Shipping is a major part of business if you’re selling online and there are many factors that determine its price aside from the destination and delivery time. Getting an accurate freight quote helps you avoid unforeseen expenses that can easily add up along the way.
Hopefully, this article shows you how to get an accurate freight quote, and you’ll also learn about the different factors that affect the cost of shipping.
What is a Freight Quote?
For the uninitiated, the freight quote is the document that lists down the costs and surcharges for each individual leg of a shipment. It includes the origin and the destination of the cargo, mode of transport, equipment being used, the weight and dimensions of the freight, as well as a brief description of the goods inside
It also serves as proof of your contract with the service provider and there is an expiration date (i.e. the price being valid up to a certain date) as well.
How to Get a Freight Shipping Quote Online
There are two main steps to get the most accurate freight quote and there’s a lot of considerations for each step that can greatly impact the result.
1. Choose who will you work with
This is the first and most important step because the right shipping partner will help you make the shipment process as hiccup-free as possible.
There are many options out there but there are generally four main types of service providers. You’ll also learn about how each usually costs and who they are more suited for.
Regional or nationwide carriers can work directly with shippers both large and small. They usually charge more on small, individual shipments that aren’t so frequent but they can also negotiate when shipping bigger volumes of cargo.
Best for: nationwide carriers are great if your freight is bound for several destinations along a nationwide lane while regional carriers are recommended for shipments within a certain region.
Choosing the right freight broker (or brokerage firm) allows you to get the best deals on shipping because these experienced professionals know the ins and outs of freight shipping.
They can get you quotes from multiple carriers, book them for shipments, and even help you with filing insurance claims. They charge you primarily for their services but you can often get a free freight quote from them.
Best for: freight brokers are great for those with big volumes of freight, where they can save you time and money especially since shipping in bulk is more complicated. On the flip side, they are also great for one-time shipments because of their expertise and know-how in the industry.
Online freight exchanges
An online freight exchange is an online service that gives you wholesale quotes from various carriers, forwarders, and other logistics companies, all in one place. These do-it-yourself brokerage platforms also add an additional percentage to wholesale rates but they tend to be less expensive thanks to lower overhead costs afforded by the current technology.
Best for: this service is great for shippers who want full control in their shipment operations and are willing to customize their solutions according to their own needs.
International freight forwarders
These are similar to freight brokers but they specialize in import and export services. They deal with ocean transport companies and air freight carriers on behalf of the shipper and they charge fees on top of the carrier’s wholesale rates.
Best for: their service is suited for businesses with a global customer base and their expertise helps you save time and money in international shipping.
2. Prepare the details about your shipment
After choosing the right kind of service provider for you, you need to give them these details to obtain an accurate price quote.
Type of freight
This refers to pallets, crates, barrels, and many other types of containers that you can use to place your goods onto. Pallets are often used for boxes with product in them while crates are usually for commercial or industrial equipment.
It is also important that the freight must be packaged securely to prevent them from being damaged in transit. You can refer to this in-depth guide on how to package your products properly for shipment.
Type of goods
The vast majority of consumer and industrial products are classified into different National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) codes, which categorize goods with the same weight per cubic foot. These codes are numbered from 50 to 500 where the lower the code number, the lower the shipping rate.
Check out this post to see which freight class your goods might fall into.
Value of your shipment
The value of your shipment only becomes important when you have to get cargo insurance, which is different from the carrier’s liability insurance.
Sometimes, the liability insurance may not be enough to recoup the losses in case your cargo is lost or damaged. And if you’re shipping high-value products, freight insurance makes more sense and some carriers even require it before they accept your business.
Brokers and carriers often give you choices for freight insurance, but it wouldn’t hurt to explore outside options so you can find the best one for you.
You can learn more about the benefits, types, and coverage of cargo insurance here.
Size and weight
Carriers charge shippers primarily on the size and weight of the freight and they will also charge you extra for re-weighing and re-measuring if your measurements are inaccurate.
If you choose to go with a pallet, first weigh the cargo without the pallet and then add 40 lbs, which is usually the weight of the pallet. As for the size of the cargo, it’s generally recommended that it shouldn’t exceed the length and width of a pallet, which is around 40” L x 48” W x 6” H. If you’re using multiple pallets, just add the length and weight of each pallet to get the total size and weight of your shipment.
If you have six pallets or less to ship, it’s generally recommended to go with less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping because it’s more cost-effective. But if you have more than seven pallets and especially if the shipment is time-sensitive, full truckload (FTL) shipping is advised due to its safety and delivery speed.
Special handling requirements
Shipping fragile or perishable goods safely is definitely possible, but doing so also costs you more because it requires a bit more care by the carrier.
Here are some common services, which are also known as accessorials, for special handling:
- Inside pickup and delivery - this service is for freight that needs to be picked up or delivered inside a building or facility.
- Residential delivery - this is for delivery to a residential address where trucks are more limited to move around.
- Liftgate service - this service is used if there is no dock or forklift to unload or pick up the freight.
- Refrigeration truck - also known as a reefer truck, this is for goods that need a cool environment while in transit.
- Hazardous materials (hazmat) transport - this is for transporting hazardous products that require great attention to detail to avoid contamination and further injury.
You can definitely consult your broker or carrier about what they would suggest for your shipment as well as how much it would cost you for this extra service.
Service providers would usually only ask you for the zip code of the destination when you want to get a quote from them. They would then only ask for the exact address once you choose to work with them.
For shipments within the United States, it’s also important to remember that it’s not necessarily more expensive if the destination is further away from the origin. You see, trucks drive through pre-designated commercial routes called lanes and some of these lanes are actually less expensive to operate for carriers.
For cross-border shipping, be sure to first find a forwarder or a carrier who can ship internationally and find out if there would be other requirements for international shipping.
Expected delivery time
Delivery speed is another significant factor into pricing the cost of your shipment and usually, the faster the delivery speed, the more expensive it would be. Delivery times can also vary from carrier to carrier and when you get a freight quote, what you’ll usually get is an estimated price and transit time only.
You have three options to choose from when it comes to the speed of delivery for your shipment:
- Standard shipping - this option takes the longest and is the least expensive. This is great if you’re not pressed for time but it’s normal for shipments to arrive one to two days later than advertised.
- Expedited shipping - this option is more expensive because the carrier prioritizes your freight to be delivered immediately. Sometimes this is the minimum option you have to go with especially for perishable cargo.
- Guaranteed shipping - as the name suggests, this option guarantees the delivery date albeit at a higher cost. You can also schedule a specific delivery time during the day that allows you to transport a shipment that’s needed at an exact moment.
Booking your shipment
Before pulling the trigger and booking your shipment, we encourage you to take the time to analyse the freight quote and your requirements to avoid more problems down the line.
But here’s a general overview of what can happen once you choose a broker or carrier:
- First, they will have you fill up a blank Bill of Lading (BOL) form, which asks details like origin and destination addresses, contact numbers, freight class, weight, size, number of units, etc. Specify as many details as you can before submitting it to get the most accurate quote from them.
- When you’re satisfied with their offer after negotiating, you need to figure out the pickup time for your shipment. It’s common in the shipping industry for pickup times to be in the afternoon. But be sure to specify a time (including the buffer period for late arrival) that your facility is still open.
- After confirming your pickup time, prepare your shipment before the driver arrives so your cargo can be shipped as soon as possible. You may also have to ask for a liftgate service if there’s no loading dock in your facility.
- You also need to have another copy of the BOL as the driver will sign that and leave it to you as the proof of pickup. Once your shipment is loaded, hopefully your broker or carrier allows you to track your freight while in transit.
Getting the most accurate freight quote primarily involves choosing the right shipping partner and giving them all the details they need to give you a very close estimate.
Don’t also hesitate to get quotes from various logistics companies and ask if they can provide a cost breakdown for you. Give them the same details so you can compare different quotes apples-to-apples.
And when you know where you can negotiate with the service providers, more often than not they’re willing to adjust in order to win your business. As long as you make your needs clear, getting a good deal with a reputable broker or carrier is possible.