Freight and cargo inspectors fulfill a variety of functions related to transporting, importing and exporting freight. Freight shipments are governed by an extensive list of laws, regulations and policies designed to keep each shipment secure and undamaged, and to provide for the safety of everyone who handles the cargo. These regulations grow even more complicated if the freight is hazardous (such as biomedical waste, transplant organs and blood) or must cross state or national lines on route to its final destination. Failure to comply with any freight regulations can result in stiff penalties for the freight company, and possibly the person or organization that initiated the shipment. Consequently, shipping companies are motivated to hire thorough, motivated inspectors who will function as compliance officers.
Not all freight and cargo inspectors work for shipping firms, however. Some are employed by airlines, ocean freighter services, and rail companies. These individuals perform many of the same tasks as their aforementioned counterparts, but must often perform additional kinds of inspections as well. For example, live animals cannot be shipped in unpressurized cargo aircraft because the ambient oxygen levels at the plane's cruising altitude are too low to support life. Airline freight inspectors must therefore examine all cargo manifests and weed out anything with living contents. Furthermore, these inspectors must inspect any suspicious-looking packages or crates so as to identify any cargo with a deceptive content list. Mammals can be shipped on cargo trains and ocean freighters; they can also travel in the pressurized cargo bay of a passenger airplane.
Freight and cargo inspectors are also responsible for properly positioning, cushioning, restraining and balancing cargo. An unevenly loaded plane, train or ship quickly becomes unstable; unbalanced planes may incur structural damage that leads to a serious accident, and a cargo ship that's unevenly loaded is much more likely to capsize or dump its cargo in inclement weather. If this happens, the freight company must compensate the client for the lost items, which may mean a payout of several million dollars. Understandably, this is something they wish to avoid.