Types of Freight Shipping You Need to Know


Types of Freight Shipping You Need to Know

Not long ago, most eCommerce businesses focused a great deal of attention on acing their marketing and sales strategies. But what’s becoming more apparent to them now is that the post-purchase experience can be a new competitive edge. 

The critical aspect of this pervading eCommerce trend is optimised delivery and order fulfilment experiences. On this front, most eCommerce businesses rely on freight shipping to thrive in the global trade environment with ease and satisfy their customers. 

The Q1 2022 of the IATA eCommerce monitor pegs the eCommerce retail sales to grow by 50% to $7.4 trillion dollars by 2025.


As online shopping is on a rise, freight shipping is coming in full swing in helping eCommerce companies fulfil the emerging demands faster than ever.  

The world of shipping can be a little perplexing especially if you’re unfamiliar with it. So we’ve outlined every possible detail on freight shipping so that you can make the best shipping decisions for your eCommerce brand. 

“Freight shipping has a pivotal role to play in the success of your eCommerce order fulfilment strategy. It can help you save on shipping costs and keep your inventory in good shape.” 

What is Freight Shipping?

Freight shipping is the widely used method by businesses to move shipments or cargo in bulk across the globe using different modes of transportation—ships, aircraft, trains, trucks, and often intermodal (combination of multiple transport modes). 


The key part we would like you to understand here is the word “bulk, " which differentiates freight shipping from parcel shipping. Unlike small packages and boxes of parcels delivery, freight shipping typically involves large volumes of goods loaded onto whole pallets or containers.

Meaning that parcels, in general, are labelled and shipped individually. For instance, the laptop you ordered online arrives at your doorstep in a parcel. Freight, on the other hand, includes a collection of boxes shipped as a group on one pallet. An electronic goods distributor, for example, receives a consignment of laptops as freight. 

So, what goods are we referring to when we say freight? Broadly, freight refers to any good shipment that:

  • Weighs more than 68 kgs (150 pounds).
  • Measures larger than 76 cm (L) x 76 cm (W) x 76 cm (B) — or 30 inches (L) x 30 inches (W) x 30 inches (B)

If the shipment you want to transport is smaller and lighter than the above numbers, then standard parcel shipping is the more cost-efficient alternative for you. Though this criterion is subject to change depending on the freight shipper, you are partnering with.

What role does freight shipping play in eCommerce?

If you run an eCommerce store, freight shipping is absolutely necessary for procuring bulk products from your suppliers. Other than that, eCommerce brands also rely on freight shipping to send large volumes of products to their fulfilment centres or distributors safely and sustainably. 

Done right, it helps you manage optimal levels of products, efficiently top-off the inventory as per demand, and, most importantly, fulfil customer orders faster with greater accuracy. 

How Does Freight Shipping Work?

Freight delivery deals with larger quantities of shipments. Naturally, getting such heavy loads of commodities on the move requires more extensive infrastructure, such as loading equipment, larger vehicles, dock, forklift, etc. 

First, let's talk about the loading style, which significantly impacts shipping costs

Shipment can either be floor-loaded or palletized. 

Floor loading involves filling the container or truck with the products from floor to ceiling. While this can reduce your shipping costs, it is not advisable for fragile commodities as there is too great a chance of damage. 

Plus, floor-loading containers are labour-intensive to load and unload and must be done manually. Nonetheless, large-volume shippers save a lot of money using software to help them optimise the space in floor-loaded containers and minimise the risk of damage.

Palletizing, on the other hand, involves placing the product boxes onto pallets and consolidating them with plastic wrap. This way, by converting smaller boxes into large unit shippers, you can load your freight shipment much more securely. 

The pallets are moved on and off the trucks or containers with the help of elevated docks and forklifts. The typical dimension of a pallet is 122 cm x 122 cm or 122 cm x 102 cm  (48” x 48” or 48” x 40”), and around 26 pallets can fit in a standard truck, making it a safer, compact, and convenient transportation option.


The following key steps constitute the freight shipping process: 

  • Collect information about the shipment- size, weight, quantity, product type,etc. 
  • Prepare the required documents.
  • Choose the correct type of transportation mode.
  • Prepare and package the shipment accordingly.
  • Label the shipment mentioning the destination address and cargo content.
  • Choose a freight shipping partner.
  • Get a bill of lading issued by the freight company.
  • Call your freight customer terminal to request shipment pickup.
  • Track your freight till the final delivery.

Types of Freight Shipping

There are several freight shipping options—each dealing with different shipping requirements of different businesses. Naturally, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all mode, as each method has its own pros and cons. 

Moreover, the cost, time constraints, volume, and type of cargo transported all affect the shipping route you want to take for your eCommerce products.

Understanding the difference between different types of freight shipping modes will help you pick the one that makes the most sense for your business needs.

Road Freight 

Road freight uses trucks and trailers to transport cargo via a road network within and across borders. 

Based on the volumes of the shipment, road freight shipping can be further categorised into three categories: 

  • Full Truckload (FTL)
  • Partial Truckload (PTL)
  • Less than Truckload (LTL) 


FTL Freight

It’s when you have enough shipment to justify using an entire truckload, typically more than 6800 kgs (15,000 pounds). The average carrying capacity of an FTL container is around 24 to 26 pallets.

While it delivers faster as the goods reach their final destination without halting at multiple delivery locations, you would be paying for the truck's total cost.

PTL Freight

Also called volume LTL, this type of PTL freight shipping is a sort of hybrid of FTL and LTL. If your shipment is over 2268 kgs (5000 pounds) or six pallets, PTL is a cost-effective option. 

As you will share the space with fewer businesses, there is a relatively low chance of additional stoppages and handling.

LTL Freight

LTL freight shipping is the most popular choice when cargo volume is more than a parcel can handle but not enough to take up a full truckload, generally between 68 to 6800 kgs (150 to 15,000 pounds) or 1 to 6 pallets. 

With LTL carriers, the truck space is optimised by shipping cargo from multiple businesses. It reduces the shipping charges because you only pay for the space your freight shipment occupies. Nonetheless, the extra delivery halts make it slower than the FTL carriers.

Rail Freight

It makes up one of the most cost-effective and eco-friendly modes of freight shipping, albeit taking longer than truck freight. Businesses often choose rail transport to move large and heavy shipments efficiently. Single rail freight can carry the equivalent of 250-400 truckloads of cargo.

Sea Freight

In this shipping form, large volumes of cargo are packed into containers and shipped in sea vessels across the globe. Sea freight can further be divided into below two categories.

Full Container Load (FCL)

When you have a freight shipment adequate to occupy one full container.

Less than Container Load (LCL) 

When you have a shipment that does not take up the entire container space and can be shipped with cargo from other businesses.

Air Freight

Aircrafts are the fastest mode of freight shipping. Though expensive, air freight is your best bet for shipping high-value items, time-critical parcels, and urgent orders.

Intermodal Freight

When your shipment takes two or more types of freight shipping to reach its destination, it’s called intermodal shipping. 


For instance, while sending your inventory overseas, it sets out from the factory to the port in a truck or train, covers the major leg of its journey in a plane or ship, and finally takes truck transportation to travel from the terminal to the final destination. 

Expedited Freight

If you’re ready to pay the premium, expedited shipping will ensure that your time-sensitive shipment is delivered promptly without making any stops. Planes and trucks are the preferred vehicles for this.

Classification of Freight Shipping Companies 


Freight Carrier Company 

A freight carrier company is broadly described as a shipping business handling freight transportation from one place to another. While some specialise in international shipment, others only focus on moving goods domestically. Yet some larger companies have expertise in both domestic and international freight shipping.

Depending on the destination and kind of cargo being transported, the freight shipping company offers different modes of transport—air, ocean, rail, or road. You may also choose the freight company based on whether they provide more than one transportation option or have a narrower focus on a single mode of transport.

Freight Forwarding Company 

Managing product shipping domestically and internationally on your own can be a tall order considering the slew of factors that keep changing, such as shipment regulations, tariffs, import and export compliance, etc. It gets even more complicated if you have a global customer base or an international manufacturer.

Freight forwarders can simplify this for you. Though these logistics providers are not freight movers themselves, they negotiate with various freight companies to work out the best and most efficient freight shipping solution for you.

In addition to acting as an intermediary between you and various transportation services, freight forwarders also offer a wide range of services, from managing and tracking shipment transportation, booking cargo space, coordinating delivery, and filing insurance claims.

The reasons many eCommerce businesses choose to work with them instead of directly contacting freight carriers are:

  • They negotiate the best rates and contract terms with carriers you might not get on your own.
  • They have an established network with different carriers.
  • They have highly specialised knowledge of customs, regulations, and documentation requirements. 
  • They handle all of your responsibilities while exporting products overseas

Third-party Logistics (3PL) Company 

Partner with a 3PL service if you do not have the in-house resources to manage your eCommerce logistic and supply chain operations and want someone to oversee them. 

While most 3PL providers offer end-to-end services, some even allow you to hire only the partial components of their services that your business needs.

Depending on the depth of offerings, your 3PL provider will take on cargo picking, packaging, inventory and order management, warehousing, freight forwarding, domestic and international shipping, distribution, and even reverse logistics.  

Outsourcing your eCommerce fulfilment to a 3PL company come with the following benefits:

  • It helps keep up with the growing customer demands for same-day delivery.
  • It relieves you from the obligation of monitoring the latest developments in the logistics industry.
  • It frees up valuable time to invest in other strategic aspects of your business, such as marketing, sales, business development, etc.
  • It reduces the upfront capital commitment in building the entire supply chain.
  • It offers the flexibility to scale up and down depending on the changes in product demands.
  • With their industry expertise, 3PL providers guide you through crucial logistic decisions in making the entire process more efficient

What Are the Different Types of Freight Shipping Charges?

The charge levied on you for transporting your goods to their destination by any carrier is called a freight shipping charge. Knowing various types of freight charges is essential, as familiarity with them will prevent confusion and losses for your business. 

Below are the typical charges that are outlined in the freight shipping bills.


4 Things to Consider While Preparing a Freight Shipment


Freight shipping is a highly regulated industry, and not following the guidelines can waste time, money, and even cause legal ramifications. Plus, being an eCommerce business, efficiency is the crux of your business. 

So we’re sure you do not have the time to deal with the headaches of freight claims and freight damage.

Fortunately, if you invest a little time to prepare your freight shipment correctly, you can save a lot of time later. Preparing cargo as per the standards is crucial for seamless shipment, avoiding rejections, and preserving your customer’s trust. 

In this regard, PACK & SEND packing solutions help you source the right type of packaging for those Fragile, Large, Awkward and Valuable (FLAV) products. 

Follow these practices to perfect your eCommerce freight shipment against fright damage.

Apply the required labels 

Proper cargo labelling of the freight is handled correctly throughout the shipping process.

Air freight transports over 52 million metric tons of goods in a year. Hundreds of companies around the globe are handling that cargo. There is an undeniable risk of potential deviations in handling quality. 

Thus, forgetting to include accurate details and handling instructions on the label is a surefire way to damage your products. 

You need to attach different labels to pallets, depending on your shipment. It’s essential to make sure that all your pallets have visible labelling with your company’s name, address, and contact details on both sides, along with the packing list and bill of lading.

Moreover, the quality and positioning of the labels affect how quickly your freight is sorted and delivered. Hence, a label should be on matte white paper with clearly printed details. It should be flat, without wrinkles, and placed on the largest and flattest surface.

Ensure pallet size is appropriate 

Choose the right pallet size that is large enough for your cargo and the cargo does not hang over the side. It should also allow for forklift or pallet jack access for fast and efficient sorting operations. 

Comply with freight carrier’s guidelines 

Different carriers have different ways of doing things with their own set of instructions. It’s important to read through and adhere to the instructions provided by the carrier beforehand to ensure that there are no surprises later on.

Make sure non-palletised shipments are secured 

In case you are not going for pallets and using a container, a crate, or a corrugated box, then make sure that it is sturdy enough to hold the weight of the goods. Every side of the container should have dunnage to reinforce the edges. 

This will secure the items in position throughout the shipping journey. If there are any gaps, seal them using reinforced tape. Lastly, if you are reusing the containers, remove any old barcodes to avoid confusion while handling them.

Wrapping Up 

As we wrap up, it’s worth reemphasizing that if an eCommerce business wants to stay competitive in the modern market, then efficient logistics is the key. 

Investing in freight delivery services will help you navigate the complexities of freight shipping. Most importantly, you want to ensure that the company has absolute authority in the eCommerce shipping space and allows you to fulfil all your shipping needs in one location. 

If you want a shipping partner—with a vast network of carriers and global reach—to take care of your freight requirements, feel free to reach out to us

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is freight? 

In general, freight is used commercially to transport products or merchandise in bulk in a ship, train, truck, aircraft, or combination. For eCommerce specifically, your inventory makes up the freight that is moved from the manufacturer or supplier to your fulfilment centre. 

What are the different types of freight? 

There are nine different types of freight, namely:

  • Full Truckload (FTL) road freight
  • Less than Truckload (LTL) road freight
  • Partial Truckload (PTL) road freight
  • Rail freight
  • Full Container Load (FCL) sea freight
  • Less than Container Load (LCL) sea freight
  • Air freight
  • Intermodal freight
  • Expedited freight

What types of expedited freight services are available? 

The process of shipping cargo faster than the usual freight shipping methods is called expedited freight services. 

The following options are available for expedited services:

  • Same-day delivery
  • Next-day delivery
  • Express delivery, taking a day or even up to three days for international shipments

How many types of freight consolidation are there? 

Also called assembly services, freight consolidation combines multiple shipments into one large shipment by a carrier to the destination. Think of it as carpooling. By consolidating inventory with other merchants, businesses can reduce supply chain costs.

Different types of shipping options for consolidated freight shipping are:

  • Less than Truckload (LTL) road freight
  • Partial Truckload (PTL) road freight
  • Less than container load (LCL) sea freight
  • Air freight

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