How Freight Transport Works

Truckers play an essential role in the transportation industry. According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), 72.5% of our nation’s freight travels via semi-truck. As a trucker, you don’t necessarily need to know all of the ins and outs of logistics beyond your immediate role. However, it’s helpful to have a general idea of how freight transport works.

More information about logistics as it relates to trucking:

Terms to Know

You’ll encounter a variety of terms to describe concepts within the transportation industry.

Here are a few to know related to freight:

  • Shipper: This is who sends the freight to be delivered.
  • Receiver: This is who is getting the shipment.
  • Carrier: A carrier is a company that arranges the transport of freight between a shipper and receiver. As a trucker, you’ll be working for a motor carrier, but there are other carriers that handle air, sea, and rail shipments.
  • 3PL: A third-party logistics (3PL) company acts as an intermediary between the shipper and the carrier(s).
  • Intermodal Freight: Freight can be transported in a variety of ways such as by ship, plane, rail, or truck. Intermodal freight is transported using two or more methods and stays in the same container throughout the shipping process. For example, an intermodal shipment may travel from overseas via ship and then be picked up by a semi-truck at the dock to be brought to its final destination.
  • FTL: Full truck load (FTL) shipments, as the name implies, take up an entire trailer. The truck moves right from the shipper to the receiver.
  • LTL: Less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments are smaller, and so one trailer will contain multiple shipments from different shippers. LTL trucks typically stop at terminals to sort freight, then deliver it to each customer on the route.
  • Bill of Lading: This is a contract between the shipper and the carrier, and outlines any specific instructions for the freight.

The Timeline of Freight Transportation

The first step in freight transport is when the shipper contacts the carrier of a 3PL to send out a shipment. At this point, the bill of lading is created, outlining the details of how the freight will be transported.

If the shipment is traveling entirely by semi-truck, a trucker will go to the shipper to pick up the load. If it is an LTL haul, this will be brought, along with other shipments, to a terminal to be sorted and sent out using a hub-and-spoke model. For FTL shipments, this step is not necessary. Intermodal shipments are picked up in a similar way but are picked up from a different location than with the shipper.

The truck travels until it reaches the receiver. From this point, the trucker is responsible for making sure the freight arrives on time and undamaged, and the carrier should support them in this goal. At the receiver, the trucker may drop off the entire trailer and pick up a new, empty trailer if it is a drop-and-hook load. If it is a live load, the driver will wait while loading dock staff unload the trailer. For some types of trucking, drivers provide additional support during unloading or are responsible for loading and unloading their own vehicles.

Become a Trucker

If you’re interested in playing a vital role in the transportation industry, consider becoming a trucker. You can earn rewarding pay while also seeing more of the country, and it can take as little as four weeks to get started with HDS Truck Driving Institute’s program. 

To learn more about earning your commercial driver’s license in Tucson, contact us today.