If you’re a first-time freight shipper, who is shipping for yourself or for your business, the first thing you’ll learn is that shipping freight has its own rules. It’s not as cut and dry as calling a moving company or taking your parcel to the post office. It can all be very confusing to the first-time freight shipper, especially if you don’t ask the right questions. But don’t worry! We’ve put together 5 questions a first-time freight shipper should ask to help you save time and money.
5. Does Shipping Freight Work the Same Way as Parcel Shipping?
No, freight shipping is different from parcel shipping. Here are the key differences:
In parcel shipping, your cargo typically:
- Weighs under 150 pounds.
- Is movable without additional assistance from a liftgate or forklift.
- Cost isn’t determined by density.
In freight shipping, your cargo typically:
- Weighs more than 150 pounds.
- Could be palletized or crated.
- Cost is determined by density and freight class.
- Needs to be lifted or moved by a liftgate or forklift.
- May have special requirements, such as temperature-controlled shipping.
When you ship freight, density helps determine the cost of shipping. And it may surprise you to learn that the higher the density, the lower the cost. This is because lower density items require more space than higher density items. Here’s an example:
Shipping 500 pounds of feathers will cost more than shipping 500 pounds of bricks. Yes, both types of cargo weigh the same amount. However, it takes more boxes to ship the feathers (lower density) than it takes to ship the bricks (higher density). The more space your freight takes on a trailer increases your cost. Go for higher density when shipping freight.
Below is some helpful information about freight class and density to get you started:
- Shipping All of the Same Item – The most common method uses pre-determined freight classes established by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association for the commodity you’re shipping. This is called the National Motor Freight Classification codes or NMFC. 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.
- Shipping a Variety of Different Items Together – If you are shipping a variety 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 because this could decrease the density and raise the price. Use the FreightCenter density calculator tool to help you.
4. Will a Freight Carrier Move Cargo Into and Out of My House Like a Moving Company Does?
The short answer is no. Many first-time freight shippers make the mistake that freight carriers double as a moving company. Unless you added special services into your quote and contract, the freight carrier will not move cargo into or out of your house like a moving company would. Curbside pickup and delivery are the standard for freight carriers. These additional services shippers can select are called accessorials.
Generally, shipping freight is a commercial enterprise. The vast majority of freight shipments are transported from loading dock to loading dock. However, when shipping to a delivery location that does not have a loading dock, the freight will be delivered to the curb. Keep in mind there will be an accessorial charge for a truck with a liftgate for loading and unloading of freight.
There are several services available for residential, commercial shippers and at-home business shippers that go beyond the standard curbside pickup and delivery.
- 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 – First mile 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 because it can include having items packaged, delivered inside the delivery location, unpackaged and assembled, and removal of packaging materials.
3. Is My Pickup Date Guaranteed?
Your pickup date is not guaranteed unless you arrange (and pay for) a precision pickup. Keep in mind that most carriers do not offer this service, and pricing is on a case-by-case basis. That being said, here is what you need to know about pickups:
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 or at-home business customer shipping something from your home or a home-based business. This is because the freight industry is geared toward commerce. If a freight terminal dispatcher gets a big commercial order at the last minute, residential and home-based business 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. However, 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.
For more comprehensive information, download our free Guide to Missed Pickups.
2. How Do I Get a Discount for the Freight I Ship?
Discounts are everywhere in the freight shipping industry, but you have to know where to look for them. The best way to save money is to work with a freight broker or third-party logistics provider (3PL). Working with a 3PL, like FreightCenter, provides you with discounted freight rates with the nation’s best carriers.
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, so carriers charge these shippers their highest rates. This is where freight brokers and 3PLs come into play, earning significant discounts for their customers.
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, which are then passed along to shippers who partner with freight brokers and 3PLs.
1. Should I Insure My Cargo?
If your cargo is valuable, you should insure it. While carriers provide limited liability coverage, their coverage might not cover the full value of your shipment should something happen. Additionally, when you only use the carrier provided coverage, it is your responsibility to prove carrier liability, which can be very hard to do. That means that if your shipment is damaged or disappears in transit—and you can prove it was the carrier’s fault—unfortunately, you may not get much recovery from the carrier.
However, your 3PL can help you decide if your shipment needs additional freight insurance through a third-party insurance provider. When you purchase additional coverage, you have the ability to fully cover the value of your shipment and won’t have to prove the carrier was at fault.
One thing to keep in mind is that not all items are insurable. For example, some independent freight insurance policies do not offer coverage for fresh foods, laptop and tablet computers, jewelry and precious stones, cell phones, boats, yachts or household goods. It’s best practice to make sure your item is eligible for coverage.
Now You Know and Are Ready to Ship
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. However, 3PLs can take care of the administrative headaches for you and significantly lower costs. When you work with a 3PL, like FreightCenter, you get more than discounted freight rates. You get expert shipping help when you need it, access to our transportation management system that streamlines the shipping process, and the option to choose the best carrier for your freight shipping needs.