If you’re a first-time freight shipper—whether an individual or a company—the first thing you’ll learn is that shipping freight is not like calling a moving company or taking your parcel to the post office. Freight shipping has its own rules, and they can be very confusing to the first-time freight shipper, especially if you don’t ask the right questions.
Here are five questions that every first-time freight shipper should ask. The answers just might save you a lot of time and money.
When shipping a parcel, the lighter the package the lower the cost. Does shipping freight work the same way?
No, it does not. Density is a more important determinant in the cost of shipping freight. And it may surprise you to learn that the higher the density, the lower the cost.
A freight carrier uses one of two methods that involve density for calculating the cost of moving your freight.
The most common method uses pre-determined freight classes established by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association for the commodity you’re shipping. There are 18 different standardized freight classes, ranging from 50 to 500. These classes are based largely on density. The higher the density, the lower the freight class, and the lower the cost.
For example, a shipment of palletized bricks will have a freight class of 50, because bricks are extremely dense. Meanwhile, a shipment of ping pong balls will have a freight class of 500, because the density of ping pong balls is negligible. So, shipping 100 pounds of palletized bricks would cost very little, while shipping 100 pounds of ping pong balls would cost a lot. Why? Because 100 pounds of palletized bricks will take up very little room in the truck, while 100 pounds of ping pong balls will take up a lot of space. (Learn more about freight classes)
If you are shipping a number of items with different freight classes in one crate, the density of your package will determine its freight class. Similarly, you might choose a freight carrier that only ships by density instead of freight class. In either case, to keep your costs down, pack the crate as densely as possible. Don’t leave extra room, as it will decrease the density and raise the price. (Calculate your freight’s density)
A moving company will carry my goods right into my home. Will a freight carrier do the same?
Not unless you contract for additional services. Here’s why.
Shipping freight is a commercial enterprise. The vast majority of freight shipments are transported from loading dock to loading dock. When shipping to a delivery location that does not have a loading dock, the freight will be delivered to the curb, and there will be an accessorial charge for a truck with a lift gate.
There are several services available for residential and commercial shippers that go beyond the curb.
- Inside delivery – In spite of the name, inside delivery service delivers residential goods to the driveway or garage, not inside the home. Inside delivery to a business usually includes delivering the freight inside the door of the business.
- First and final mile – FirstMile service involves picking up the load from inside the point of departure. Final or last mile service delivers inside the physical destination.
- White Glove service – White glove service is the ultimate, in that it can include having items packaged, delivered inside the delivery location, unpackaged and assembled, as well as having all packaging materials removed.
Is my pickup date guaranteed?
Not unless you arrange (and pay for) a precision pickup. Most carriers do not offer this service, and pricing is on a case-by-case basis.
Your pickup date is estimated. If you are a commercial business with a loading dock, the odds of your freight being picked up on the estimated date are better than if you are a residential customer shipping something from your home (or a home-based business). Why? Because the freight industry is geared toward commerce. If a freight terminal dispatcher gets a big commercial order at the last minute, residential customers might find themselves waiting for a pickup that isn’t going to happen on the scheduled date.
Because commercial enterprises receive preferential treatment from freight carriers, you might think that you should say you are a business, even if you’re not. Alas, that won’t help you at all. All addresses are now researched using online satellite photos so the carrier and freight broker can verify whether or not the pickup location is commercial and has a loading dock.
How do I get a discount for the freight I ship?
Discounts abound in the freight shipping industry, you just have to know where to look for them.
Unlike most industries, where we try to save money by cutting out the middleman, the middleman —commonly known as a freight broker or 3PL (3rd Party Logistics provider)—can save you a lot of money when shipping freight, even if you are a first-time freight shipper.
Freight carriers prefer to deal with enterprises that ship the same loads to the same places on a regular basis. Those enterprises secure discounted rates by signing minimum-volume contracts with their preferred carriers.
Infrequent and first-time shippers can’t afford to sign minimum-volume contracts, and carriers really don’t want to deal with them, so they charge those shippers their highest rates. This is where freight brokers and 3PLs come into play, earning significant discounts for their customers for two reasons.
- Well-established freight brokers and 3PLs book a tremendous amount of freight with their networks of carriers. FreightCenter, which is both a freight broker and a 3PL, books several hundred freight shipments every day. This volume alone makes it worth it to the carriers to give their freight brokers and 3PLs significant discounts, but there’s more.
- As true middlemen, freight brokers and 3PLs handle all customer communication and paperwork and even pay the carriers directly. This cuts out a lot of work for the carriers and makes the middlemen even more valuable. When you book your shipment through FreightCenter, you will receive your Terms & Conditions, shipping labels and Bill of Lading via email. Just put the labels on your load and give the Bill of Lading to the driver and you’re done.
It’s not uncommon for FreightCenter customers to save 25%, 50%, 75% or more—all the way up to 95%—versus the price charged a first-time freight shipper by the carrier if booked directly.
Another big advantage of working with a 3PL or freight broker like FreightCenter is that we have shipping experts on hand and just a phone call away to help make your first-time freight shipping experience a success.
Should I insure my cargo?
If your cargo is valuable, you should insure it. Carrier liability is limited to $25 per pound for new items and 10 cents per pound for used. That means that if your shipment is damaged or disappears in transit—and you can prove it was the carrier’s fault—you won’t get much from the carrier. For example, let’s say you are shipping a rebuilt 4L vehicle engine that weighs 350 pounds packaged and it gets lost in transit. That shouldn’t occur, but accidents do happen. The carrier would owe you a total of $35 in liability compensation. Total.
With freight insurance you can cover the full value of your shipment. Plus, you don’t have to prove that the carrier was at fault.
Now you know
As these questions and answers show, shipping freight is a lot more complicated than calling a moving van or dropping a parcel off at the post office. 3PLs and freight brokers can take care of the administrative headaches for you and significantly lower costs. Once you get the hang of working with your 3PL, freight shipping isn’t so hard after all.