What is freight shipping?

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What is freight shipping?

Freight shipping is the process of transporting commodities, goods and cargo by land, sea or air. Common types of freight shipping over the road include truckload, less than truckload (LTL) and intermodal.

Freight itself can be defined as the goods transported by truck, train, ship or plane. 

The means of transport commonly associated with freight shipping are trucks, railroad cars and large ships carrying containers.


Benefits of freight shipping.

Freight shipping is key for getting goods to a destination on time, safely and in a cost-effective manner. Whether shipping by land, sea or air, there are a number of benefits to consider:

  • Top carriers: When shipping important freight, you want to make sure your goods arrive safely and on-time. Online freight service providers work with high quality contract carriers.
  • Save on shipping costs: Businesses may not have adequate time to research carriers, get quotes and find the best rates for their freight. We can help you find competitive rates from qualified contract carriers.
  • On time freight: When you have time sensitive freight, you may have to get it to your customers within a tight delivery window. With the variety of freight shipping service levels available, you can select the method that best fits your time frame.


Freight shipping modes.

There are several modes of freight shipping including less than truckload, full truckload, intermodal, partial truckload and expedited. We have broken each of these down below:

  • Less than truckload: Also referred to as LTL, less than truckload is designed for shipments larger than parcel but not large enough to require the space of a full truckload trailer. LTL is typically used for shipments between 150 and 15,000 pounds. Learn more about LTL.
  • Full truckload: Full truckload involves moving bulk or pallet loads that are large enough to justify the use of an entire semi-trailer, typically more than 15,000 pounds. Full truckload can be more cost effective and reduce the opportunity for freight damage with less handling than LTL. Learn more about full truckload.
  • Partial truckload: Partial truckload gives you the option to split the cost of a truck with other shippers, often resulting in cost savings. Partial truckload is a good option if your shipment is over 5,000 pounds or 6 pallets. Learn more about partial truckload.
  • Intermodal: Intermodal shipping typically refers to shipping with a combination of rail and truck. However, it can involve a variety of transportation modes including rail, trucks or ships to streamline the shipping process. Including rail in your freight shipping can reduce fuel use, lower costs and offer a reliable method of shipping. Learn more about intermodal.
  • Expedited: Expedited freight refers to time-critical shipments in which freight has to be delivered quickly. Expedited freight is most often transported by truck or air. Learn more about expedited freight.


Full truckload freight shipping equipment.

The equipment used to haul truckload freight may vary depending on the commodity itself. Here are a few common types of freight shipping equipment: 

  • Dry van: Dry vans are the most common type of freight trailers used by commercial trucking companies. Dry vans are typically 48 or 53 feet in length and typically handle no more than 45,000 pounds. Dry van shipping is a common method for transporting dry goods. Learn more about dry van shipping.
  • Flatbed: Flatbed equipment is used to ship oversized, bulky or oddly shaped freight, including machinery and lumber. Flatbed isn’t recommended for fragile or weather-sensitive goods. Learn more about flatbed.
  • Temperature control: Temperature controlled shipping is the transport of goods that are sensitive to climate conditions. Temperature controlled, or refrigerated shipping, is typically used for perishable or temperature sensitive goods including produce, pharmaceuticals, meat, seafood and dairy. Learn more about refrigerated shipping.

Factors that determine freight shipping rates.

When it comes to freight shipping, some of the most common questions involve freight rates. While price can vary for a number of reasons, there are a few common elements to consider:

  • Shipping method: The mode of transportation used to ship the freight is a weighing factor. For example, expedited shipping will usually result in additional charges.  
  • Origin and destination: The further the distance between the shipping origin and the final destination, the higher the rate will be. Proximity to a major metro can also impact freight shipping rates. 
  • Size and weight: The dimensions and weight of the shipment are key to determining freight rates. The length and width should be rounded up to the next inch while accurate weight measurements are key to rates and for carriers to meet DOT regulations.
  • Special services: Any shipments that require special handling (perishables, fragile, hazardous materials) will likely lead to higher costs. 

freight class

Common freight shipping questions.

We know there are many factors to consider when shipping freight. We’ve included a few of the most common questions below: 

  • What can be shipped via freight? Just about anything! Many carriers specialize in certain types of goods or shipping and the various modes of freight shipping ensure your cargo can arrive when and where you need it.  
  • What type of freight solution do I need? To determine which shipping solution meets your needs, a number of factors need to be considered. Our dedicated experts can help find the right solution for you.
  • What’s the difference between parcel and freight? Parcel shipping refers to small, lightweight and individual shipments typically handled by common carriers. Most parcel shipments are limited to 150 pounds.
  • What is freight classification? Freight classification is a standardized method designed to give consumers and carriers a uniform pricing structure when shipping freight. Freight class is based on weight, density and value. Class numbers are between 50 and 500.
  • Should I use a freight delivery service? Freight service providers sell freight services without owning transportation equipment. They help find reliable contract carriers, negotiate competitive rates and help manage the process for you each step of the way. If your business doesn’t have the time or resources to shop around for the best carrier, a freight delivery services can be helpful.


Freight shipping resources.


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