Common freight shipping questions

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Common Freight Shipping Questions

Freight shipping can be a complicated process, especially for first-time shippers. Gaining a clear understanding of basic shipping terms, regulations, and procedures can help shippers navigate the often complex world of freight shipping and ensure their cargo gets to where it is going without miscommunications, delays, or unnecessary fees. This article will look at some of the most commonly asked questions regarding freight shipping and provide answers that will give new shippers the knowledge necessary to make the right decisions for their shipments.


What’s the difference between LTL (less-than-truckload) and FTL (full truckload) shipping?

LTL shipping, or less than truckload shipping, refers to transporting goods that do not fill up an entire truckload and are instead combined with other shipments to make a full truckload. These smaller (usually palletized) shipments, ranging anywhere from 150 lbs to 10,000 lbs, are grouped together at a carrier freight hub and transported on one tailer to their final destinations. LTL is often logistically complex and requires attention to detail regarding freight classes, weights, deadlines, and destinations for a variety of different shipments. However, LTL shipping can provide smaller shippers with a flexible, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly way to move goods without paying for a full truckload.

FTL shipping, or full truckload shipping, refers to larger shipments (usually ranging from 15,000 lbs to 45,000 lbs) that fill all or most of the space in a trailer. Rates are more straightforward than LTL and are typically negotiated on a per-load basis. FTL transit times are also faster than LTL because a shipment does not need to be consolidated and is instead picked up and delivered directly from one location to another.


What is an NMFC number?

NMFC numbers are part of a freight classification system created and maintained by the NMFC, or National Motor Freight Classification, and are used for interstate, intrastate, and foreign commerce movement of LTL shipments. NMFC numbers provide standardized comparative evaluations for the billions of different commodities being shipped together in LTL shipments every year. Because LTL shipping involves a variety of products with different densities, liabilities, and handling considerations together in a single shipment, NMFC numbers are necessary to provide common ground for shippers and carriers to negotiate freight rates and logistics and ensure efficient LTL shipping.


What is a Bill of Lading?

A bill of lading, or BOL, is a document that serves as a contract between shippers and carriers, a receipt for services, and a document of title. The bill of lading contains all the information necessary for the carrier and driver to execute the freight shipment and invoice it correctly, including the weight, dimensions, and classification of the commodity being shipped, the date of the shipment, payment details, and information about the shipper, carrier, and consignee. The bill of lading should be provided to the carrier upon pick-up and attached to the shipment itself. 


How are shipping rates determined?

Shipping rates are determined based on several factors, including the type of commodity, mode of transport, weight, dimensions, classification, distance, and route. FTL rates are usually determined primarily by the distance traveled by the truck from origin to destination, along with fuel surcharges. LTL rates are more complicated but are predominantly based on the freight class of the commodities being shipped.


What is a 3PL (third-party logistics), and what do they do?

3PLs, or third-party logistics, are third-party companies that handle the fulfillment of processes such as inventory, warehousing, packaging, and shipping. 3PLs act as a liaison between shippers and carriers and often provide volume-discounted rates and help navigate complex logistics solutions to simplify and streamline the shipping process. 3PLs ensure that freight transfer between shipper and carrier goes smoothly and that the shipment is delivered safely and on time. 3PLs are beneficial to both shippers and carriers alike. For shippers, they provide a point of contact for information regarding their shipment, from negotiating and planning to tracking. As volume shippers, 3PLs can also usually negotiate lower rates for smaller or newer clients. For carriers, 3PLs help optimize shipping routes and backhauls to increase efficiency and allow carriers to maximize their time on the road and reduce delays. A quality 3PL can connect shippers to the best carrier for their shipment to ensure safety, quality, speed, and competitive pricing.   


What is the best way to package my shipment?

Packaging cargo properly when shipping is crucial to the safety, protection, and transportability of your shipment. There is a wide array of materials and functionality, from boxes to pallets to wraps, and what you choose to use should be dictated by the items being shipped. The size, weight, shape, and fragility of your shipment should determine the correct type of packaging you select to keep your items safe from damage and make them easier to transport. LTL freight typically changes hands several times during transit, moving between trucks, carrier hubs, and warehouses before reaching its destination. This means that your shipment will likely face varied road conditions, changing temperatures, additional cargo shuffling, forklift loads and unloads, and other factors throughout its journey, and the packaging you select is critical to protecting your items from damage or loss caused by any of these potential circumstances. Visit Koho’s guide to packaging your shipment to learn more about the packaging options available.

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