Freight vs. Truck: Which One is Right for You?
If you run an e-commerce business, you know how important it is to ship your products to your customers quickly, safely, and affordably. But with so many shipping options available, how do you choose the best one for your needs?
In this blog post, we will compare and contrast two common modes of transportation: freight and truck. We will answer the following questions:
- What is freight shipping and what is truck shipping?
- How do freight and truck differ in terms of cost, delivery time, weight limits, insurance, and more?
- Who should use freight or truck depending on their needs and preferences?
- What are the pros and cons of each option?
We will also include the prices of FedEx, UPS, and USPS for the same distance, so you can see which carrier offers the best deal.
Let’s get started!
What is Freight Shipping?
Freight shipping is the process of transporting large quantities of goods or cargo by land, sea, or air. Freight shipping is typically used for commercial purposes, as it can handle bulk orders and heavy items. Freight shipping can be divided into several categories, depending on the type and size of the shipment:
- Less than truckload (LTL): This is when your shipment does not fill up an entire truck, but rather shares space with other shipments from different shippers. LTL is ideal for small to medium-sized shipments that weigh between 150 and 15,000 pounds.
- Truckload (TL): This is when your shipment occupies the whole truck, without any other shipments. TL is ideal for large shipments that weigh more than 15,000 pounds or require special handling or equipment.
- Partial truckload: This is a hybrid option between LTL and TL, where your shipment takes up more than half but less than a full truck. Partial truckload is ideal for shipments that weigh between 5,000 and 10,000 pounds or are sensitive to multiple handling or transit times.
- Rail freight: This is when your shipment is transported by train, either in containers or on flatbeds. Rail freight is ideal for long-distance shipments that are not time-sensitive or require low-cost transportation.
- Air freight: This is when your shipment is transported by plane, either in containers or on pallets. Air freight is ideal for urgent or perishable shipments that require fast delivery or international transportation.
What is Truck Shipping?
Truck shipping is a type of freight shipping that involves transporting goods by road using trucks. Truck shipping can be done by hauling a truck on a semi-truck or by using hot shot trucking, which is a faster and more flexible method. Truck shipping can be either LTL or TL, depending on the size of the shipment.
Truck shipping is one of the most popular modes of shipping in the US, as it offers several advantages over other modes:
- Accessibility: Trucks can reach almost any destination in the US, as they can use highways, roads, bridges, and tunnels. Trucks can also deliver to remote or rural areas that may not be accessible by rail or air.
- Speed: Trucks can deliver goods faster than rail or sea, as they do not have to wait for schedules or transfers. Trucks can also offer expedited services for time-critical shipments.
- Flexibility: Trucks can accommodate different types of goods and packaging, as they can adjust their load capacity and equipment according to the shipment’s needs. Trucks can also offer customized services such as liftgates, inside delivery, residential delivery, etc.
- Tracking: Trucks can provide real-time tracking and visibility of the shipment’s location and status, as they use GPS and barcode scanners. Trucks can also offer proof of delivery and signature confirmation.
How do Freight and Truck Differ in Terms of Cost, Delivery Time, Weight Limits, Insurance, etc.?
Freight and truck shipping have different characteristics that affect their cost, delivery time, weight limits, insurance, and other factors. Here are some of the main differences between them:
|Cost||Freight shipping costs depend on several variables such as distance, weight, dimensions, freight class (a rating system based on density), fuel surcharges (a fee based on fuel prices), accessorial charges (additional fees for special services), etc. Freight shipping tends to be cheaper than truck shipping for long-distance or heavy shipments.||Truck shipping costs depend on similar variables as freight shipping such as distance, weight, dimensions, fuel surcharges, accessorial charges, etc. Truck shipping tends to be more expensive than freight shipping for short-distance or light shipments.|
|Delivery time||Freight shipping delivery times vary depending on the mode of transportation used (rail, air, sea, etc.) and the origin and destination of the shipment. Freight shipping tends to take longer than truck shipping for domestic shipments, but faster for international shipments.||Truck shipping delivery times vary depending on the distance, traffic, weather, and other factors that affect road conditions. Truck shipping tends to take shorter than freight shipping for domestic shipments, but longer for international shipments.|
|Weight limits||Freight shipping weight limits depend on the mode of transportation used (rail, air, sea, etc.) and the carrier’s policies. Freight shipping can handle heavier shipments than truck shipping, as it can go up to 150,000 pounds or more.||Truck shipping weight limits depend on the type and size of the truck used and the carrier’s policies. Truck shipping can handle lighter shipments than freight shipping, as it can go up to 45,000 pounds or less.|
|Insurance||Freight shipping insurance covers the value of the goods in case of loss or damage during transit. Freight shipping insurance is usually optional and has to be purchased separately from the carrier or a third-party provider. Freight shipping insurance rates depend on the value, type, and destination of the goods.||Truck shipping insurance covers the value of the goods in case of loss or damage during transit. Truck shipping insurance is usually included in the shipping cost and has a standard coverage limit of $100 per package. Truck shipping insurance rates depend on the value, type, and destination of the goods.|
Who Should Use Freight or Truck Depending on Their Needs and Preferences?
Freight and truck shipping are both viable options for ecommerce businesses, but they may suit different needs and preferences depending on the type and size of the products, the budget and time constraints, and the customer expectations. Here are some scenarios where one option may be better than the other:
- If you sell large, heavy, or bulky items such as furniture, appliances, or machinery, you may want to use freight shipping, as it can handle higher weight limits and offer lower costs per pound than truck shipping. However, you may also need to consider the delivery time and location, as freight shipping may take longer and require more handling than truck shipping. You may also need to provide additional packaging and protection for your products, as freight shipping may expose them to more risks of damage or loss.
- If you sell small, light, or fragile items such as clothing, accessories, or electronics, you may want to use truck shipping, as it can offer faster delivery and more flexibility than freight shipping. However, you may also need to consider the cost and service level, as truck shipping may be more expensive and less reliable than freight shipping. You may also need to provide tracking and insurance for your products, as truck shipping may expose them to more risks of theft or misdelivery.
- If you sell perishable, temperature-sensitive, or hazardous items such as food, flowers, or chemicals, you may want to use air freight or expedited truck shipping, as they can offer the shortest delivery time and the best preservation of your products. However, you may also need to consider the regulations and restrictions, as air freight and expedited truck shipping may require special documentation and packaging for your products. You may also need to provide higher insurance and security for your products, as air freight and expedited truck shipping may expose them to more risks of spoilage or contamination.
What are the Pros and Cons of Each Option?
Freight and truck services have their own pros and cons that you should weigh before making your decision. Here are some of them:
- Freight services can handle large, heavy or bulky items that truck services cannot.
- Freight services can offer lower rates per pound or per cubic foot than truck services for large shipments.
- Freight services can access more destinations than truck services, especially international ones.
- Freight services can offer more options for different types of goods, such as temperature-sensitive, perishable or hazardous ones.
- Freight services can take longer than truck services because of transit time, loading and unloading time, customs clearance and possible delays.
- Freight services can have higher hidden fees than truck services, such as fuel surcharges, terminal fees.
- Freight services can have lower insurance coverage than truck services, depending on the mode of transportation and the carrier’s liability limit.
- Freight services can have a higher risk of damage or loss than truck services because of multiple handling points and possible theft.
- Truck services can deliver goods faster than freight services because of direct routes and fewer stops.
- Truck services can offer more flexibility than freight services in terms of pickup and delivery times, locations, and services.
- Truck services can offer higher insurance coverage than freight services for most packages, depending on the carrier’s liability limit and the value of the goods.
- Truck services can offer lower risk of damage or loss than freight services because of fewer handling points and better tracking.
- Truck services can have higher rates per pound or per cubic foot than freight services for large shipments.
- Truck services can have lower weight limits than freight services for most vehicles and trailers.
- Truck services can have limited access to some destinations than freight services, especially international ones.
- Truck services can have fewer options for different types of goods than freight services, such as oversized, overweight, or hazardous ones.
How to Compare the Prices of FedEx, UPS, and USPS for the Same Distance?
- According to this site, you can compare shipping rates from multiple carriers by entering the origin and destination of your shipment, the weight and dimensions of your package, and the service level you want. The site claims to offer discounts of up to 80% for online postage purchases.
- According to this article, FedEx, UPS, and USPS increased their rates by an average of 6.9% for 2023. The article provides a table that compares the pricing and speed of different shipping options from each carrier. For example, a 5-pound package shipped from New York to Los Angeles would cost $16.95 with USPS Priority Mail, $20.50 with UPS Ground, and $21.28 with FedEx Ground.
- According to this blog post, USPS rates tend to be lower than UPS and FedEx rates for small packages, but higher for large packages. The post also suggests that USPS is more reliable for residential deliveries, while UPS and FedEx are more reliable for commercial deliveries. The post recommends using shipping software to get the best prices by buying labels online.
- According to this page, UPS and FedEx offer similar services and prices, but FedEx has an edge on expedited shipping and specialty items. The page also provides some tips on how to choose the best carrier for your e-commerce
Freight and truck are two common modes of transportation that you can use to ship your goods across the country or internationally. They have different pros and cons depending on various factors, such as cost, delivery time, weight limits, insurance, and more.
You should use freight services when you have large, heavy or bulky goods that need to be shipped over long distances or internationally. You should use truck services when you have small, light or regular goods that need to be shipped over short or medium distances within the country.
You can also compare the prices of FedEx, UPS, and USPS for the same distance using online shipping calculators that allow you to get instant quotes from different carriers.