-sealed carton or container). Customers should always ask specific questions and be fully aware of what specific coverage they are purchasing. Please see A4ís complete terms and conditions for details.


19. What value should I declare?

An art handling or shipping company will easily sell insurance for any amount a customer declares, but shipping companies are not responsible to substantiate values as stated by a customer. It is important that owners of artworks have an independent means of verifying the value of goods in transit. Having proof of value is the best tool for adjusting with the insurance company in the unlikely event of a mishap. This proof can take the form of photos, receipts, sales records, or previous policies and valuations provided to other insurance companies. In general, the more documentation, the better, as this can protect the owner of the goods once a shipment has commenced.

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20. How do I get an estimate for shipping?

Keep in mind that one rule governs all shipping projects: time and money are inversely related. The more time one offers the shipping company, the less the project is likely to cost, and vice versa. For this reason, customers should get their information together as early as possible before a shipment needs to happen. Customer should also try to be as thorough in their information as possible. The shipping company will need full details, including; the precise sizes of items, origin and destination details, specifics on packing requirements, and available timetable to complete the project. It is also a good idea to fax written estimates and confirmations back and forth between customers and movers, as this will provide essential records for the bidding process. At A4 our staff can issue most shuttle and transit prices within the same day. We remind our customers that space is always limited on our shuttles and that early booking and confirmation is advisable. Please contact us for details.


21. What can I do to make my shipment go as smoothly and safely as possible?

A4 is a full service and door to door art handling company. But we need your help to do our job as well as possible. When booking transit with us, we ask that you please give us the most complete information that you have. Besides sizes and wrapped conditions of your items, we need to know full details on the pickup and delivery points as well as any special conditions for transit or access. Always clearly mark or tag your packages and make it clear to us when special handling is required. Remember that if youíve packed it, we canít see inside of it, so we could always use your help to ensure the safety of your items. You can also assist us by notifying everyone involved in the shipment with our planned dates of arrival and to expect phone calls from our dispatchers. Always remember that the more information you share with us, the better we can serve you and keep your costs down. Thanks.

Please contact an Atelier 4 Inc. sales representative at info@atelier4.com if you have any questions or need clarification.

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Long Island City
NY 11101-2434
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