Freight Shipping 101

Freight Faqs

Are you new to shipping and freight?
Are you a first time shipper?

Well, have no worries. Freight Specialist can help you understand the complexities of the trucking and freight shipping industry and make you a shipping expert in no time. Just click on a topic below to read more about it.
  • 53ft Van Trailer (these are the most common trucks used for the long haul of most dry goods (non refrigerated)
  • 53ft Reefer Trailer (these are used for temperature control shipments such as food, flowers and pharmaceuticals)
  • 48ft/53ft Flatbed Trailers (these are specialty type open trailers that allow for loading from the side they are indispensable for heavy items and construction site deliveries)
  • 53ft Intermodal (Intermodal is a combination of Rail and over the road transport. These trailers are specially equipped for rail transport for the line haul but are also sent over the road from the rail head to the shipper and consignee)
  • Straight Trucks (These trucks can vary in length from 24ft to 28ft and are used more often for residential deliveries by LTL companies where narrow streets and low hanging trees make it a hazard for tractor trailers to navigate in) 

Freight-Specialist will issue a bill of lading for every shipment that is handled by us. A bill of lading is a necessary document that must accompany all shipments including LTL, full truckload, and intermodal rail shipments. A bill of lading is a legal document for the carrier to haul the goods handled to him by the shipper. On the bill of lading there are sections for the quantity, description and weight of the said shipment. There is also an area to write other instructions for the carrier to follow. Freight-Specialist will fill out the document for you prior to the trucks arrival.

Standard size pallets are usually 40 x 48 and are made of wood or more recently plastic. Wood pallets still continue to be the main type of pallet used in the shipping industry. Any pallet that exceeds 48 x 48 is considered to be non standard.

  • Straight loading is where pallets are put side by side straight down the entire length of the trailer. This is good for light loads that don’t require weight distribution. This method is not the best for maximizing the entire trailers available cube capacity.
  • Pin-Wheeling is where the direction of each pallet is alternated. This makes for the most complete use of a trailers cube but is also more labor intensive for loading and unloading. In addition to taking advantage of a trailers space it also creates more stability for the shipment. 
  • The gross vehicle weight must not exceed 80000 pounds. That is the total combined weight of the tractor, trailer and commodity. Most tractor trailers weigh roughly 34000 pounds so keeping your shipment to a max weight of 44000 is crucial.
  • Flatbed trailers are lighter so it is fairly normal to see a flatbed haul 47000 to 48000 pounds. 

Overweight permits are only issued for shipments that cannot be made legal by the removal of the excess freight that is causing the overweight issue to begin with. The  current guideline states that truck, trailer and cargo must not exceed 80,0000 pounds GVW. There are also other loading considerations to keep in mind such as proper loading that does not exceed the per truck axle limit. A request can be obtained by visiting the website, and a permit must be requested for every state that the loaded truck is going to transit through. If an over loaded truck is caught by the DOT at a weight station along the way the truck can be pulled out of service and hefty fines can be imposed on the truck driver. If you are unsure about the weight limits of a truck please make sure to ask all questions prior to loading or you can consult a freight transportation professional at Freight-Specialist.

Some commodities are density based and others are not. Typically the lighter and bulkier a commodity the lower the density. The lower the density the higher the freight class. Freight-Specialist can help you determine your freight class if you don’t have one. Freight class is very important in determining the rate you pay for your shipment. Freight classes were put in place by the National Motor Carriers Association and range from 50 to 500. 

The DOT (Department of Transportation) regulates the transport and handling of hazardous materials. Therefore there are nine categories that a hazardous materials shipment can fall under. Based on the classification there are strict guide lines that must be followed such as proper labeling and marking of product for transport. The nine classes are below.

  • Class 1: Explosives
    • Division 1.1 Explosives with a mass explosion hazard
    • Division 1.2 Explosives with a projection hazard
    • Division 1.3 Explosives with predominantly a fire hazard
    • Division 1.4 Explosives with no significant blast hazard
    • Division 1.5 Very insensitive explosives
    • Division 1.6 Extremely insensitive explosive articles
  • Class 2: Gases
    • Division 2.1 Flammable gases
    • Division 2.2 Nonflammable gases
    • Division 2.3 Poison gas
    • Division 2.4 Corrosive gases
  • Class 3: Flammable liquids
    • Division 3.1 Flash point below -18oC (0oF)
    • Division 3.2 Flash point -18oC and above, but less than 23oC (73oF)
    • Division 3.3 Flash point 23oC and up to 61oC (141oF)
  • Class 4: Flammable solids; spontaneously combustible materials; and materials that are dangerous when wet
    • Division 4.1 Flammable solids
    • Division 4.2 Spontaneously combustible materials
    • Division 4.3 Materials that are dangerous when wet
  • Class 5: Oxidizers and organic peroxides
    • Division 5.1 Oxidizers
    • Division 5.2 Organic peroxides
  • Class 6: Poisons and etiologic materials
    • Division 6.1 Poisonous materials
    • Division 6.2 Etiologic (infectious) materials
  • Class 7: Radioactive materials
    • Any material, or combination of materials, that spontaneously gives off ionizing radiation. It has a specific activity greater than 0.002 microcuries per gram.
  • Class 8: Corrosives
    • A material, liquid or solid, that causes visible destruction or irreversible alteration to human skin or a liquid that has a severe corrosion rate on steel or aluminum.
  • Class 9: Miscellaneous
    • A material which presents a hazard during transport, but which is not included in any other hazard class (such as a hazardous substance or a hazardous waste).
  • ORM-D: Other regulated material
    • A material which, although otherwise subjected to regulations, presents a limited hazard during transportation due to its form, quantity and packaging. 


Accessorial Charges

Accessorial charges is the term used by freight shipping companies to describe any service beyond a simple pickup and delivery. Accessorial’s are very common with LTL shipments. Accessorials can range from requesting a delivery appointment to requesting a lift-gate for pickup or delivery. These services are billed separately from the line haul charge.

Bill Of Lading

A bill of lading is the legal document a shipper is required to give a carrier at the moment the shipment is tendered to the driver. A bill of lading will have a detailed description of the commodity along with a freight class and weight of the articles being transported. The bill of lading will also indicate where the carrier must deliver the shipment.

Blind Shipment

A blind shipment is used to keep the shipper and consignee unaware of each other. A blind shipment can be setup by filling out a basic form informing the trucking line of the true shipper and consignee as well as the revised information that you would like the shipper and receiver to see. There must be very careful execution and communication between the person setting up the shipment and the originating terminal to make sure the shipment is handled properly. When dealing with blind shipments it is advisable to be very proactive and keep your eyes on the shipment at all times to make sure the shipment doesn’t go astray.

Canadian Customs Broker

A Canadian customs broker is a company or firm entrusted by a company or individual to clear the freight for entry into or out of Canada. All shipments crossing the Canadian border must be have a Canadian customs broker assigned. A Canadian customs broker must be licensed to perform these duties.

Cargo Ocean Container

An ocean container is used for the transport of goods in international commerce. A cargo container is shipped from one port to another port by way of a steamship company. Ocean containers come in varying sizes to accommodate varying amounts of freight. Ocean containers range in size from 20ft to 45ft and can come in standard and high cube dimensions.

Certificate of Origin

A certificate of origin is the document required by a customs broker to access the correct duties to be collected on the commodity being shipped or received. The certificate of origin can be requested per the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

Commercial Invoice

A commercial invoice is a document that is used in any foreign trade of commerce. When shipping freight a commercial invoice is used by a customs official to access duties and calculate tariffs for the commodity being shipped.  Both northbound and southbound shipments from Canada must have a commercial invoice, bill of lading and in some cases a NAFTA declaration.

Dedicated Truck

A dedicated truck is the exclusive use of an entire trucks capacity to ship only one consignee’s goods. A dedicated truck is also known as a full truckload shipment and offers advantages such as transit times and overall lower cost than shipping separate LTL shipments. A dedicated truck shipment also has a lower likelihood of damaged cargo due to the fact that the cargo will only be handled once prior to delivery. A dedicated truck is usually sealed by the shipper with a security seal that contains a unique number that is annotated on the BL to prove the cargo doors were not opened in transit.

Flatbed Trailer

A flatbed trailer offers advantages and solutions to shippers who either do not have a dock to load from or have cargo that is too wide to load with the constraints of a van trailer. A typical flatbed trailer is available in either 48 or 53ft lengths and can accommodate shipments up to 48000 pounds. A flatbed trailer will allow a shipper to load from the side so long dimensional cargo is no problem to ship. A standard flatbed will be about 60” off the ground. Flatbeds are often used to ship machinery, pipes or large items such as building materials.

Florida Freight Information

Florida is a business friendly state but yet manufacturing within the state pales in comparison to other states where land is less expensive.  This makes Florida a state that has depressed rates for carriers leaving the state but very expensive for inbound freight. Florida does have a very healthy agricultural and produce sector which affects trucking rates every year from April to July. Florida does have a population of nearly 20 million and with the addition of millions of visitors each year to the many attractions throughout the state, Florida is a state that needs lots of everything. All this makes Florida a heavy consumption state so therefore the inbound freight needs are much higher than the outbound freight. There is ample LTL needs throughout the state and some truckloads but not nearly enough to counter balance the inbound freight needs. The biggest ports in the state are located in the cities of Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida. The Port of Miami is considered a médium sized port but is known as the gateway to Latin America and enjoys a healthy amount of traffic of both imports and exports.

Freight Cargo Claim

A freight cargo claim is a request sent to the carrier of the goods for compensation of cargo damaged in transit. The claim can be filed by the shipper or consignee of the freight.  A claimant has a better chance for a claim to be honored if the damages are noted on the BL at the time of delivery. Most freight companies have up till 120 days to settle a freight claim.

Freight Class

A freight class is a rating system created by the NMFTA (National Motor Freight Traffic Association). There are 18 different freight classes ranging from 50-500 that a shipment can fall into. The freight class system is based on four distinct principles: Density, Stow-ability, Handling and Liability. A shipment will be assigned an NMFC number and classification code based on one or all of these four principles.

Gaylord Container

A gaylord container is a corrugated box used in the shipping and freight industry for bulk type shipments. Many salvage companies use gaylords to ship their goods because they are reusable and a cost effective method of shipping. A gaylord usually has the same dimensions as a pallet or skid and therefore have become a staple of the shipping industry.

Hazardous Shipment

A hazardous shipment is described as any substance capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety and or property when transported in commerce. LTL carriers will often access a ( haz-mat fee ) to a shipment when the shipment is deemed as hazardous. A hazardous shipment can fall into different categories based on the DOT hazard class and the UN class. Hazardous commodities will fall into one of the following groups: Explosives, Blasting Agents, Gases, Flammable Liquids. Combustible Liquids, Flammable Solids, Organic Peroxide, Poison A or Poison B, Radioactive Materials, Corrosive Materials and ORM ( other regulated materials ).

In Bond shipment

An in bond shipment is a shipment into or within a U.S. destination that was not cleared by customs or intended to enter into U.S. commerce. An in bond shipment must be handled by a bonded carrier who will take full responsibility for the shipment until duties have been collected and the shipment has been inspected. An In bond shipments must be taken to a bonded warehouse where a customs broker will collect the taxes and duties based on the commercial invoice provided by the shipper.

Inside Pickup or Delivery

An inside pickup or delivery is any shipment where the driver is required to go beyond the front door or dock to retrieve or deliver a shipment.

Interline Carrier

An interline carrier is a freight carrier who partners with another freight carrier to have a larger area of service. Many regional and national carriers alike use interline carriers for shipments that are picked up or delivered to remote locations or beyond a carriers service area.

Lift Gate

A lift gate is a mechanical device that is equipped on freight delivery trucks for the purpose of lowering or lifting freight shipments for businesses that do not have a dock or forklift for loading or unloading cargo. Delivery to a residential location is a very good example of an instance when a customer may want to request lift gate delivery.

Load Bar

Load bars are used by both LTL ( less than truckload ) and FTL ( full truckload ) carriers. These specialized bars are used to secure freight inside a freight trailer from shifting during transit.

Lowboy Trailer

Lowboys or RGN’s is a specialized trailer which is much closer to the ground than a typical flatbed trailer. Lowboy trailers are regularly used in the transport of construction equipment or machinery which may have dimensions that are too tall for a standard flatbed or step deck trailer. The dimensions of a lowboy range between 18” to 24” from the ground thus allowing shipments that are deemed too high for a flatbed or step deck to be shipped without the use of permits or escorts.


The acronym for LTL is “less than truckload”. An LTL shipment is usually any shipment that is less than 20000 pounds. An LTL shipment simply means that this type of shipment will not require the entire or exclusive use of a 53 foot trailer. LTL shipments are handled by specialized carriers, both regional and national that also offer other services that truckload carrier do not. For instance an LTL shipment can be requested with lift-gate service at origin or destination. The per pound cost of an LTL shipment is usually very affordable and allow smaller shippers to ship their products rather efficiently without the need to have the volume necessary of justifying a truck load shipment.


NMFC is an acronym for National Motor Freight Classification. The NMFC is responsible for grading commerce in the freight transportation field with a freight class. There are a total of 18 freight classes ranging from 50-500. The NMFC also dictates that there are minimum packaging requirements before a shipment is tendered to an LTL carrier.


PARS is an acronym for Pre-Arrival Certification System. The PARS system is used for clearing Canadian inbound or outbound shipments with minimal documentation. The PARS system was designed to speed up the processing times prior to a shipment arriving at the border crossing in Canada. A shipment that is approved using the PARS system will be pre-approved for entry into Canada with no further examination unless the CBSA ( Canadian Border Security Agency) request further inspection.


A POD is known in the freight shipping world as a “proof of delivery”. These are the bills that are signed by the consignee or receiver of the goods as proof that the cargo was received. On this document is where all exceptions must be noted prior to the driver leaving. If there are any visible damages to the freight, they must be noted on the POD at this time.

PRO Number

A pro number is the tracking number that is assigned to a pickup by the trucking line at the time the freight is tendered. This is the method by which the carrier will update the status of the shipment on their website. A pro number will indicate when the expected delivery will be made as well as other relevant data.

PUP trailer

A PUP trailer is a smaller version of a tractor trailer. These trailers are usually kept to 28 feet in length and only have one axle. These type of trailers are very common for LTL companies as they are efficient for use in the inner city. A PUP trailer can hold the equivalent of 14 (40 x 48) size pallets.

Sliding Tandem

A sliding tandem is a device on a tractor trailer that allows the truck operator to shift weight either towards or away from the drive and steering axles. The reason a driver would slide the tandems would be to correct a weight distribution problem.  The overall gross weight will not be affected but the weight distribution or center of gravity would change. The D.O.T. recommends that a weight of 34000 pounds be put on the drive axles and 34000 pounds on the trailer tandems.

Stepdeck Trailer

A stepdeck trailer or single drop is very similar to a flatbed trailer in function, but they are visually and functionally different. A stepdeck has an upper deck section which is about 10ft in length. Afterwards the platform drops roughly 22” and continues for 38ft at the new height. This new height is known as the well area and can haul cargo that is up to 124” in height without the need for permits. A stepdeck does have limitation in the maximum cargo weight that a flatbed trailer doesn’t. A stepdeck trailer can haul 45000 pounds maximum as opposed to a flatbed which can haul up to 48000 pounds.