A Freight Guide for Startups, Small Business & Ebay Sellers


The freight shipping business is not sexy despite Shipping Wars' Disney-wood portayal. Loud (real) trucks and grizzly (real) drivers commanded by angry (you get it) dispatchers barking orders from faraway outposts. It’s rough around the edges and frankly the middle is not much smoother. But, don’t be fooled, this lean mean trucking machine is meant to do one thing very well: move large & heavy goods from A to B quickly and cheaply. And if you are a startup, small business or Ebay seller you cannot afford not to take advantage of the amazing economies of scale available to you through this vast network of carriers. This post will explain how to get into ship-shape despite not having a dock, forklift, pallets, etc. and why you should avoid UShip at all costs!

No Dock

Yes, real trucks are 4 feet off the ground (dock height) and, generally speaking, carriers are not going to give you more than 5-10 minutes per stop to hand load your goods on the truck, shrink wrap them, etc. You have three good options 1) Forklift/pallet loader ($1500-$5000 one time cost) or 2) Liftgate pickup ($0-$100 per pickup) 3) drop off your shipment at the local terminal.

Carriers make ground level pickups and deliveries all the time. Every carrier has at least one liftgate (aka hydraulic jack operated steel plate to lift your stuff off the ground and onto the truck) per terminal. You might not always get same day pickups because in many terminals there is only one liftgate but they have them and for a nominal fee (usually $0-$100 but many brokers have this fee waived or reduced) they can scoop up just about anything you can dish out at them. Note: Awkwardly shaped or heavy items that pose a risk of falling off and squashing people and damaging the item are not a good fit for a liftgate pickup. If you don't want to pay for the L/G fee or your shipment is too big find a way to get it down to the terminal (Must be properly packaged).

No Forklift

If you don’t have a forklift/pallet loader and don’t want to invest in one you can go back to the instruction above for “No Dock” and request a lift gate pickup. LTL Drivers ALWAYS have pallet jacks with them so they can help you get your pallet to the truck and onto the liftgate.

No Pallet

You should always have your freight at least on a pallet. This is the single most important and easiest thing you can do to protect your goods. It keeps them off the ground and allows a shipment to be moved safely by forklift. If it’s not on a pallet once it’s back at the terminal your shipment will probably be moved by a forklift whether or not it’s on a pallet and you can imagine what that looks like in the latter case. Be resourceful and go to Home Depot, any supermarket or any industrial park and scoop up one of the many discarded pallets and start stockpiling!

By the way, sending a shipment via freight is like coaching football. You send your players into the game knowing they're going to get roughed up or at the very least get their uniforms dirty. You have to expect that some of them are going to get hurt (About .0075% on average). But, it is part of the game so prepare accordingly. Package your shipment like it is going to war because it is.

Shipping From or To Residential Area

Carriers deliver to and pickup from residences fairly often. It’s not convenient or efficient for them so they do charge for it (Usually $100 - again brokers, like myself, have this fee reduced). You cannot go residence to residence with most carriers so that brings us to our next hack:

Shipping Residence to Residence

Freight carriers are not and do not want to be household goods movers. They want to be B2B, consistent volume, good freight (low risk for claims. heavy, easy to move around).  So this type of move is out of the question for them. You have some options, assuming it cannot go ground parcel, 1) Bring to a professional packing service which will also save you on residential/liftgate charges 2) Either drop the shipment off at the origin terminal or pickup at the destination terminal to get around this rule or 3) Use a service like freightfrog.com to keep effort & costs low.

Not Enough Volume 

If you cannot obtain decent pricing from a carrier because your volume is too low you should contact a broker. Brokers combine many customers under one account to get better pricing from carriers. There are an abundance of other reasons (basically they will manage your shipping for you) you should be using a broker anyways (Read this article).

Truck Cannot Access My Location

All terminals have smaller trucks (Usually the same truck as the liftgate). Carriers will charge you to go to these places (Limited Access Pickup or Delivery) but will generally work with you to get the freight on the truck. It’s not unheard of to have a driver meet a customer at the bottom of a driveway or a steep hill with the freight in a pickup truck to make the exchange happen. Another instance where freightfrog.com might be of service.

Why You Should Avoid UShip

UShip has been overly glorified by the likes of Discovery Channel's Shipping Wars. I have tested out UShip on my own and spoken to both satisfied & disgruntled customers about this service. There are a host of issues including transit time, quality control, reliability, equipment & professionalism.

I commend UShip for their innovative free market approach which comes down to the novelty of creating a publicly accessible load board. However, I believe it is at the expense of having safe and reliable transportation options and this need could be filled in a more innovative way. I will be writing a future post detailing all of the issues.

What You Should Take Away From This Post

You don't have to spend a fortune on a warehouse lease or fancy equipment to tap into our amazing domestic freight network. All you need is some good old fashioned resourcefulness and a freight broker and you will be shipping in style. If I didn't address your issue in the above post please reach out to me here and I will make sure we get you setup!