Shipping can be mean delivery via the U.S. Postal Service or some other delivery company, or delivery via rail, airplane or boat. Because of this ubiquitous meaning the word "shipping" has taken on, there's often a lot of confusion about different related terms.
Freight, for instance, was once referred to as the actual cargo that was transported on ships. Today, it has a much broader definition.
So, what is the actual difference between freight and transportation? Let's take a closer look.
What Does Freight Only Mean?
Freight is generally described as any goods that are transported in large quantities, also known as bulk. The goods are typically placed into large storage containers to keep them protected and all together as they are transported via rail, ship, plane or truck.
Freight can technically be anything, so long as it fits into the above description of goods being transported in bulk in storage containers of some sort. This means that the mode of transportation isn't what determines whether something is freight or not; it's the actual goods themselves.
Freight only means that all of the goods being transported on that one particular mode are considered to be freight. For example, the entire trucking container or train would be carrying freight.
This is an important distinction, as the pricing and requirements for what is being transported as freight differ from other types of goods.
How Long is Freight Shipping?
Freight shipping is typically longer than everyday shipping. In most cases, freight shipping will take at least one day but oftentimes up to a week or so, depending on where it's going.
Some freight can be shipped via shorter distances and routes. Some examples could be freight that's shipped from a local manufacturing facility to a distribution center that's less than 100 miles away. In these cases, freight shipping may only take one day.
At the same time, there are much longer freight shipping routes that can take up to a week to deliver. This would include cross-country freight shipping via rail or truck, of even international freight shipping done on ships.
How long it takes for freight to be shipped really depends on what is being shipped and how it's being shipped, in other words.
Is Freight Cheaper Than Shipping?
In most cases, freight is considered cheaper than shipping. The simple reason for this is that it's less expensive to transport your goods in a bulk fashion.
This concept is similar in a number of industries. For example, consumers can purchase goods from a membership warehouse store cheaper than they could at a local grocery store because they are buying in bulk.
Manufacturers and companies that have a need to transport goods in bulk will almost always get a better price through freight as compared to other modes of shipping.
Is Freight More Expensive Than Shipping?
There are a few factors to consider when deciding whether to go the freight or shipping route. While the actual price to transport the goods is usually cheaper with freight than shipping, there are some other things that could drive up the price or affect logistics.
One factor is how you'll need to package the goods to be shipped. With freight shipping, you'll need to have enough goods to package them into storage containers. Companies that deal with freight will want to be able to easily load and unload the freight, and they don't want to have to do it individually or by small boxes.
To that point, you'll need to spend some money to package the goods in a storage container. This takes some money for the purchase of the materials as well as extra man-hours to get it all done.
Another factor to consider is the end deliver destination of your goods. If it's all going to one location, then freight is a natural option. If you need to distribute the goods from the first destination to multiple end destinations, then you'll have to factor in additional delivery costs.
Ultimately, the final cost of freight versus shipping will depend on these factors.
What is the Cheapest Freight Shipping?
The cost of freight shipping will depend on how much you're shipping, how far it will travel, how fragile it is, the mode of transportation you're choosing, and whether it needs any special considerations.
While well-known companies such as FedEx and UPS offer freight shipping -- as does the U.S. Postal Service -- they are often more expensive than private companies simply due to the fact that it's not what they specialize in.
In that regard, you can search around for companies that specialize in the freight goods you need to ship so that you can find the best price.
What is the Cheapest Way to Ship?
If you have smaller cargo to ship -- or even individual packages -- the delivery cost again will depend on what you are shipping, how long it is traveling, when you need it delivered by, and how big/heavy it is.
There are many different companies that you can choose to ship your goods, and they typically all offer similar prices. You can get discounts on shipping, though, if you partner with a private company to handle your delivery needs.
Generally speaking, the more compact and lighter your goods are, the cheaper it will be to ship. In addition, the fewer restrictions -- in terms of mode of transportation, time to delivery and special accommodations needed -- the less expensive it will be.