Four million miles of public roads, 140,000 miles of railroad tracks, 25,000 miles of navigable waterways, 9,800 coastal and inland waterway facilities, and 5,200 public-use airports help compose the United States' freight transportation system, the largest in the world.
Choosing your company's method of transportation is extremely important: The right mode of transport can lead to quick and efficient shipping and delivering, and happy customers, to boot; conversely, the wrong mode of transportation can be extremely costly and damaging.
Here are four tips on how to effectively ship your product.
Ocean shipping, which accounts for 90 percent of world trade, is much more cost effective, though slower, than shipping via air. Shipping containers come in two basic options: the 20-foot LCL (less-container-load), and the 40-foot (FCL (full-container-load). Shipping rates also depend on the weight of the shipments, the distance traveled, and the type of product. According to the American Association of Port Authorities, Los Angeles ranks as the United States' busiest port, but the title of world's busiest port belongs to Shanghai.
Shipping via air is the fastest way to ship, but it's also the most expensive, mainly due to new TSA rules and rising gas prices. Air transport is ideal for small, perishable items; larger containers suffer higher costs air costs are based on dimensional weight, which is the volume of the container, divided by a "dimensional factor," a number provided by the freight carrier. Surprisingly, Hong Kong and Shanghai currently play second and third fiddles to the largest cargo airport in the world: Memphis International Airport.
Trucking, the most common method of transport in the United States, especially for raw materials and consumer goods, is seeing a rise in prices. Due to new safety standards and restrictions, which could potentially put 20 to 30 percent of truckers out of work, fewer trucks are available, forcing carriers to compensate for the reduction in equipment. Trucking rates depend on the weight and the distance traveled, but expect a coast-to-coast trip to cost anywhere between $2,000 and $5,000.
If you are shipping products over 700 miles of land, rail shipping is your best bet. Besides being extremely cost effective, a single carload can carry up to 200 tons of freight, the equivalent of three trucks. Products that can be easily stacked, such as paper, are ideal for rail shipping. The one caveat? The process can take awhile. A cross-country trip on rail can take about five to seven days.