There are close to 800,000 shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks working in the United States. Two-thirds of these work in wholesale, retail, or manufacturing companies. Projected job growth for the next decade is expected to suffer a minor decline, at 7%. This is due to the continuing development of machinery that requires less human interaction and does tasks automatically. Robots, automated data gathering, computerized vehicles and handheld scanners mean fewer clerks are needed. Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks are entry-level employees. Most job openings will occur as workers leave their jobs to retire, or as those younger leave for other reasons. In order to work as a shipping receiving or traffic clerk, a high school diploma may be needed. Hiring managers prefer job applicants who are comfortable using computers, fax machines, and photocopy machines.
Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks are responsible for maintaining all shipping and receiving documents. Duties can vary depending upon the size and needs of the company, as well as the type of equipment the clerk operates. In bigger businesses, the latest computers, scanners, and fax machines are more common.
Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks working for independently owned or smaller businesses generally are responsible for keeping records up-to-date, readying outgoing shipments, accepting incoming shipments, and sorting packages. Outgoing shipping documents must be prepared and packages labeled. Some companies require shipping clerks to complete orders from inventory and preparing them for shipment. They must figure shipping costs and document package weights. Shipping clerks working in smaller companies might also be required to notify other departments about shipment status and to prepare invoices.
In some cases, shipping clerks are relieved of certain duties because they have been automated. For example, a computer programmed with a barcode scanner can automatically print labels and make a record of shipments. Shipping clerks might also be responsible for transporting packages from the warehouse to the terminal and to oversee loading.
Receiving clerks are responsible for similar tasks on the receiving end. Incoming shipments are checked for condition and to determine the type and number of items are correct. Many modernized businesses provide clerks with radio-frequency identification (RFID) scanners. These scanners are capable of recording, storing, and retrieving information. Receiving clerks notify various departments when shipments arrive and may be responsible for delivering goods to the final destination. Goods that arrive in less than perfect condition mean the receiving clerk must work with the shipper to replace them. Bigger businesses may give receiving clerks the responsibility of supervising receiving platform procedures.
Traffic clerks assume some of the duties of both shipping and receiving clerks. They are responsible for recording incoming and outgoing shipments, damaged goods, and overcharges, as well as confirming costs.
Small businesses often combine all three job descriptions into one, making the clerk responsible for all aspects of both incoming and outgoing shipments.
Most shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks work in urban areas, and may be assigned an office within the warehouse. While the office is temperature controlled, the work can be physically tiring, as it involves long periods of standing, lifting, and reaching. Clerks might be required to be outdoors for periods of time, regardless of the weather. While forklifts or computerized conveyors may be available, they will likely be used only for oversized or very heavy packages. Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks typically work standard hours, although they may be asked to work on weekends or evenings when large shipments arrive.
Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks receive on-the-job training where they are supervised closely. To be successful, shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks must pay attention to detail, communicate clearly, and be able to work under pressure from time to time. They may advance to become floor supervisors or purchasing managers.
The median annual pay for shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks is approximately $28,000, in addition to benefits. At the low end, wages are a little over $18,000. Those at the high end can expect to earn around $43,000.