Land, Sea, Air: Which Type of Freight Should I Use to Ship?

When deciding how to ship your goods, there are many factors to take into consideration: cost, timeline, and size (volume) and weight of your items.

You have multiple options, whether you’re shipping your lab equipment, delicate artwork, or moving your home or office furniture. Here are some of the possibilities and when to use them:

Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) Freight

LTL freight is the most common way to move goods around the country. LTL is an easy and cost-effective approach to transport things from Point A to Point B. The freight is packed (usually in boxes), strapped to a pallet, and placed on a tractor-trailer, sharing space with other people’s goods. The LTL approach is practical for shipping goods that are larger than you would typically send via small parcel.

The truck driver will bring your goods either to a service terminal or delivery address. It is less expensive to ship to a service terminal, rather than to a business or residential address. However, truck drivers do not unbox or install the goods. The customer must be able to manage the final steps or hire a service provider.

In addition, if your destination does not have a forklift or a loading dock, you will want lift-gate service. Lift-gate service is an additional cost. A lift-gate is the piece of equipment used to lower items to the ground from the rear of the truck.

When to Use a Full-Dedicated Truckload

If you plan on shipping a large number of items at once, especially if you have time-sensitive or high-value items, a Full-Dedicated Truckload is probably the best option. A full-dedicated truckload is just like moving your home; your goods fill up the truck, and the driver will deliver them to your destination without processing them through a freight terminal.

When to Use Air Freight

Air freight can be used for both international and domestic shipping. Air freight is mainly used for shipments consisting of small-volume, high-value items, and time-sensitive packages. This is the safest and fastest way to ship goods, but it is also the most expensive. Air freight providers calculate the cost of shipping by the cubic feet of the goods, so most people do not select this option for larger shipments.

When to Use Ocean Freight

Ocean freight is the most commonly used method of international shipping. Goods are prepared similarly to LTL shipments but loaded into a steel container that is in turn loaded onto an ocean freight ship. As with domestic trucking, the goods can share a container, or the container can be brought to the origin for a dedicated load. The drawback is that it takes longer because the goods must wait at the port until the freight vessel is fully loaded.


If you’re still not sure which type of shipping is best, contact our team for guidance. We specialize in packing and shipping all sorts of items in all sorts of ways!

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