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What is freight shipping?

04.10.2021 | By AJ Todd | 3 min. read

Safely move products across the globe via truck, train, plane, or boat

Freight shipping is a method of transporting goods by land, sea, or air. Whether via trucking, train, ship, plane, intermodal, or a combination, freight shipping puts goods in the hands of consumers across the globe. 

But there are a lot of logistics involved in freight shipping. If you need to ship freight frequently, logistics can quickly become a complicated mess. With the demand for freight shipping increasing 12% year over year, businesses need to understand how freight shipping works and how to use it efficiently.

Check out our ultimate guide to understand freight shipping, the reasons you might use freight services, and how freight-shipping pricing works.

What is freight?

Freight shipping moves large, heavy, or bulky shipments across towns, states, and even countries around the globe. You can ship almost anything via freight service, although certain types of perishable or hazardous materials might incur higher shipping costs.

Unlike the parcel shipping you might have used via FedEx or UPS, freight shipping accommodates shipments that are over 150 pounds. Most freight shipments are loaded on pallets and transported via forklifts, which can move pallets up to 4,600 pounds (lbs).

The four types of freight shipping

Freight shipping is a popular way for businesses to ship goods around the world. You have the freedom to choose from several freight-shipping options to optimize costs, save time, and protect your shipments.

1. Truckload (TL)
  • Weight requirement: 15,000+ lbs.
  • Pallet count: 10+
  • Linear feet: Up to 53

Truckload or TL freight fills an entire trailer with one shipper’s pallets. TL is designed for bulk freight that can fill an entire semi-truck, or more than 15,000 pounds per trailer. Although TL freight can move via trains or planes, it’s usually transported via dry vans, flatbeds, and temperature-controlled freight trailers. 

TL freight has only one pickup location and just one destination, which makes it a great option for high-volume shippers who need to save time.

2. Less-than truckload (LTL)
  • Weight requirement: Less than 4,000 lbs.
  • Pallet count: 1-6
  • Linear feet: 1-12

Less-than truckload (or LTL) freight shipping is a better option for businesses shipping fewer products. If you don’t have enough pallets to fill an entire trailer, LTL gives you the power to pay only for the space you use. 

LTL freight moves on the hub-and-spoke distribution model. This is when your shipment goes through a centralized hub that optimizes each truckload by its destination. This means LTL trucks transport multiple shippers’ products in one trailer. This method has multiple stops and transfers, so flexible transit times are common.

3. Partial truckload
  • Weight requirement: 5,000-40,000 lbs.
  • Pallet count: 5-14
  • Linear feet: 10-28

Partial truckload is one option outside of TL and LTL. Partials are larger than LTL shipments, but don’t fill an entire trailer. 

This option allows you to split the trailer with other larger shipments. Partials have a few pickup and drop-off stops.

4. Shared truckload (STL)
  • Weight requirement: Less than 36,000 lbs.
  • Pallet count: 4-22
  • Linear feet: 8-44

Shared truckload (STL) is similar to LTL and partials because shippers share space with other shippers. However, STL is different from LTL and partials because shared truckloads don’t pass through hubs or terminals. 

STL gives shippers with smaller loads high-quality, truckload service — for less. STL is ideal for shippers who want the cost savings of LTL and the direct, damage-free service of TL. STL optimizes routes and puts shipments going a similar direction on the same truck, filling trucks to capacity. The result? Decreased costs, faster delivery times, and reduced emissions of up to 40% per shipment. 

Flock Freight® is the only provider that can guarantee shared truckload service at point of sale through the service FlockDirect™️.

Why freight shipping?

Freight shipping is a flexible and cost-effective way to transport goods. If you’re sick of breaking up shipments and dealing with the hassle of USPS or FedEx, freight shipping could be a good fit to scale your corporation. Freight shipping allows you to: 

  • Optimize costs: The right freight carrier has negotiated rates and passes those savings directly to you. Plus, choosing an option like STL helps you enjoy the convenience of freight shipping without the high costs. Simply pay for the space you use. 
  • Select your delivery window: Do you need a shipment to arrive on time? Whether you go with TL, LTL, partials, or STL, you can track your shipment on its way to its destination. With a provider like Flock Freight, you can enjoy guaranteed freight pickup and delivery with real-time updates, too. 
  • Safely transport goods: Freight shipping ensures your products are packaged correctly and handled with care. Safely ship your products with trusted professionals who have decades of shipping experience.
  • Lower your firm’s environmental footprint: Flock Freight goes above and beyond its shared truckload offering by providing carbon neutral service through FlockDirect. All FlockDirect freight moves via shared truckload service, with up to 40% fewer emissions. We offset the remaining impact of FlockDirect shipments with a carbon offset program, in partnership with Carbonfund.org.

Four factors that affect freight-shipping pricing

Freight shipping is a no-brainer for businesses that need to transport goods. But is freight shipping an affordable option for your business? 

Your freight-shipping rates depend on several factors, including: 

  • Shipping method: LTL and STL are more affordable, while you can expect to pay more for partials and TL. 
  • Distance traveled: The further the freight travels, the more you’ll pay. You can sometimes cut costs if your shipment is going to a major metro area.
  • Freight class: Your shipment’s size, weight, density, value, and products determine its freight classification. This is a standard pricing model from the National Motor Freight Traffic Association. Your products will fit into one of 18 freight classes, numbered from 50 to 500. The lower your freight class, the less you’ll pay.
  • Additional services: You’ll pay additional fees for special handling, if you’re shipping fragile or hazardous materials, or if you need expedited delivery.

Simply put, the easier it is to ship your goods, the lower your freight quote will be. Make sure your shipment details are spelled out clearly in your bill of lading (BOL) to avoid extra fees or shipment delays. 

Get there safely with freight shipping

Freight shipments keep supply chains and our world moving. But with so many moving parts, the logistics can be confusing, especially if you’re new to freight shipping. Understand the basics of freight shipping to choose the option that’s best for your business. 

Know the differences between TL, LTL, partials, and shared truckload to understand how the nature of your shipment determines your freight quote. In an always-on world, you need to put products in your consumers’ hands yesterday — deliver faster with freight shipping.


Book shared truckload to move freight your way.