Written by Matt Rickerby | Jul 19, 2021 5:30:00 PM

What is freight transport?

Freight transport describes the way freight is moved from one place to another. This is a physical process, wherein goods are shipped from land, sea, or air — meaning it includes transportation by train, truck, ship, or plane. Freight shipping services constitute any shipment with more than 150 pounds of cargo; freight transport, then, moves a bulk quantity of goods or commodities across either domestic or international lines. 

5 freight shipping modes

In addition to freight being transported by land, sea, or air, there are also five types of freight shipping modes companies can choose from. These methods include less-than-truckload (LTL), full truckload (FTL), partial truckload (PTL), intermodal, and expedited shipping.


Less-than-truckload (LTL) transport is for smaller loads or quantities of freight (typically between 150 and 15,00 pounds), where the goods take up less than a full truckload of space. Both large shipping companies and specialized 3PL providers offer LTL freight shipping to accommodate the needs of small businesses who frequently move a modest amount of goods.

Full truckload

Full truckload (FTL) shipments max out the space or weight limit of an entire trailer. A truckload carries freight shipments that weigh more than 15,000 pounds, or holds more than 10 pallets worth of goods to transport. On average, the weight for a full truckload freight classification is between 42,000 and 44,000 pounds. Since FTL shipments normally travel on one truck with one destination, transit times are often faster than less-than-truckload services. 

Partial truckload

A partial truckload (PTL) is a freight mode for large shipments that don’t necessarily require the use of a full trailer. These shipments are generally over 5,00 pounds (with 6 or more pallets), meaning they fall between LTL and FTL truckloads. Using partial trucking gives you the option to split the cost of a truck with fellow shippers, which often translates to cost savings. 


Intermodal shipping occurs when freight is moved by two or more modes of transportation, frequently a combination of train and truck. However, intermodal shipments sometimes involve a variety of transport methods — including trains, trucks, and ships — to streamline the process. Companies using railways for freight shipping can reduce fuel and cut costs at the same time.


Expedited shipping is a reference to time-critical shipments where the transport of goods has to happen quickly. This method for shipping is most often done by truck or air freight, as it’s used for both domestic and international destinations. Expedited shipping ensures goods arrive faster than regular transit times, since expedited freight moves directly from pickup to delivery.