Every day, the U.S. freight system employs a variety of methods to transport bulk materials and products across the nation. It serves factories, warehouses, retailers, eateries and public institutions. A wide range of infrastructure, vehicles and service providers help to make this possible. Let’s take a closer look at the components of the freight system in America.
American businesses utilize many different transportation systems to carry freight. Trucks, trains, ships and airplanes play major roles in this process. Some firms boost efficiency by employing multiple methods to move the same goods. The Intermodal Association of North America reports that companies use this technique to transport almost 25 million cargo containers each year.
While some large corporations operate their own freight truck fleets, numerous firms outsource this task to common carriers. Transportation brokers, shipper associations, freight forwarders and logistics providers often act as intermediaries. Depending on the terms of a transaction, the shipper or recipient might pay the carrier. Air and railway freight regularly changes hands during the shipping process. Interline junctions enable different rail carriers to exchange cargo.
Traditional freight carriers expect each shipper to fill an entire trailer or container with merchandise. However, more and more firms offer less-than-truckload transportation services. They use each truck to carry goods from multiple shippers. These carriers often need to move pallets of merchandise from one vehicle to another. An increasingly common practice is to separate shipments by connecting two short trailers to one truck.
Shippers have the option to hasten deliveries with rapid freight services or save cash by using slower carriers. Companies frequently pay extra to swiftly transport time-sensitive goods such as medicines, holiday products and fresh food. When a carrier provides an expedited shipping service, it usually guarantees a specific delivery date. Businesses can avoid this extra expense by carefully planning shipments of non-perishable items.
Many companies pay logistics providers to manage their freight shipping systems. These firms handle inventories, select suitable carriers and work to maximize efficiency. For example, they find ways to prevent vehicles from returning to terminals with empty trailers. A logistics firm may accomplish this by ensuring that an outgoing shipment is ready when a truck delivers materials. Alternately, it might identify a nearby factory that needs to ship goods at the same time.
Logistics experts find many other ways to reduce costs and expedite the process. They try to arrange deliveries in a way that uses loading docks and staff efficiently. If a store has few employees or only one dock, it doesn't make sense for two trucks to arrive at the same time. Likewise, a manufacturer might cut shipping expenses by sending summer clothes to regional warehouses during March or April.
It takes a great deal of expertise to optimize freight shipments in a manner that minimizes costs and prevents shortages. Individuals can learn more about this subject by earning college degrees in supply chain management. This type of educational program teaches students to manage inventories, plan business operations and make accurate predictions about logistical needs.