How Does Freight Shipping Work: Ecommerce Guide (2023)

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As an eCommerce business owner, you’re likely familiar with the saying “time is money.” It becomes even more apparent when it comes to freight shipping – delays in shipment can cost your business financially and reputationally if not managed properly.

That’s why understanding how freight shipping works and implementing best practices for your eCommerce business are essential components of a successful logistics plan.

In this guide, we’ll take a deeper dive into what freight shipping is, how it works, and some tips on managing it efficiently in 2023. So let’s get started!

What Is Freight Shipping?

Freight shipping is the transportation of large quantities of goods and materials over long distances by truck, train, air freight or sea freight. This shipping method is an essential part of global eCommerce, enabling businesses to ship freight to customers all over the world.

How Does Freight Shipping Work For eCommerce Stores?

The freight shipping process typically involves multiple freight carriers, freight brokers, and freight forwarders working together to ensure that a shipment gets from point A to point B as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.

The freight forwarding company will be responsible for negotiating rates with various carriers, tracking shipments in transit, dealing with customs requirements and ensuring that paperwork associated with international shipments is properly completed.


A popular YouTube creator, the Horror Geek, runs an eCommerce site selling horror t-shirts and specialty items to his fans. He has a large international order to ship t-shirts to a UK horror conference and must ship freight overseas in plenty of time for the event (and ideally, without incurring expedited freight shipping charges.) He’ll need to select a freight carrier, prepare the shipment and customs documents, and arrange for pickup.

Here’s an overview of how the freight shipping process works:

1. Before shipping, eCommerce stores must select a freight carrier to transport their goods. They should choose one that offers dependable service and competitive rates.

2. Many carriers offer multiple levels of freight delivery service with different delivery options, such as expedited or deferred options.

3. After selecting a carrier, the store then needs to create a shipment. This involves providing the carrier with information such as what is being shipped, how much it weighs, and where it needs to be delivered.

4. Once the shipment is created, the store arranges for someone to pick up their goods from their warehouse. The pickup can either be done by the freight carrier or by a third-party freight provider.

5. The goods are then loaded onto a truck and transported to their final destination. This can involve multiple stops along the way, depending on how far the shipment needs to travel.

6. Upon arrival at its destination, the shipment is unloaded from the truck and delivered to its recipient. The process is usually completed within a set timeframe that was agreed upon when the shipment was created.

7. Finally, the store will receive an invoice from the freight carrier for their services, which includes all of the fees associated with shipping, such as fuel surcharges and accessorial fees.

8. Freight shipping is a reliable way to get goods to customers quickly and safely. By following these steps and choosing the right carrier, eCommerce stores can ensure that their goods arrive at their destination on time.

What is the Difference Between Freight Shipping and Small Parcel Shipping?

The major difference between freight shipping and small parcel shipping is the size of the shipment.

Freight shipments are usually larger than 150lbs, while small parcel shipping usually refers to packages that are less than 150lbs.

Additionally, freight shipments often require additional services such as crating and palletizing due to their size and weight.

They also typically take longer to arrive at their destination due to the amount of time it takes for freight carriers to deliver each shipment.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Freight Shipping Company for eCommerce?

Freight shipping is a great option for eCommerce businesses that need to move large quantities of goods and materials quickly and cost-effectively.

It’s also a good choice for businesses that want to reduce their carbon footprint, as freight carriers are often able to consolidate multiple shipments into one large shipment, reducing the amount of fuel used in the transport process.

Additionally, freight shipping can provide increased security for sensitive or perishable items compared to small parcel carriers due to higher levels of tracking and monitoring during transit.

Here are a few of the benefits of freight shipping for eCommerce businesses:

1. Cost savings – Freight shipping rates are typically better than small parcel carriers, which can lead to significant cost savings for businesses that ship in bulk or require specialized equipment to move items safely.

2. Faster transit times – Freight shipping can provide faster transit times than small parcel carriers, so businesses can expedite their orders and get products to customers quickly.

3. Higher weight limits – The maximum weight of shipments that can be shipped by freight is much higher than those which can be sent via small parcel carriers, making it an ideal option for businesses that ship bulky or heavy items.

4. Higher security – Freight shipments are generally more secure than small parcel carriers because they can be tracked, monitored in transit, and stored securely at their destination before being released to the customer.

5. Versatility – Freight shipping can accommodate a variety of items, from large furniture to electronics and clothing. This makes it a great option for businesses that sell a wide range of products. In addition, many freight carriers offer options such as special services, packaging customization, and door-to-door delivery. This makes the entire shipping process easier and more efficient.

What Are The Different Types of Freight Shipping?

There are a wide variety of cost-effective types of freight shipping ranging from truckload and LTL freight shipping to air, ocean and rail freight shipping methods, including:

1. Truckload Freight: This type of freight shipping is well-suited for large shipments, usually over 10,000 lbs., and typically results in a lower cost per unit than alternative methods due to its efficiency. It involves full truckloads being shipped directly from the origin point to the destination.

2. Less Than Truckload (LTL) Freight: Ideal for smaller shipments, usually less than 10,000 lbs., LTL freight shipping allows multiple shippers to share the cost of a truck trailer. Shipments are consolidated into pallets or crates, then loaded onto the same truck.

3. Air Freight: When time is of the essence, air freight is the go-to option for ecommerce stores. It’s faster and more costly than other options, but it’s worth it when customers can get their items quickly.

4. Ocean Freight: This type of shipping is best suited for large orders that are not time-sensitive and don’t require refrigeration. Ocean freight is typically the least expensive option, but it does take longer to get items from point A to point B.

5. Rail Freight: This method offers a balance between speed and cost-effectiveness for large orders. It’s not as fast as air freight, but faster than truckload or ocean shipping. It’s also a great option for shipping items to remote areas.

In the earlier example, the Horror Geek needed to ship a large quantity of t-shirts and other horror-related merchandise from the United States to the UK. For his international shipping needs, he would likely choose a freight shipping partner offering air freight or ocean freight.

How To Calculate Freight Shipping Costs

Freight shipping costs are determined by a variety of factors such as freight classification, weight, size, distance, and freight shipping methods.

When calculating freight shipping costs, freight forwarders will consider the freight class, length and width of the shipment along with its total weight in order to determine which freight carrier provides the most cost-effective solution for your shipment. It’s important to note that freight rates can vary significantly from one freight carrier to another so be sure to compare several options before making a decision.

Additionally, some carriers may offer additional discounts or incentives based on volume or loyalty programs.

What To Consider When Selecting A Freight Carrier

When shipping freight, it’s important to consider the services the company offers as well as their reputation for reliability and customer service. You’ll also want to make sure that they have the necessary equipment and resources to handle your shipment in a timely manner.

Additionally, review their freight shipment rates and payment terms to ensure they are competitively priced and provide value for money. Lastly, ask about their tracking system so you can monitor your freight shipments in transit easily.

Ultimately, understanding how freight shipping works is an important part of running an efficient eCommerce business. By taking the time to research freight carriers, compare freight shipping costs and select the best option for your needs, you can save on logistical costs while ensuring your customers receive their goods promptly and securely.

1. Cost – Evaluate how much it will cost to ship items from warehouses or suppliers and how that impacts your product’s overall cost and price.

2. Delivery speed – Consider how quickly your customers need their items; how much time you have to get the package from one place to another?

3. Insurance options – Make sure that any insurance options available are sufficient for your needs, as any damaged or lost packages will come out of your own pocket.

4. Security – Ask how secure the carrier’s tracking system is, and if they offer any additional security measures such as tamper-proof locks or sealed packaging.

5. Reliability – Look into how reliable their shipping process is, how many packages they have delivered successfully in the past, and how long it generally takes for a package to be delivered.

6. Services offered – Find out how many different services the carrier offers and how well they can accommodate your specific needs, such as shipping large items or hazardous materials.

7. Customer service – Make sure that their customer service department is responsive and available if you need assistance with any issues related to freight shipping.

8. Reputation – Research the carrier’s reputation in the industry and read customer reviews to get a better sense of how professional and reliable they are.

Typical Services Offered By Freight Carriers

Below you’ll find some of the common services offered by the freight shipping industry.

1. LTL (Less-Than-Truckload) Shipping: This service is ideal for smaller shipments that don’t require a full truckload. Typically, freight carriers will combine multiple small shipments and deliver them all at once on one truck.

2. FTL (Full Truckload) Shipping: For larger shipments, this service is ideal. FTL shipments require a full truckload of goods to be shipped all at once.

3. Parcel Shipping: This type of shipping is used for smaller packages or items that can fit in a box or envelope and weighs less than 150 pounds. Some freight carriers also offer parcel shipping services with expedited delivery options.

4. Flatbed and Over-Dimensional Shipping: For heavier, oversized items or large quantities of goods, flatbed shipping is an ideal option. Freight carriers typically provide specialized trailers for these types of shipments that can accommodate odd-shaped or bulky items.

5. Intermodal Shipping: This type of shipping combines different modes of transportation, such as rail and truck, to transport goods. This allows for greater flexibility in how and when shipments can be delivered.

6. Warehousing & Distribution: Freight carriers typically offer warehousing services where they will store items until they are ready to be shipped out or distributed. They also provide distribution services that involve picking up items from a warehouse and delivering them to their final destination.

7. Value-Added Services: Freight carriers may also offer specialized services such as labeling, kitting, repackaging, etc. These services can help streamline the entire shipping process for ecommerce stores.

8. Customs Brokerage & Documentation Services: This service is helpful for international shipments. Freight carriers can provide assistance in obtaining the necessary documents and navigating customs regulations to ensure that goods arrive safely at their destination.

9. Additional Discounts: Many freight carriers also offer various discounts and promotions that can help reduce shipping costs for ecommerce stores.

Developing A Shipping Strategy For Your eCommerce Store

Developing a shipping strategy for your eCommerce store is essential to ensure that customers receive their orders in a timely and cost-effective manner.

When determining your shipping strategy, it’s important to consider the following factors: freight classification, freight rates, transit times and delivery locations.

Additionally, you’ll want to take into account any special requirements such as packaging materials or cold storage needs.

Once you have all of this information gathered, you can then decide which freight shipping partner or freight forwarding service best fits your business’s needs.

Here’s how to develop a shipping strategy for your eCommerce business:

1. Establish how many shipments will be sent out each week, how they are distributed, and how they will be tracked.

2. Research freight shippers in your area to determine which will offer the best rate for the volume of shipping you anticipate.

3. Consider your freight shipping method, including how much time is needed to receive supplies and how long it will take to build, package and deliver orders.

4. Create a schedule for how quickly shipments need to leave the facility as well as how long they should be expected to arrive with customers.

5. Determine how much money you can allot towards freight shipping in your budget accordingly.

6. Review regulations regarding hazardous materials and how to correctly package them for shipment.

7. Investigate how to ensure safety of perishables and how to track their temperature during the freight shipment.

8. Research how customers will be charged for freight shipments, such as flat rates or based on weight and distance.

9. Determine how your ecommerce store should handle returns and how they will be handled with freight shipping.

10. Choose a method to track shipments, such as scanning bar codes or using an automated system.

11. Monitor how well your freight shipping strategy is working and how you can adjust it for maximum efficiency.


Here are some of the most common questions we receive from eCommerce businesses regarding freight shipping methods:

1. How does freight shipping work?

Freight shipping is a form of delivery that involves the transport of goods via large trucks, railroads, or aircraft over significant distances. It is common for businesses to hire third-party logistics companies and carriers to move their products from point A to point B in order to meet customers’ needs and expectations.

2. What types of freight are available?

Freight shipping services can accommodate a variety of goods including, but not limited to, industrial equipment and supplies, furniture, food products, hazardous materials, and consumer goods. Additionally, there are different kinds of freight services that cater to the size and weight of shipments. Examples include dry van, flatbed, and refrigerated freight services.

3. How do I determine the cost of freight shipping?

The cost of freight shipping is determined by several different factors including distance traveled, weight/size of shipment, mode of transportation (air vs ground), type of shipment (refrigerated or dry), fuel prices, regional surcharges, and any special services (such as inside delivery or white glove service).

4. What is the difference between LTL vs FTL freight shipping?

Less than Truckload (LTL) shipments involve smaller load sizes and are shared with other companies who are also utilizing the same carrier. Full Truckload (FTL) shipments are dedicated to a single shipper and are generally used for larger shipments that require the entire trailer or truck.

5. What kind of documentation is needed for freight shipping?

Documentation requirements vary depending on the type of shipment being shipped and where it is going, but typically include an itemized packing list, commercial invoice, bill of lading, and any applicable certificates of origin.

6. What is white glove delivery?

White glove delivery is a specialized service that requires the carrier to provide additional services such as unpacking, assembly, room-of-choice placement, debris removal, and more. This kind of service carries an additional cost and may require the shipment to be insured for greater protection.

7. How can I track the progress of my freight shipment?

Most freight carriers provide tracking information that allows customers to view their shipment’s progress online or with a mobile application. This allows both shippers and receivers to know when goods will arrive and plan accordingly.


Freight shipping is an integral part of any successful eCommerce business, and understanding how it works is essential to managing it efficiently in 2023.

Keep these tips in mind when working with freight carriers, freight brokers and freight forwarders: know the size and weight of your products; obtain quotes from multiple freight providers; select a reputable freight forwarder who can help you manage customs clearance documents; and use expedited freight shipping for urgent orders.

By taking these steps, you’ll be able to successfully manage freight shipping in 2023!