In today’s global economy, domestic and international relocations are habitual. There are lots of people and large companies that depend on freight shipping services to deliver their desired products in large quantities.
If you are moving your personal items or commercial goods, don’t get intimidated yet. Though the process may seem daunting and intimidating, in reality, it’s all a matter of knowing the fundamentals such as key players, terminology, required documents, and shipping methods. From there on, it’s a pretty straightforward ride.
Below, we will walk you through the key basics of freight shipping to help you get your items from place A to place B with ease and efficiency.
Carriers are the companies that own the modes of transport such as ships and planes. Their operations are usually between ports or airports. They sell allocated spots on their vessels through third-parties or directly to big companies.
Freight Forwarders are like travel agents. They understand the end to end shipment process. Sometimes they act as both carriers and forwarders. For example, forwarders can own and operate cargo airplanes or truck fleet.
Customs Brokers are fluent in customs filing and clearing. Depending on the company, freight forwarders work with independent customs brokers or have the specialists in-house.
Third-Party Logistic Providers, also known as 3PLs, handle a company’s distribution and fulfillment services, either partially or in full. Just like with custom broking, freight forwarders can offer this service.
Shippers is the party who’s exporting items, which would be you. This part may be confusing but think about it this way: freight forwarders and carriers arrange the shipment, while the person who wants to ship the goods is the shipper.
Types of Freight Shipping
Door-to-Door and Port-to-Port are shipment services between ports or other destinations that require an additional trucking service. The transport segment between the export country and import country is called the main transit or the main leg. If the freight forwarder handles the entire journey, the shipment is door-to-door. Door-to-port involves the forwarder retrieving the shipment at the destination port in addition to the main transit. Similarly, in port-to-door type of freight shipping, the transport journey is from the export port to the final destination.
Multimodal, to put it simply, multimodal is shipping by container. When a container is filled with goods, it is loaded onto a truck, ship, or train for transit. The whole process is well-streamlined in domestic shipments, too. Inland cities act like ports, known as inland freight interchanges, and the entire delivery is fast and seamless.
Let’s now take a look at the different multimodal freight shipping methods:
- Full container load (FCL) implies a whole container. It’s a great option if you have a lot of items you need to ship. Depending on the company and other factors, it may be cheaper to book a full container load instead of less than a container load, even if you can fill only 75% of it. If shipping by ground, this method is also known as full truck load (FTL). Truck shipment is usually suggested when the total weight of the items is over 15,000-20,000 pounds. In certain cases, special equipment may be required such as a flatbed or a forklift.
- Less than container load (LCL). If you aren’t transporting large volumes, you can share a container, using only a part of it for your items. The cost of the container is split between the shippers. It’s a great, affordable option for smaller loads. This method is also known as less than truck load (LTL) in ground deliveries and is employed for clients with 1-5 pallets weighing less than 15,000 pounds.
A few more things to bear in mind:
Intermodal shipment means that more than one freight forwarder is involved. As a result, there will be more than one Bill of Lading and more communication. In multimodal shipments, there is only one freight forwarder, centralizing the process and accountability.
Consolidation/Deconsolidation. Consolidation is usually handled by the freight forwarder or carrier. In this method, several LCLs are grouped together. On the other hand, deconsolidation implies the opposite. The loads are separated. This step usually takes place near a port in the end of the port-to-port transit.
Expedited. As the name suggests, this method facilitates a swifter shipment. Since the shipment process requires several careful, consecutive steps, expedited method may not always be available and when it is, it comes at an additional cost. However, if you are in a time-restrained situation that demands speed, talk to your agent and ask for this service.
Trucking & Dimensional Weight. As mentioned above, FTL and LTL are equivalent to FCL and LCL, respectively. US regulations state that truckloads need to be charged by freight class and classified by density. Your shipping representative may help you calculate your estimated freight class for density products.
Furthermore, very light loads that take up a lot of space are charged by the dimensional weight to ensure it is profitable to ship your goods. Different modes of transport have different formulas for this. Generally, chargeable weight is applied whereby shipments are at the greater of actual or dimensional weight.
If this seems like a lot of information, don’t worry. You do not need to know precisely how everything works. In fact, if you’re hiring a trusted, experienced company, an agent will be able to explain and advise you at every step of the process. Just remember not to get alarmed if your load is very light and your requested freight quotes seem high.
Freight shipping is slightly different from auto shipping and requires a different set of documents. Below is a general list of forms you may need. Your shipping representative will not only provide you with the accurate list of things relevant to your transport but also assist you in filling and compiling all that’s necessary.
- Commercial Invoice is, basically, the proof of sale. The supplier usually issues it to the importer. It is not a freight document but can become one at later stages if Customs needs it for clearance.
- Certificate of Origin will be prepared and provided by the supplier in conjunction with the chamber of commerce. Customs will also ask for this document for the purposes of identifying banned goods and duty payable. The freight forwarder will also need the Certificate of Origin during the preparation of the Shipper’s Letter of Instruction.
- Freight Forwarder Contract is a standard agreement with your forwarder. Review and sign the terms and conditions. Hold on to the document until the job is complete.
- Power of Attorney (POA) is a very common form. It grants the freight forwarder permission to handle Customs on your behalf. Usually, you sign this document together with the Freight Forwarder Contract.
- Shipper’s Letter of Instruction (SLI). Once other documents prepared, the SLI begins the process. Similar to an order form, it serves as proof that you are receiving from the freight forwarder.
- Booking Confirmation will be arranged by the supplier and shared with you.
- Bill of Lading, also known as Air Waybill, is the contract of carriage for the main transport. It features terms and conditions and states the limitations of the freight forwarder and carrier liability. Also, the form shows that you own the goods in the event of damage, theft, or loss. The freight forwarder will arrange the Bill of Lading.
- Packing List is needed to double-check the contents at delivery. It’s affixed to the shipment as well as emailed in advance. This document is especially relevant if the items are packed into big units such as a container. The supplier prepares this list. The freight forwarder can, too, modify it in case of repacking at a warehouse.
If your shipment includes hazardous goods, wood, and other natural products, you’ll also be required to prepare Material Data Safety Sheet (MSDS) and Fumigation Certificate. As with many other forms, the supplier will issue these documents. Just make sure you let your agent know right away if you have any of these products so you can arrange everything in advance.
Benefits of Freight Shipping
Freight shipping has several advantages in addition to delivering your belongings from point A to point B. These include:
High Quality. Letting trusted, trained professionals handle your fragile or valuable items is the best guarantee of timeliness and security.
Value. With too many things to pack and ship, many individuals and businesses may not have enough time, energy, and money to transport items separately. With A-1 Auto Transport’s professional freight shipping services, you can find the best guidance, service, and price.
Convenience. International moves are never a breeze, we get it. Luckily, even in pressing situations with a tight delivery frame, freight shippers can find the right method and deliver your goods smoothly and safely.
So How Does Freight Delivery Process Work?
Prepare Shipment Information
One of the most important tasks of the whole process is accumulating all the necessary information about the shipment. Make sure you collect all the details such as dimensions, size, weight, quantity, distance, and type of product. These factors determine the suitable transport method and quote.
Choose the Right Method
Once you collect all the factors, you can pick the right channel to transport your goods. Depending on the locations, there can be a combination of shipping methods, such as sea and land.
Pack Your Goods
Packing is another important step in the process. All your belongings have to be packed perfectly and tightly. Different types of packaging may be required such as crates, pallets, and so on. This is crucial because it minimizes the risk of damage during transit. You’ll need to cover and wrap all your packed goods, which will then be secured to the pallets with a strapping.
Label Your Shipment
In order to avoid confusion and mix up, label all items in your shipment. You can do so at every corner of each package, or whatever method the shipping company advises. This step can help facilitate smoothness and prevent delays.
Complete the Bill of Lading
As mentioned in the Paperwork section, the Bill of Lading is a lawful contract between you and the carrier. It features all the information of the transported goods, type of shipment, details of the shipper and receiver. Speak to your shipping agent and make sure the document prepared before the shipment.
Choose the Right Company
With so many factors, steps, documents, and rules and regulations, the importance of hiring a licensed, knowledgeable, and experienced freight delivery company. A professional company will assist you in the process and manage the customs, paperwork, and transport. At A-1 Auto Transport, our trained staff can handle even your fragile and valuable goods with the utmost care and at a reasonable price. With over 25 years in the business, we ensure a smooth and safe delivery of your personal goods as well as your car, RV, personal watercraft, and other vessels.
Written By:Joe Webster
Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing.
After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood.
With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.
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