Introduction to Freight Shipping

Introduction to Freight Shipping

Freight shipping is defined as the process of transporting commodities, goods and cargo by land, sea or air. Freight itself can be defined as the goods transported by truck, train, ship or plane. 
Freight shipping is an important part of many business operations. This post will discuss the basics of freight, including what classifies as freight, different types of freight shipments, and how they can be used to support most ecommerce businesses

What classifies as a freight shipment?

Any shipment that exceeds the below criteria are considered freight and need to be shipped as such.

  • Packages exceeding 150 lbs
  • Packages exceeding 165 inches in length and width combined
  • Packages larger than 108 inches in length

If you are an ecommerce business working with a third-party logistics provider (3PL) most of these details will be folded into the decisions your 3PL will make on your behalf. It’s important to know that you have options, and that all freight isn’t shipped the same.

What are the different types of freight shipments?

There are three main types of freight shipments: full truckload (FTL), less than truckload (LTL), and partial truckload (PTL). There is also intermodal freight and express freight.

  • Full truckload (FTL): Full truckload involves moving bulk or pallet loads that are large enough to justify the use of an entire semi-trailer, typically more than 15,000 pounds. Full truckload can be more cost effective and reduce the opportunity for freight damage with less handling than LTL.
  • Less than truckload (LTL): LTL is the transportation of relatively small freight. The alternatives to LTL carriers are parcel carriers or full truckload carriers. Parcel carriers usually handle small packages and freight that can be broken down into units less than 150 pounds. Full truckload carriers move freight that is loaded into a semi-trailer. Semi-trailers are typically between 26 and 53 feet and require a substantial amount of freight to make such transportation economical
  • Partial truckload (PTL): A partial truckload (PTL) shipment is between 6 and 12 pallets with a total weight of over 5000 pounds.
  • Intermodal: Intermodal shipping typically refers to shipping with a combination of rail and truck. However, it can involve a variety of transportation modes including rail, trucks or ships to streamline the shipping process. Including rail in your freight shipping can reduce fuel use, lower costs and offer a reliable method of shipping.
  • Expedited: Expedited freight refers to time-critical shipments in which freight has to be delivered quickly. Expedited freight is most often transported by truck or air.

How does freight apply to outsourcing order fulfillment?

When working with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider for order fulfillment, freight shipping is commonly used to send inventory to the 3PL’s fulfillment centers.

The benefits of LTL and freight shipping have always been clear. Combine bulky, large, and heavy packages to fit into the tightest, non-damaging space possible and get palletized shipments to a common delivery area, if not within a small radius of the given shipment. The main advantage to using LTL is that a shipment may be transported for a fraction of the cost of hiring an entire truck and trailer for an exclusive shipment.


There are many benefits to working with a 3PL, if you are seeking logistics support we’d love to hear from you. You can read DCL’s list of services to learn more, or check out the many companies we work with to ensure great logistics support. Send us a note to connect about how we can help your company grow.

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