Things To Know Before You Freight Ship

Freight shipping can be a cost-effective moving solution but there’s some aspects of it you should first be aware of.

Reader Jennifer used to set up freight shipments so after seeing our article on the same, she came forward with some handy consumer tips for those using freight shipping. Here’s the bullet points, expanded commentary is inside.

• Get quotes for both less-than-truckload and truckload
• Know your estimated weight before calling
• Ship as few breakables as possible
• Make sure everything is well-boxed and well-shrinkwrapped
• Use colored shrink wrap so you know if anyone’s been in your stuff and re-wrapped it!
• Don’t let the delivery truck bring your stuff inside, otherwise they may hit you with a hefty “inside delivery charge”
• Check EVERYTHING before signing the proof of delivery
• Expect some kind of 8-hour delivery window. Plan accordingly

What these mean, inside…


Jennifer writes:

I used to work for a company where I set up freight shipments, so I know what I’m talking about here. This is usually a great idea, and I’m really happy that people have caught on. It truly can be cheaper sometimes, and you won’t run into the moving scam where movers hold your stuff hostage.

There are two types of freight shipments: LTL (less-than-truckload) and truckload. LTL is 19,999 lbs and less, and your stuff will be on a truck with other people’s stuff. It’s probably a good idea to get a truckload rate as well as an LTL, even if you have way less than the 19999 lbs – it can be much cheaper, oddly enough. Not to mention, you really don’t want what people usually ship sitting on top of your furniture. Freight’s generally pretty heavy.)

In order to set up a shipment, you’ll need the total weight (estimate it; trust me, they’ll correct you if you’re wrong) and the freight class, which you may be able to get the trucking line to help you with. If you can’t get them to help you with that, call the people at the NMFC, who are the commission who sets those rates. I’d be surprised if the trucking line doesn’t help, though.

Try to ship as few breakables as you can this way, and make sure that your stuff is boxed well and shrinkwrapped. Just in case, try to buy colored shrinkwrap – if something happens, the trucking line will break through the shrinkwrap and replace it with theirs, which is usually clear. (If yours is colored, you’ll know someone’s been in it!) Generally the only time I’ve ever seen trucking lines get into people’s freight was when it fell over, broke, there was a mistake, but at least you’ll know. You may also have to put your stuff on pallets, so be ready for that. The trucking line can probably help you with that, too.

Freight lines are really only allowed to bring your stuff to right inside your front door with regular service. If they go ANY further than that, they’ll charge you. That can end up being a big charge, depending on your stuff. And don’t let them charge you for “inside delivery” if they didn’t take it further in than the front door.

Check your stuff over BEFORE you sign off of the proof of delivery – if something’s broken or missing and you don’t notice until after you sign, you’re SOL. Trying to go through claims at a freight line is like trying to get blood from a stone if you signed off on it with no problems. If you find something wrong, WRITE IT ON THE POD and THEN sign off on it. That’s your only chance of recourse with them.

Do also be ready for the fact that they’re like cable companies – you’re gonna get an 8-hour (sometimes) window of delivery
. If you’ve got to complain about this, go to the company’s website, find out what the delivering terminal is, and be as sweet as you can to the customer service rep.

Finally, DO NOT use Estes Express (anywhere) or Roadway in California. Estes loses things constantly and has TERRIBLE customer service, and California is a black hole for freight when it comes to Roadway. Knight Transportation is a good regional carrier, as is Southeastern Freight Lines. Central Global Express is absolutely fantastic, but they’re a slightly prettier penny than the others (but they’re worth it!!). Best rule of thumb: Don’t go with the lowest or second-lowest quote you get. Trust me.


PREVIOUSLY: The Cheap Alternative To Uhaul: Freight Shipping!


Edit Your Comment

  1. crnk says:

    The 8 hour window is something to really watch out for. My parents did a freight ship style move about 10 years ago, and while we took a northern route on I-80, the truck took I-70 and got stuck in a snowstorm near Denver. They were good about keeping us informed, but the truck did arrive a day or two later than expected.

  2. huadpe says:

    I’m planning a move from NY to Montreal soon, are there any other factors that would make this a good/bad idea for international shipping? I’m thinking it’d be more expensive cause of the border, but I’m not sure.

  3. Soooo…how do I ship my big-screen (50″) TV across the country? Vegas to Florida?
    All of my furniture is going to be moved later (like a year from now), but I want my big-screen…any easy way to do so?

  4. FishingCrue says:

    BUY EXTRA INSURANCE. I cannot stress this enough. Under the applicable NCBFAA Standard Terms and Conditions of Service which are found on the reverse side of most bills of lading there is a limit of liability of $50 per transaction or shipment. Buy insurance and let the insurer fight with the shipper over coverage issues, it’s not something you want to undertake.

  5. Ilris says:

    If you’re looking for the best prices it’s a good idea to find a broker to do your shipping with. A broker will help you with freight classification, and creating paperwork, like a bill of lading. My company regularly uses three different brokers.,, and With the new regulations out if you are off on weight, dimensions, or the NMFC code (freight classification), your pallets can be pulled from the truck, broken down for inventory, and you could be charged a significant fine.

  6. j-o-h-n says:

    @12-inch Idongivafuck Sandwich:
    It might just be cheaper to sell it and buy another one when you get there.

  7. kmccoy says:

    For shipping supplies, including things like colored stretch wrap, Uline is a fantastic source. I can’t say enough good things about their customer service. They answer the phone before it rings. Before it even rings! You call the number and it’s immediately picked up by an operator. An operator in the United States (I’m all for globalization, but the whole point of moving call centers overseas is to save on costs, and I believe in the adage “you get what you pay for” in this case.) They ship same day if you call before 6 pm local time, and most places are within a 1 day UPS ground ship radius of one of their warehouses.

    Oh, and while it doesn’t usually hurt to put stickers on the boxes like “this way up” or “very fragile” and such, it also doesn’t seem to help much.

  8. duckyvoodoo says: worked out fantastically for me when I moved from NY to AL. Basically, you describe what you’ve got and how much of it there is, and people bid on your shipping job. Mine got picked up by some shipping company from Queens who stuck my stuff in with some bigger job, and the whole thing only cost around $200.

  9. quagmire0 says:

    In the few experiences I’ve had at work with freight companies, I would probably never use them. The drivers seem to be extremely incompetent and it’s highly likely that your stuff would end up two states over. That is, after it takes them a month to find it.

  10. JohnnyRnR says:

    One thing to remember is that freight companies are common carriers, and as such operate under different liability laws than (very expensive) private shipping firms. The government forces common carriers to accept shipments from all comers, but has offset that inconvenience with a liability ceiling. Most expect freight shipments to be insured with a third party, and the freight carrier’s legal responsibility is very low.

    There’s a court case from a few years back about a common carrier losing an entire truckload of high dollar Calvin Klien merch. The carrier’s response was to apologize and instantly pay their maximum liability limit of… fifty dollars!

  11. Flash604 says:

    From when I used to do shipping and receiving; I’ll stress factors in the signing the proof of delivery even more. Most drivers are OK, but some will not want to wait while you inspect your stuff. You don’t need to open the boxes, as if it broke because it wasn’t well packed, that’s the shipper’s fault, and in this case you are the shipper also. But you do need to inspect each pallet to ensure there are no holes in boxes nor crushed boxes. Watch out for boxes in the center of pallets; if one pallet was up on a forklift and it hit another pallet square on, the outer boxes might not show damage but center boxes might have been crushed. The entire pallet would have a lean to it, but that might be corrected later when it is pushed against another pallet or wall, and all that will remain is crushed boxes in what looks like an undisturbed pallet.

    When you sign, you are agreeing that the entire load was delivered in good order. If the driver refuses to wait while you inspect, tell him you’ll just write “Not inspected” on the bill of lading before signing (you get a copy, so an alterations he makes will show). When he says you can’t do that, tell him that you’ll need to complete your inspection before you will sign that you have inspected and approved the load. If there is even just a corner crushed on a box, note it on the proof of delivery before signing so that you will have recourse later if you find broken items when unpacking the box. Some drivers will gladly wait while you open any damaged boxes to inspect the contents; if you find the contents are fine, then do the right thing and just sign with no notation.

  12. twalsh2000 says:

    I am VP Sales at a major 3rd Party Logistics (3PL) company that specializes in LTL shipments and have worked for LTL Trucking companies and 3PL’s for over 25 years so I can comment on questions for your readers with regard to domestic LTL and TL if needed. We direct the LTL shipments for over a thousand companies and spend hundreds of millions on LTL shipments allowing our company to be a Top 10 account of many major LTL carriers like UPS,Yellow, etc.

    There are too many comments for me to mention now but one thing your readers should know on the shipment liabiltiy issue is that most LTL carriers cover shipments up to $25 per pound, except to major metro areas like NYC where they limit claims liabiltiy further. If you are shipping something that is worth more than $25, then make a note of it on the BOL (Bill of Lading) that you give the trucker at time of pickup. If you don’t “declare” the value by making a not on the BOL, than any freigth claim will be subject to “limited liability” rules in the carriers general tariff. All major carriers post their general “rules tariff” on their websites and these sites have great tools for getting quotes, filling out the shipping papers (BOL) and even arranging for a pickup without having to call a local terminal.

    Also. 19,999 is not the weight break for getting TL rates,it’s more like 10,000 lbs. these days. We tel customers to get TL rate as well as a “Volume Spot Quote” from a few LTL carrier on any shipment over 8,000 pounds.

    Also, our company , Logistics Management, Inc. has a free program for small shippers (which it looks like your readers consist of) that provides rates from major LTL carriers at much lower rates than you can secure on your own using our contract rates. But you have to pass a credit check and be a legitimate compay. This not for individuals at home to use. This program is called “Shppers Advantage” and companies can sign up at
    Use Promo code “TW” when you sign up.

    If you need any further help, let me know.