Freight Meaning: What You Need to Know

freight truck

Freight – you hear the word used often in transportation and shipping, but what exactly is freight meaning, and what does it mean for your business?

Encompassing just about anything being shipped, freight is an integral part of your logistics plan, if not the entire basis of it! After all, truck freight is often unique – from how it needs to be handled to where it’s going to how it’s going to get there.

That’s why we’re covering everything you need to know about truck freight meaning right here in this post, plus we give you our top tips for a successful truck freight shipping experience.

Ready? Let’s truck on!

Freight Definition

The definition of freight is defined as the shipment of goods transported by ship, plane, train, or truck. In this way, freight can be described as a means of transporting goods. In other words, it’s the process of sending stuff from one place to another on one or more modes of transport, and the stuff gets shipped itself.

Common types of shipping by freight include:

  • LTL, or less-than-truckload shipping
  • FTL, or full truckload shipping
  • Intermodal freight
  • Expedited freight

We’ll get into shipping by freight methods in more detail later, but for now, let’s talk more about that “stuff” component we mentioned before. Freight, or commodities as they are often called in the transportation industry, can be almost anything. What the most common type of freight is depends on how the freight is being shipped (air, sea, land, rail). Since we know truck transportation best, we’ll be focusing on this method for the rest of this post.

The most common kinds of truck freight are:

  • Clothing
  • Produce
  • Paper Products
  • Building Materials
  • Vehicles
  • Hazardous Chemicals

Depending on what you are shipping, the expectations and requirements for packaging the material will differ. For example, dangerous goods transported in Canada must display hazardous goods safety marks on their container. These marks tell us how to carefully handle the goods safely, so drivers and other workers in the transportation process don’t get hurt.

What is Shipping by Freight Truck?

Shipping by freight truck can encompass many industries, types of shippers, and commodities. If you can fit it on the truck, it can be shipped in most cases.

Truck freight shipping is one of the most common ways goods are transported from the US to Canada. In fact, two-thirds of goods that move crossborder are done so by truck, and over 10 million trucks cross the border between the two countries each year, making freight trucking a huge part of the North American economy.

There is even an organization in Canada called the Canadian Trucking Alliance, that is focused on advocating for the industry. The CTA aims to increase profitability, brand awareness, and mutually beneficial partnerships with customers, employees, owner-operators, and suppliers while operating safely, environmentally friendly, and socially responsible.

Truck Freight Types

freight shipping meaning

No two shipments are the same. That’s why you need to know the types of freight truck equipment available to you to make the right decision when you book with a freight trucking company like Moto.

LTL Freight

LTL freight, or less than truckload freight, occurs when shippers ship more than a parcel-sized load, but not as much as a full truckload. LTL is for smaller shipments that don't need to take up a whole dry van or flatbed, roughly weighing 150-20,000 pounds.

In LTL shipping, the freight is typically consolidated with other cargo onto a flatbed truck or dry van. Then, the truck will make multiple stops along the way, offloading freight as they go. This method saves money because you are able to share the cost of a whole truck with other shippers.

Freight classes are industry standards and classification systems used by the shipping industry for shipping commodities via less-than-truckload freight. Customers receive a fair price when shipping their freight with this classification system. Depending on the specific commodity being transported and the total density of the freight being transported, you will be assigned a specific freight class.

FTL Freight

Full truckload freight is referred to as FTL. FTL shipping is common for shipments that require the entire truck to be taken up, or at least close to it. When you ship via full truckload, your cargo is the only freight moving on an individual truck, unlike LTL. Even if you do not intend to fill up the entire space, you can still reserve the truck at its full capacity. By doing so, you would be assured that your goods would not be transferred at any point or mixed with other products.

But how do you know when to choose FTL over another method like LTL?

The table below shows the principal differences between LTL and FTL freight trucking.



  • Your freight is handled less
  • It will take less time for your freight to arrive at its destination
  • You will not likely have many accessorial charges to pay
  • This method is more expensive
  • You will need to provide basic information about the shipment (dimensions, commodity type)
  • Your freight is handled more along the route to its destination
  • It may take longer for freight to arrive at its destination
  • You will likely have to pay accessorial charges (cross-docking, unloading, driver time)
  • This method is less expensive
  • You will need to know freight class and specific information about your load so it can be priced and classed appropriately

Table Source

Intermodal Freight

Intermodal shipping involves moving trucking freight using two or more modes of transportation. Containers can be used to transport cargo from trucks, trains, and cargo ships seamlessly.

There are two types of intermodal shipments:

  1. International
  2. Domestic

In international intermodal shipping, freight truck containers are normally 20 or 40 feet long. The product remains in the same container during the entire transit of international intermodal shipments between ocean carriers, trucks, and trains. Containers for domestic intermodal shipping are 53 feet long. Even though these shipments are referred to as "domestic intermodal," they may still come from overseas. Products arrive in 20-foot or 40-foot international containers at the port, but they are then transferred to 53-foot domestic containers, whether at the port or at a distribution center. From there, they travel inland to their destination.

This is how intermodal truck freight shipping typically works:

  1. Containers are loaded onto trucks with products inside.
  2. Containers are transported by truck to an intermodal terminal. This is called "drayage."
  3. Containers are lifted from the truck and placed on rail cars, ships, or airplanes at intermodal terminals.
  4. The container is then transferred from a truck to a warehouse, distribution center, or store upon arrival at another intermodal terminal.

Transportation providers like Moto can offer you additional services like container shipping and can work with you to build a solution that works for your needs, starting with a simple online quote.

5 Truck Freight Tips

shipping by freight

When you’re shipping by freight truck or any method of shipping for that matter, you’re opening yourself up to making some mistakes, as any beginner is apt to do!

So what’s a business owner to do?

Well, a smart one would read our top 5 freight trucking tips so they don’t waste precious time and money on their next shipment, so you can avoid holdups, slowdowns, and extra fees.

Tip #1: Understand Schedules

Have you ever missed a bus (or worse, a flight) and begrudged yourself for misreading the departure schedule? You’ll find yourself in a similar situation if you don’t understand when your shipment is getting picked up or dropped off.

Knowing your freight's departure schedule, speed, and timing are among the most important aspects of sending freight. Being on time should be balanced with selecting the right service for your needs, like choosing expedited over regular service.

Several factors influence the speed of your truck freight:

  • Mode of shipping
  • Lane or route
  • Time of year and holidays

A freight trucking company must consider all of these factors when quoting your shipment.

For example, express and expedited shipments traveling by truck may arrive in as little as 2 to 3 days. Alternatively, if you are using freight forwarding, and your shipment travels by sea before it reaches a truck, it could take a month or longer.

You may also encounter delays during certain seasons. You will encounter closures, delays, and headaches because of things like long weekends and holidays. If you're shipping across the border, you should keep in mind that Canada and the U.S. have different holidays, so consult a calendar before you prepare your shipment. It'll prevent everyone from being disappointed that way.

Tip #2: Know Your Extras

Nothing is worse than getting a quote and ending up paying way more than you expected to. It can even be the difference between profit and loss, depending on the situation.

Reputable providers like Moto work to create an accurate quote for your needs, but you’ll need to provide the right information.

Typically, when you are getting a quote for truck freight, you’ll need to know:

  1. Required equipment (dry van, flat deck)
  2. Shipment size and type (LTL or FTL)
  3. Origin of the shipment
  4. Freight destination
  5. Details of your shipment (pallet count, piece count, commodity classification)
  6. Weight and size of your shipment
  7. Accessorial needs (if required)

The more information you give your carrier for your freight quote, the more accurate your quote will be, and that means fewer headaches for you when you get the bill. This is especially true for accessorial pricing. If you need extra services, you need to make sure you factor that in from the start.

Common accessorials in truck freight include:

  • Power tailgate use
  • Residential pick-up or delivery
  • Trade shows and exhibitions
  • Saturday, Sunday or holiday pick-up or drop off
  • After-hours pick-up or delivery
  • After-hours pick-up or delivery
  • Appointment (window of 2 hours or less)

Consider whether these or other needs must be met for your truck freight shipping to be successful.

Tip #3: Package Right

workers analyzing freight shipments

Packing your shipment is so important. Whether it’s complying with safety standards or ensuring the contents won’t be damaged in transit, how you package your shipment can determine the success of your shipment.

The other part of that success is choosing a transportation provider that has a good damage rating. Working with a transportation company like Moto means you have the reassurance of a 99.9% damage-free rating. That doesn’t mean you can simply toss your stuff on a pallet and hope it’ll get there safely. You need to make sure that you choose the right packing materials, and packaging, and provide all required hazardous materials documentation and markings.

The table below outlines some of the most common truck freight packaging methods and what you need to know about each.

Common Shipping Packaging


Shipping Crates

  • Large, wooden crate that can be packed with many types of goods, usually smaller in nature
  • Offers strong protection from damage
  • Add extra packing materials such as packing peanuts for more protection


  • Good for small, individual items
  • Doesn’t offer great protection on its own
  • Best if combined with extra packing materials or packed onto a pallet for further reinforcement

Shipping Pallets

  • Good for oversize items that don’t fit in crates, or for consolidating boxes
  • Bubble wrapping followed by shrink wrapping is needed to offer the best protection from damage

Drums or Barrels

  • Good for shipping liquids like chemicals or oil
  • Offers good protection to the liquid inside thanks to heavy plastic or metal exterior
  • Don’t forget to ask your provider about hazardous materials rules if you are unsure and are shipping a chemical or other dangerous good

Table Source

By choosing the right protection for your shipment, and then handing it off to the right people (that’s us!), you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that it will make its way to the destination safely, and in one piece.

Tip #4: Needs Matter

You may not be the freight trucking expert, but you are the expert on your products and business.

That means you know the ins and outs of what you're selling, where it's going, what it's made of, and possibly most importantly of all, what the bottom line looks like. In order for you to get an accurate, appropriate quote, you're going to need to transfer at least a little bit of the knowledge you have about your products and shipment to your transportation provider.

Before you get started with your quote, consider three things:

  1. Where your stuff is going
  2. What exactly your stuff is
  3. What kind of service you need

It's important to know where your stuff is going, including whether or not it's a retail store, distribution center, or something else. You don't want to send the wrong equipment to do the job, like sending a truck that needs a loading dock to a main street retail store.

Next, make sure you know everything about your goods. Make sure you know if things in your shipment are considered dangerous goods, and just how heavy they will be. Make sure you get your shipment's dimensions and calculate your freight density if you're shipping via LTL. It's also good to think about whether this is a one-time shipment or a route you need to set up for weekly, monthly or seasonal shipments.

Finally, you should know what kind of shipping by freight you need. You'll want to know:

  • If it's going to be an FTL or LTL order
  • If your goods need to be enclosed in a dry van or are suitable for a flatbed
  • If you need extra services like after-hours drop-off or unloading
  • If you need it to be expedited or not

Now you're ready to choose a carrier that suits your needs. You'll want to make sure they can tailor your quote based on the information you provide them and work with you no matter how big or small you and your freight are.

Here at Moto, we love helping businesses get their products to where they need to be. We can build you a customized quote over the phone, or you can submit an easy online quote request so you'll know what shipping will cost.

Tip #5: Pick a Shipping Partner You Can Trust

worker checking semi truck freight

Experience matters. Whether you're hiring a new employee or going for a haircut, you want to choose someone with the right kind of experience to do the job well. The same goes for shipping by freight.

Here at Moto, we've helped people get their stuff where it needs to go for a decade.

We let our core principles guide our business -- always have, and always will. That's because you need to believe in us as much as we believe in helping contribute to your business' success.

Our guiding principles for freight trucking are:

  • No bullshit: We don't lie, we get to the point and we don't make empty promises
  • Being stupid smart: we're always learning, we're innovation-driven, and we're emotionally intelligent with our partners and customers
  • Get’er done: We take responsibility, follow-through, and work together

We're able to service our customers' needs not just well, but 99.9% damage-free and 94.9% on-time thanks to this framework. Plus, we give you a backstage pass to our TMS system and an easy-access online customer portal so you can keep your eyes on the prize, or shipment in this case.

We like to think that our customer success stories reflect the hard work we put in every day and when we can build a long-term relationship with our customers, that's a sign of a job well done.


What Is Freight Charge Meaning?

Freight cost meaning is the amount you pay a carrier company for the transportation of goods from the point of origin to a destination. Freight charges are calculated based on the type of transportation and the distance between the pickup point and the destination.

Depending on the type of service, what accessorials you need, and which provider you choose, your freight charges will vary. The best way to get an idea of how your freight truckload will cost is to request a quote from your transportation provider.

How Long Does Shipping by Freight Truck Take?

The transit time is just how long it takes to get a shipment to its destination after it's been picked up. It doesn't include pickup days, weekends, or holidays. It depends on a lot of things, like how freight is transported, the route it takes, and if the transit time is estimated or guaranteed.

While freight transportation companies try to provide the most accurate transit times, it's important to keep in mind that they're often estimates.

Other factors that can impact the speed of your truck freight include:

  • Route and distance needed to travel
  • Season and holidays
  • Road conditions and congestion (due to weather, traffic, accidents, construction)

Consult a departure schedule to get a better idea of freight truck transit times.

What Can You Ship by Freight Truck?

You can ship almost anything by freight truck. In fact, most of the freight moving around the continent is doing so in the back of a truck! Clothing, homewares, food – you name it, it’s probably being moved by freight truck.

So the better question is, what can you not ship by freight truck?

Shipping something by freight truck may not be possible for a few reasons:

  1. Some items are too valuable and/or high target items for theft to make handling and transporting them worth the risk.
  2. Sometimes, certain types of items can't be shipped via freight because of governmental regulations.
  3. Some truck freight carriers won't ship certain things based on company policy.

You can always check out a transportation provider’s frequently asked questions to see if they cover information about what can and cannot be shipped, as well as other common questions that can help you determine if they are the right carrier for your needs.


woman worker checking freight warehouse

The ins and outs of freight truck transportation are behind us now, and you have all the tips and knowledge you need to make sure your freight is packed right, on the right service, and ready to be received by your customer.

The only thing left to do is find a carrier you can trust to get the job done right, damage-free, and on time.

But who can you trust with your precious shipment?

Leave your truck freight to Moto. We pride ourselves on a job well done each and every time, and we strive to provide the best value for our customers’ money. We appreciate your bottom line as much as our own, because when our clients are satisfied and successful, so are we.

Find out more about the services we offer, and get more information and tips about shipping over on our blog. Ready to get started? Request a quote, or contact us to get your truck freight in motion.