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How Does a Trucking Company Ship Freight?

In 2013, truckload carriers transported 15 billion tons of cargo all around the United States. By 2040 the Bureau of Labor Statistics believes that amount will increase to nearly 19 billion tons. Spending on truckload carriers and other logistics and transportation was $1.48 trillion in 2015, or a whole 8% of the country’s annual gross domestic product. Expediting freight companies abound, and truckload carriers are essential to the machinery, electronics, and motor vehicle industries in particular.

There’s no doubt that America’s economy depends on truckload logistics. Anyone who drives is aware of how many truckload carriers are on the road at any given time. You might wonder, though, how all that freight ends up on a truck and what happens before and after.

The Life of a Truckload Shipping Load

  1. Someone makes a call. Everything starts when a shipper puts in a call or an email request for pickup. Special brokers act as go-betweens for shippers and logistics companies, getting all the information on the order such as location, handling instructions, compliance questions, equipment needs, and delivery dates.
  2. Someone finds the right truckload carriers. Once the broker has all the information, they must arrange with a particular freight carrier for delivery. Some truckload carriers will only take full loads on individual trucks. Others are happy to arrange for less-than-truckload (LTL), and several LTL shipping orders can go on the same truck if destinations can be coordinated. A typical broker has a number of vetted truckload carrier that they work with regularly.
  3. Freight gets dispatched. When the arranged date and time for pickup arrives, the broker will contact the driver and verify that everything is as arranged. They will also verify information like the driver’s name, the type and number of the truck and trailer, and a way to keep in communication with the load driver should anything happen. They will also stay in contact with the driver until the entire load has been put on the truck, personally verifying that everything is where it should be.
  4. The load is sealed, doublechecked, and transported. Once everyone involved has verified what’s inside, this is doublechecked just in case. A Bill of Lading is issued and the truckload carrier accepts liability for the load at this point. During the time the load is being transported, the broker stays in contact with the driver to make sure everything is going as it should.
  5. The load reaches its final destination. Arrival time is documented, the truck is fully unloaded, and the Bill of Lading is signed and transferred to the consignee. If anything is missing or damaged, this gets noted on the Bill of Lading, and all paperwork goes through the broker, who will then initiate a payment cycle.

Transporting America’s goods across as big a country as the United States takes dedicated and coordinated effort by shippers, buyers, truckload carriers, and brokers. Whether it’s specialty freight or a regular delivery, our economy depends on the reliability of trucking carriers and their support network.

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