In the rapid pace of today’s global economy, big and small businesses lean heavily on efficient transportation to deliver their cargo across vast distances, safely and on time. Whether you’re a newcomer just stepping into the world of freight shipping or a seasoned veteran, this all-encompassing guide is your trusted companion. Here you’ll discover essential information that will summarize the intricacies of freight shipping so you can better understand this important topic.
What is Freight Shipping?
Freight shipping is the movement of large cargo loads from one place to another via truck, train, ship, or airplane. To meet the unique demands of businesses that need to ship substantial quantities of cargo, freight carriers provide tailored services for all types of freight shipments.
Carriers use a wide range of specialized equipment and draw on extensive logistics networks to ensure the seamless transportation and on-time delivery of cargo. By leveraging their expertise and resources, carriers help streamline the shipping process for businesses and offer cost-effective solutions for the transportation of goods.
Freight vs. Shipping
When it comes to the world of logistics, there’s something important to clarify: the terms freight and shipping have distinct meanings.
Freight: This term usually refers to the transportation of goods in large quantities over long distances via land (truck or train), sea (cargo ships), or air (cargo planes). Freight is commonly associated with bulk goods or larger shipments that require special handling, like heavy equipment, pallets of products or large quantities of items. In general, for a shipment to be considered freight, it must measure larger than 30” x 30” x 30” and weigh more than 150 pounds. Anything smaller is typically referred to as a “package.”
Shipping: Shipping is a broader term that encompasses the process of moving goods from one place to another, regardless of the method or scale. It can refer to sending a single package via a courier service, a truckload of goods or even the transport of goods internationally. It encompasses the entire process of coordinating, documenting, tracking, and delivering a shipment to its designated consignee.
How Much Does Freight Shipping Cost?
The cost of shipping freight depends on factors like:
- The dimensions and weight of the cargo
- The type of cargo and whether it’s over-sized, hazardous, or otherwise outside of the scope of standard freight
- Whether it’s a full truckload (TL) or less than a truckload (LTL) of cargo
- The distance it needs to travel
- The modes of transportation required
- Additional equipment or services required for picking up, transporting, and delivering cargo
Calculating shipping costs can get complicated if you’re not fully versed in the ins and outs of freight transportation, but transportation and logistics companies are always happy to help—and some offer online freight calculators that can help you estimate shipping costs.
How Long Does Freight Shipping Take?
The time it takes to move freight from one location to another depends on factors like:
- The distance the freight needs to travel
- The mode (or modes) of transportation required to get it to its destination, whether ship, airplane, train, or truck
- The availability of space on the ship, plane, train, or truck
- The type of cargo and whether it requires inspections, special documentation or specialized equipment
If time is of the essence, carriers typically offer expedited shipping services at an additional cost.
While freight shippers go to great lengths to avoid unexpected delays or disruptions along the way, unanticipated situations, such as weather events, worker strikes or accidents can influence the transit time.
Domestic vs. International Shipments
Domestic and international shipping each have their own considerations when it comes to transit times, documentation and equipment requirements, and shipping costs.
Domestic shipping: Domestic shipments involve moving freight from one state (or province) to another. While trucking is the most commonly used mode of transportation for domestic freight shipping, cargo may also move by rail or air. Cross-country shipments via truck can take anywhere from a few days for shorter distances to several weeks. International shipments involve moving cargo from one country to another.
International shipping: International cargo moves by ocean or air. Transit times for international shipments vary significantly, based on the distance and the mode of transportation used. Shipments sent via ocean freight may take several weeks or even months, while air freight can dramatically reduce transit times to a matter of days. Once an international shipment arrives at its destination country, it will need to be cleared through customs, and arrangements will need to be made to get the cargo from the port or air hub to its final destination.
Truckload vs. Less Than Truckload Shipping
Shippers may need a full trailer if they have an entire truckload (FTL) of cargo to ship. If the cargo comprises less than a truckload (LTL), they may be able to share space in a trailer. TL and LTL shipping are different in a number of ways, including delivery speeds and price points.
What is FTL Freight?
Truckload (TL) freight is cargo that fills an entire truck. TL shipping is dedicated to moving the cargo of a single business. TL shipping provides several advantages over LTL shipping, including faster transit times, reduced handling, and a lower risk of damage or loss. However, it’s generally more expensive—especially for businesses that opt for TL shipping for smaller shipments that don’t require an entire trailer.
What is LTL Freight?
Less than truckload (LTL) freight is cargo that doesn’t require an entire trailer. LTL freight carriers consolidate multiple shipments for different companies onto a single truck. The transportation costs are split among the various businesses sharing the space, based on the size and weight of each company’s shipment.
LTL cargo is typically palletized or crated and usually requires additional handling at its pickup location and destination, since LTL truck drivers don’t generally perform the task of loading and unloading the cargo—unless those services are included in the quote.
LTL shipping offers significant cost savings for businesses with smaller loads, although transit times may be a little longer. However, it’s possible to speed up delivery by ensuring time-sensitive cargo is loaded onto the truck last so that it can be unloaded first, an add-on service that may increase the final transportation costs.
What is Freight Class?
Freight class is a standardized classification system freight carriers use to determine shipping rates. It categorizes different types of freight based on their characteristics, such as density, storability, handling, and liability.
The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) devised the universal National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) system, which is used by the transportation industry to assign a special class to every type of freight out there. It’s important to provide accurate classification to transportation companies in order to avoid unexpected charges or shipping delays. Freight carriers can guide you in determining the appropriate cargo class for your shipment.
What Are Accessorials?
Accessorials are extra fees that are assessed on a shipment due to a variety of circumstances. While accessorials are a common part of shipping, they can surprise shippers and consignees when they’re assessed after the delivery of the cargo, adding extra costs to the final invoice.
Accessorials can be added by a carrier for things like having to schedule an appointment for delivery, hauling hazardous cargo, delivering to a construction zone or residential address, and having to correct paperwork due to errors in documenting information like the weight or class of cargo.
Accurate paperwork is essential for avoiding delivery delays as well as expensive accessorials like freight reclassifications and reweighs, which is one of the most common fees added to an invoice once the cargo has been delivered.
MVP Logistics Does it All
Partnering with a reputable logistics provider and freight carrier like MVP Logistics can help you stay on top of the competition by ensuring your products arrive on time, in perfect condition, and at the cost you were quoted. Our industry expertise, extensive networks, and tailored services ensure your goods are transported efficiently and securely. Contact us today for a quote or to learn more about the ins and outs of shipping freight domestically and around the world.