What is General Freight Trucking?

General freight trucking plays a crucial role in local, national, and global supply chains.

Trucks in the general freight market carry a wide variety of goods. They help many types of businesses keep raw materials, parts, and inventory in stock. The full-truckload segment of this industry alone generated $91.4 billion in revenue in 2022.

Looking for more information about general freight trucking? Keep reading to learn about what general freight trucking is, common equipment used, related types of trucking, and much more.

What is General Freight Trucking? A Guide

General freight trucking is used to transport a diverse array of goods in either a shipping container or trailer. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) breaks general freight trucking into three categories:

What’s the Difference Between Less Than Truckload & Full Truckload Shipping?

LTL and FTL are short for full truckload and less than truckload, respectively. FTL and LTL shipping refer to two distinct categories of general freight trucking that are important to differentiate.

  • FTL Shipping: At the most basic level, FTL trucking refers to a single load, normally 10,000 lbs. or more, carried by a truck exclusively.
  • LTL Shipping:  LTL trucking usually involves a single trailer carrying several freight shipments. These LTL loads are smaller shipments, generally coming from multiple businesses and locations. They normally weigh anywhere between 100-5,000 lbs.

As our above-linked blog post on FTL and LTL trucking notes, both are important subcategories of general freight trucking, and each offers unique benefits and drawbacks.

Businesses pay to use all the space in a trailer with FTL and this type of trucking usually involves a single pickup and delivery, allowing for greater control over shipments. Therefore this method of shipping freight is commonly used with large loads (at or around 10,000 lbs), as well as valuable shipments. It may also be used to expedite a shipment, since cargo transported via this method normally goes straight from the pickup point to the intended destination.

FTL trucking does, however, cost more, and is less efficient when space and/or weight are not maximized.

On the other hand, LTL trucking involves lower costs and longer shipping times. It’s also a far more efficient method of shipping. For these reasons, it’s much more common than FTL trucking.

Why is General Freight Trucking Important?

We’ve covered general freight trucking’s definition and different categories of this important type of trucking. But why is it important?

In addition to shipment by cargo ship or airplane, general freight trucking plays an important role in transporting large amounts of goods locally and across the U.S. It is an essential link in local, national, and supply chains and is used to handle a wide variety of commodities.

What Equipment is Used in General Freight Trucking?

General freight transportation requires a tractor trailer truck in addition to a mode of transporting cargo — this can include shipping containers (intermodal trucking) or standard truck trailers. Good inside trucks are often transported on pallets or in crates.

What Other Types of Trucking Are Used Besides General Freight Trucking?

Specialized freight trucking is the other main category of trucking. It refers to “the transportation of freight which, because of size, weight, shape, or other inherent characteristics, requires specialized equipment, such as flatbeds, tankers, or refrigerated trailers.”

It may be helpful to understand what general freight is compared to specialized freight. Namely, anything that isn’t classified as specialized freight can be classified as general freight.

OTR vs Intermodal Trucking

Because general freight trucking includes both long and short distance components, it encompasses many different types of shipping. OTR and intermodal trucking are two of the most important.

All trucking, whether hauling general freight or specialized freight, can be broken down into three main categories — local, regional, and over the road trucking (OTR), with OTR referring to long-distance trips. OTR drivers move freight across the entire country.

By contrast, intermodal trucking, also commonly referred to as drayage, refers to the transport of intermodal containers, also called shipping containers, by truck, usually over short distances.

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What is General Freight Trucking?