Shipping and freight services transport packages, letters, freight, cargo, finished goods, and raw materials. They may specialize in the shipment of specific types of items, or ship a variety of products. For example, some domestic or international shipping and freight services specialize in the transportation of industrial machinery, office furniture, military equipment, or automobiles. Others ship agricultural commodities such as wheat or corn, chemical products or petrochemicals, or processed foods and beverages. Shipping and freight services that transport letters, legal documents, parcels, and packages to homes, businesses, and offices are also available.
Shipping and freight services differ in terms of transportation modes, capabilities, and geographic area. Transportation modes include air, marine, rail, and truck. Air transport involves the airborne movement of freight, typically by airplane but also by helicopter. Some carriers fly only national or continental routes; however, international shipping services are commonly available. The marine transport of cargo and freight involves the use of waterborne or oceangoing vessels such as boats, ships, oil tankers, and ore carriers. Freight that is moved by railways may be shipped by railroads alone, or via intermodal transportation. For example, some shipping and freight services send trailers aboard flatbed railroad cars that are later off-loaded and attached to trucks.
Domestic and International
With regard to capabilities and geography, there are two basic types of shipping and freight services: domestic and international. Domestic shipping services and domestic freight services move items only within the boundaries of a national area. International shipping and freight services can ship goods across national borders, across continents, or around the world. Often, these international carriers may help customers prepare and provide the necessary import or export documentation for international shipments. They can also help clients to complete shipping forms and understand automated export system (AES) filings and harmonized system (HS) classifications for commodity shipments.
Although shipping and freight services can be grouped together, shipping services generally specialize in moving lighter-weight items such as parcels and packages. By contrast, freight services move freight and cargo that weighs hundreds of pounds and/or requires special handling. As with shipping services, freight services may offer various schedules for urgent delivery, time-definite delivery, and day-definite delivery.