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What Is Freight Shipping?

Freight-based shipping is the process of shipping by rail in the United States or rail freight in North America. In other words, it is a mode of surface transport that carries passengers and freight across the U.S. 

Freight-based products are transported by way of specially designed wheeled vehicles, called railway trucks, which run on rails at grade level. Freight shipping can also be carried out via pipelines if the route passes through any type of geographical feature that cannot be crossed easily. 

How Does Freight Shipping Work?

Freight shipping is carried out via railways, pipelines, or trucks. Freight trains originate from — and return to — a core railway yard located near the final destination. This makes them less vulnerable or susceptible to delays caused by weather or traffic congestion compared to other airliners. 

What Is Freight?

Freight refers to the transportation of goods, commodities, or items in bulk via air, ground, or water. It is an alternative method of shipping items between countries or across states. 

Freight is a good option when shipping companies are overpriced or something needs to be sent overnight at a lower rate. Freight was originally the most popular mode of shipping well into the nineteenth century until steamships were invented.

What Can Be Shipped via Freight?

Freight shipping is a popular option for companies transporting large orders that weigh a total of 1,000 pounds or more. Freight shipping is also an alternative to air shipping when speed is the main concern and the destination is no more than four time zones away. 

Freight shipping is often preferable when compared to air shipping because the cost associated with transporting via freight shipping is less than shipping via air. The exact price will depend on the destination, the weight of the goods, and the distance traveled by the freight shippers. 

How Much Does Freight Shipping Cost?

Freight shipping is usually less expensive than other forms of shipping, like air, water, and land. Costs vary depending on the mode of transportation. The cost of freight shipping includes not only the cost of shipping the goods but also the costs of fuel and labor.

When Can I Use Freight Shipping?

Freight shipping is recommended if sending large items is the main priority. It can also be a good option when shipping items overseas to a nearby country or state. While freight shipping is not always the fastest mode of transportation, it is often more favorable than shipping via air if the destination is four time zones or less away.

How Long Does Freight Shipping Take?

The time that it takes to ship via freight will depend on the individual situation. The time it actually takes to send goods also depends on the freight shipping mode, the overall distance expected to be traveled, and the conditions of travel. 

The rates of the freight shipping company will also play a role in the total cost of shipping via freight. Some freight shipping companies travel faster than others, which will affect the length of time it takes to ship via freight. 

Example of Freight Shipping

Let’s consider shipping tuna fish from one part of the U.S. to another. Let’s say the tuna needs to be shipped a distance of about 6,000 miles. The size of the tuna itself is not significant, though it weighs about ten pounds and has a length of 30 inches. 

With this tuna in mind, it would take a sea freight shipment of tuna on a standard ocean vessel that travels at a speed of two knots about five weeks to transport. On the other hand, the same tuna will only take about two weeks to transport via air. 

Things to Consider With Freight Shipping

There are a few things to consider before choosing to ship products via freight. Some of these factors include the overall costs, the speed of transport, and the size or weight of the products in need of being shipped.

Time for Transport 

Shipping via freight takes longer than other forms of transportation. This is due to the speed of freight shipping containers, the common need to make stops at intermediary facilities such as a seaport, and the overall time it takes to arrive at the destination.

High-Quality Carriers

Since freight shipments tend to weigh much more than other modes of transportation, it’s important that carriers are capable of handling the responsibility of shipping via freight. The vehicle must be appropriately sized and well-equipped to handle the size of the shipment as well.

Shipping Costs

Freight shipping costs depend on where you’re going and what is being shipped. For larger items, fuel costs must also be considered when calculating shipping costs. 

Freight Shipping Modes

A company may choose between the following modes when shipping via freight.

  • Full Truckload (FTL) shipments refer to loads that are shipped on a single truck. When shipping FTL shipments, it is important to specify how many pallets are needed per tractor trailer in the order. 
  • Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) shipments refer to loads that only need one trailer or a single tractor. These are usually taken to and from the shipper, but they can also be taken on the road. 
  • Partial Truckload (PTL) is a shipment that requires more than one truck in order to transport, but at the same time, it does not require the use of all available trucks. 
  • Expedited Freight refers to shipments that are higher priority than others. Shipping via expedited freight comes with additional fees, though this method may still be less expensive than air freight.
  • Intermodal shipments are often a combination of two or more transportation modes. This includes containers that travel by land and sea as well as trucks with trailers that provide expedited freight services.

What Affects Freight Shipping Rates?

Freight shipping rates depend on a variety of factors, like distance, weight, and speed. The total cost will also depend on the destination of the shipments and the intended delivery date, as well as the size and the weight of the items being shipped.

  • Size & Weight: The greater the weight and the size of the cargo, the greater the cost, which is mainly due to the cost of purchasing the necessary amount of fuel. 
  • Origin & Destination: The destination of the shipment has a lot to do with the cost of shipping. The farther away the destination is from the origin of the cargo, the more it will cost to transport the shipment. 
  • The Shipping Method: The nature of the shipping method can cause the rates to vary as well. 
  • Special Handling: If you have any unique requirements regarding the shipment, or if the cargo is either perishable, fragile, or hazardous, then the shipment will be categorized as requiring special handling, which will affect the total rate of shipping the cargo.

Benefits of Freight Shipping

Freight shipping can help a company save on costs in many ways. Freight shipping offers an alternative to air freight. Plus, it’s usually better than air transportation especially if the shipments weigh over 25 short tons or need to be transported a distance of more than 250 miles away. Freight shipping is also less expensive than overnight delivery services, such as FedEx and UPS. 

Freight vs Shipping

Shipping in general is the act of transporting goods from one place to another by water, air, or land. Freight shipping is a more specific type of shipping that involves the transportation of much larger shipments and cargo in bulk. 

Learn More With FreightWaves

Freight shipping is a great way to ship goods in an efficient and affordable way. It can also be very convenient for large-scale shipments or situations in which a bulk order needs to be shipped at once.

To learn more about the freight industry, turn to the team at FreightWaves! Sign up for the FreightWaves newsletter to stay up to date on the latest industry news.

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