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5 min read.

A Quick Guide to Freight Transportation

Apr 30, 2024 10:00:00 AM

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Freight transportation is a critical component of global commerce that connects several stakeholders, including manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, and consumers, to name a few. As the backbone of our economy, freight shipping not only fuels trade and economic growth but also plays a big role in shaping supply chains, logistics strategies, and sustainability initiatives worldwide. In this blog, we’ll explain what is freight shipping and what you should know about it.

What is freight shipping?

What does freight shipping mean? A freight transportation definition often describes the movement of goods and cargo by land, sea, or air using various modes of transportation like trucks, trains, ships, and planes. The freight, meaning in shipping, usually ranges from raw materials and components to finished products ready to be purchased. So, what is freight trucking? It’s the movement of freight specifically by trucks to various distribution points. Finding the fastest and most reliable way to transport cargo helps businesses meet customer demands and keeps the supply chain moving. Whether you need to distribute products to retailers, move inventory between warehouses, or deliver orders to consumers, freight transportation likely plays an important role in helping your business compete in the marketplace.

Types of Freight Shipping

When learning what is freight shipping, it’s important to understand the different options for transporting cargo. Freight shipping can be categorized into several main types based on the mode of transportation, the type of goods being shipped, and the services required. Here are the primary types of freight shipping:

  • Truckload (TL) Shipping: This involves transporting freight that is large enough to fill an entire truck by itself. Truckload shipping is used for large quantities of cargo, typically over 10,000 pounds.
  • Less than Truckload (LTL) Shipping: LTL shipping is used for transporting smaller shipments that do not require a full truckload. These shipments are typically between 150 and 10,000 pounds and are combined with other shipments in a single truck.
  • Intermodal Shipping: This type of shipping involves more than one mode of transportation, such as trucks, trains, or ships, to move containers of goods. It is used to optimize costs, improve shipping efficiency, and reduce environmental impact.
  • Expedited Shipping: Expedited shipping is used when goods need to be delivered quickly. It often involves air transport or dedicated truckload services to ensure fast delivery.
  • Air Freight: Air freight is used for shipping goods quickly over long distances. It is one of the fastest shipping methods but also the most expensive. It's suitable for high-value, low-volume shipments or urgent deliveries.
  • Ocean Freight: Ocean freight involves transporting cargo in shipping containers by sea. It is one of the most economical methods for transporting large volumes of goods internationally.
  • Rail Freight: Rail freight is used for transporting large volumes of heavy goods over long distances. It is cost-effective and more environmentally friendly compared to road transport but less flexible in terms of routes and delivery times.

So, what is freight delivery and how does it occur? The answer is that there are several modes available. Each has its own set of advantages, cost structures, and specific uses depending on the needs of the shipment.

Freight Transportation, Explained


Third-party logistics (3PL) companies are companies that offer logistics services to businesses. They specialize in managing transportation, warehousing, distribution, and inventory management. 3PL companies usually offer customizable solutions for specific needs of their clients, providing a flexible and scalable approach to logistics management.

Trucking and Transportation

Trucking and transportation are important terms that define the overall strategy of moving goods for your business. 3PL businesses are often used for many trucking and transportation needs to move goods from point A to point B. The price of handling your freight transportation costs depends on the size of your cargo, destination, shipping method, and delivery time.

Distribution and Warehousing

Distribution and warehousing are storage, management, and movement of goods within the supply chain. Warehousing acts as storage hubs where goods are kept before being distributed to their final destinations. These facilities have systems for inventory management, order fulfillment, and logistics operations. They also include tasks like packing, shipping, and coordinating the transportation of goods.

Does your business need freight transportation services?

Before goods can be transported, however, companies must decide whether they will utilize an in-house or third-party logistics team for their transportation needs. There are advantages and disadvantages with either option, depending on the type of business that you operate, where you operate, and the scale of your operations.

In-house freight transportation offers the potential for greater control, visibility, and customization of the entire transportation process, end to end. This includes carrier selection, route optimization, and shipment monitoring, which can lead to better accountability and customer service. However, it requires hiring drivers to transport your products and hiring managers to oversee those drivers. There is also a greater risk of liability when it comes to having your own fleet of drivers and vehicles because of the potential for traffic accidents and injuries. Scaling up or down to meet fluctuating demand can also be more difficult.

If you’re a smaller company with limited resources, then choosing to employ an in-house transportation team might not be a realistic option. The added costs and liability of managing a fleet prompt some companies to consider outsourcing transportation to a third-party logistics (3PL) provider. With a 3PL provider, companies save time and can focus on the core aspects of their business, outsourcing most, if not all, of the trucking-related responsibilities to the provider. This could be beneficial for some operations. However, it could also mean less control over the transportation process and customer delivery windows – a deal-breaker for some companies – because vehicles are owned and operated by a third party.

Top Fleet Fuel Payment Solutions from P-Fleet

If you decide to bring freight transportation responsibilities in house, you’ll need to plan for more than just procuring vehicles and hiring drivers and managers. An important tool to evaluate and implement is a fuel card program, which offers many benefits for businesses. P-Fleet's trucking fuel cards provide control over driver fueling, centralized billing and reporting, and access to discount locations as well as major and independent truck stop brands. The best fuel cards give customers the flexibility and resources they need to run the most cost-effective operations possible. Contact us today to learn how our fuel cards can help your business.

Read The Fleet Manager's Guide to Trucking Logistics →

Kira Odlozil

Written by Kira Odlozil

Based in San Diego, CA, Kira Odlozil is the Digital Content Coordinator at P-Fleet. She writes about fuel management, the trucking industry and business-related topics. When Kira isn’t writing, she’s cooking up new recipes, doing yoga, traveling or all of the above.