What is freight transport?

Freight transport describes the way freight is moved from one place to another. This is a physical process, wherein goods are shipped from land, sea, or air — meaning it includes transportation by train, truck, ship, or plane. Freight shipping services constitute any shipment with more than 150 pounds of cargo; freight transport, then, moves a bulk quantity of goods or commodities across either domestic or international lines. 

5 freight shipping modes

In addition to freight being transported by land, sea, or air, there are also five types of freight shipping modes companies can choose from. These methods include less-than-truckload (LTL), full truckload (FTL), partial truckload (PTL), intermodal, and expedited shipping.


Less-than-truckload (LTL) transport is for smaller loads or quantities of freight (typically between 150 and 15,00 pounds), where the goods take up less than a full truckload of space. Both large shipping companies and specialized 3PL providers offer LTL freight shipping to accommodate the needs of small businesses who frequently move a modest amount of goods.

Full truckload

Full truckload (FTL) shipments max out the space or weight limit of an entire trailer. A truckload carries freight shipments that weigh more than 15,000 pounds, or holds more than 10 pallets worth of goods to transport. On average, the weight for a full truckload freight classification is between 42,000 and 44,000 pounds. Since FTL shipments normally travel on one truck with one destination, transit times are often faster than less-than-truckload services. 

Partial truckload

A partial truckload (PTL) is a freight mode for large shipments that don’t necessarily require the use of a full trailer. These shipments are generally over 5,00 pounds (with 6 or more pallets), meaning they fall between LTL and FTL truckloads. Using partial trucking gives you the option to split the cost of a truck with fellow shippers, which often translates to cost savings. 


Intermodal shipping occurs when freight is moved by two or more modes of transportation, frequently a combination of train and truck. However, intermodal shipments sometimes involve a variety of transport methods — including trains, trucks, and ships — to streamline the process. Companies using railways for freight shipping can reduce fuel and cut costs at the same time.


Expedited shipping is a reference to time-critical shipments where the transport of goods has to happen quickly. This method for shipping is most often done by truck or air freight, as it’s used for both domestic and international destinations. Expedited shipping ensures goods arrive faster than regular transit times, since expedited freight moves directly from pickup to delivery.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What’s an example of freight shipping?

    Today, the most common goods shipped by freight carriers include things like automobiles (and auto parts), furniture (and furniture parts), electronics, home improvement wares, and food. Many of these items come with their own set of requirements related to temperature and packaging, while others may need special shipping amenities or services (like proper lift gates).

  • Does freight mean shipping?

    While freight and shipping are largely interconnected, it’s not recommended to use them as synonyms. That’s because even though shipping and freight both describe the bulk transportation of goods, a freight class will always involve a larger quantity of goods, whereas shipping can refer to a smaller amount. In addition, freight is only used for commercial purposes, while shipping can be done for commercial or personal purposes.

  • How do I calculate freight shipping costs?

    For less-than-truckload transport, you can calculate the freight costs by first determining which weight break to use (based on your shipment weight). From there, divide your total weight by 100 to arrive at your ‘per hundred pound’ pricing. Multiply that number by the applicable hundredweight (CWT) from your rate scale, and you’ll have a good idea of your freight quote.