There are a few different ways to transport products locally or around the world depending on the size of the shipment, timing and deadline expectations as well as budgetary flexibility. For shorter distances trucks get the job done efficiently and at a cost-friendly price. If the distance is further shipping by train is the better option. For international shipments your choices will be either a plane or ship to cross bodies of water and uphold legal border entrance protocol. Regardless of your shipment size and distance, there are several ways to get the shipping job done and have a seamless delivery that meets all necessary requirements.
Choosing the appropriate transportation method for shipment is important in order to ensure products arrive on time, at a fair and budgeted cost, and handled reliably. These factors generally depend on the weight of the product and the distance of transportation. Shipment using trucks is one of the most common means.
Trucks are usually used for shorter distances (up to 1,500 miles) and are an affordable solution as well. Though transportation via truck is relatively slow, they will still be generally used as an intermediate transporter.
For example, if the shipment of products is through sea or air, a truck will deliver goods from the port of arrival to their final destination.
When shipping by truck, the size of the shipment will determine whether Less than-Truckload (LTL) freight is required or Full Truckload (FTL) freight. LTL involves smaller orders, and makes up the majority of freight shipments. A LTL company generally mixes freight from several customers in each trailer. A FTL company generally contracts an entire trailer-load to a single customer. The average piece of LTL freight weighs about 1,200 pounds. However, LTL freight can range from 100 to 15,000 pounds. Beyond this limit the shipment is classified as Full Truckload freight. It is more economical for large shipments to utilize the space and resources of a single motor carrier, instead of being mixed with other shipments and reloaded into several vehicles along the route.
Truck usage is the biggest in the shipment industry. In the U.S. alone nearly 70% of all freight transported annually depends on trucks. Manufactured and retail goods worth $671 billion and use an estimated amount of 15.5 million trucks per year.
Shipping via rail is a popular option, especially when transporting items over large distances or when shipping bulk goods. It is commonly used as part of an intermodal chain to transport products to a port for international export, or from ports to a final destination. Trains may haul bulk material, intermodal containers, general freight or specialized freight in purpose-designed cars. Rail freight practices and economics vary by country and region.
Rail is a cheaper and energy efficient shipment transportation method especially when long distances are involved.
If a business is located close to a rail system it becomes convenient to get freight to its destination while also making it cost effective. Moving goods by rail often involves transshipment costs, particularly when the shipper or receiver lack direct rail access. These costs can be minimized with containerization.
When considered in terms of ton-miles or tonne-kilometers hauled per unit of energy consumed, rail transport can be more efficient than other means of transportation. To estimate the economics bulk cargo has to be considered, especially when hauled over long distances.
Bulk cargo constitutes the majority of tonnage carries by most freight railroads. It is unpackaged cargo transported in large quantities, which is usually dropped or poured in rail cars as a solid or liquid. Bulk cargo generally includes petroleum, chemicals, compressed gas, coal, ore and grain.
Because of the apparent convenience of rail usage for shipment transportation it is utilized worldwide and plays an important role in economic regulation. In 2011 North American railroads operated 1,471,736 freight cars and 31,875 locomotives, with 215,985 employees. They originated 39.53 million carloads (averaging 63 tons each) and generated $81.7 billion in freight revenue. The U.S., China and Russia are the top three countries with the highest freight tonne-kilometres in rail systems.
Shipments done internationally are often transported by sea. It’s the most economical option if the shipment is large and does not require fast delivery. Ship transport can be used for any kind of item from dry goods to liquids, perishable items, bulk commodities, big transportation machinery, oil etc. There are different types of cargo ships depending on the type of item needing to be transported. General cargo vessels carry packaged items like chemicals, foods, machinery, motor/military vehicles etc. Petroleum or other liquid products are carried in vessels called “tankers”. Dry bulk carriers carry coal, ore, grain and other similar products in loose form.
In almost every type of transportation containerization technique is used, and in sea transportation it is very efficient as shipments are generally big in size and number. Freight is first packed securely and then loaded into shipping containers. This allows quick transition of freight between different transportation mediums in the intermodal transport chain.
There are a few notable risks involved with sea shipments. Ships could lose containers, which become an environmental threat. Containers go overboard on the open sea during storms, or even the whole ship could be lost. Once the ocean water fills in or rough waters smash the containers, sinking can occur quickly. It has been estimated that container ships lose between 2,000 and 10,000 containers at sea each year, costing $370 million per year. The threat of piracy can cost a container shipping company as much as $100 million per year due to longer routes and higher speed, particularly near East Africa.
Use of ships is an ancient method of transportation for people and goods and now the trend has mainly moved to transporting goods. As our society is supported by the global economy, most industries could not function without ship transportation. With the increase in world population the need for transportation of more items is inevitable. This has resulted in advancements in shipping technology, larger ships that can carry more cargo that are safer and environmentally friendly. Comparing the statistics of 1970 and 2010 the cargo load on ships went from 2566 million tons to 8408 million tons, respectively. In July 2009 the global merchant fleet consisted of a total of 53,005 vessels. This number will continue to increase which underlines the need for more shipment capabilities.
Shipping by air is the best option to ensure timely delivery. Other advantages include lower costs on shipping insurance, inexpensive warehousing, and tighter inventory control. However, compared to sea or land transportation, air freight is more expensive. It is also relatively limited by the existence of major airports from the points of departure and arrival. The cost of air freight depends on the weight of the cargo and the time in which it has to arrive. Air freight companies also provide cargo tracking services that allow customers the opportunity to remain updated on the status of the cargo from departure to arrival.
Some shipping companies offer pick-up services depending on the size of the shipment. Air freight can accommodate heavy freight, and most companies do not impose size limits. It’s recommended that the customer insure their shipments, especially if it contains any valuables. Air freight insurance rates are affordable and a great safety measure to ensure peace of mind.
There have always been specialized cargo airlines as aircrafts have generally been used throughout history for carrying passengers and for military purposes while freight transportation was only a secondary activity. Some passenger airlines have found the practice of carrying “belly cargo” a highly lucrative enterprise. It is estimated that 50% of all air freight is moved via passenger aircraft to the point where it has lessened the demand for dedicated large cargo aircraft. Cargo emerged as a solid pillar of the industry in the 1990s. The catalysts for the renewed growth in the sector were the express parcel carriers, typified by FedEx, DHL, TNT and UPS, and changes in practices in the manufacturing sector. In 1992, FedEx sent software on computer disks to thousands of customers, allowing them to track shipments from their own workstations.
Despite the advantages of air freight there has been a decrease in air cargo traffic. Rising fuel prices have been a factor in air cargo traffic slowdowns since late 2004, diverting air cargo to road transport and maritime modes, which are less sensitive to fuel costs. Though present economic turmoil is playing a role in decline in air cargo traffic statistics give us hope for the future. Over the next 20 years world air cargo traffic will grow 5.2% per year. The number of airplanes in the worldwide freight fleet will increase by more than 80% during the next 20 years as demand for air cargo services more than doubles.