What are Shipping Lanes


A shipping lane is often defined as a designated route for ocean vessels that act as a sort of highway to cross large bodies of water like oceans or lakes. It was created as a direct result of strong winds that would blow westerly, enabling a ship’s sail to leverage the direction of the wind to sail much more quickly than usual. Shipping lanes have mostly been used reduce the amount of time and risk a ship would face in sailing to a westerly destination. This technique still works to this day despite ships no longer relying on sails in order to navigate the ocean since it can leverage both the engine and the current to move through a lane.

Current Shipping Lanes

In modern day logistics, however, the term shipping lanes has a much broader definition. According to FreightCenter, a shipping lane can also refer to a carrier lane, trucking lane, or a freight lane. Which makes sense now that over 70% of all freight is being transported in the United States by trucks. Of that figure, a lot of it is freight moving through dedicated shipping lanes.

U.S. Trucking Industry - $700B

Source: Owner-Operators Independent Driver's Association

The benefits of dedicated shipping lanes for the operations of transportation intermediaries and carriers alike are reduced waste and more cost-effective shipping solutions. Dedicated freight/lanes are the epitome of a win-win situation in logistics.

FTL/Partial Truckload Shipping Lane

Owner-operators (independent truckers) often transport full truckload and partial truckload shipments within their dedicated shipping lanes. Again, this is a win-win situation for both the intermediary (3PL) and the owner-operator. The trucks win because they can count on a routine load every day, week, or month from their provider which continues to provide a steady flow of revenue. The intermediaries also bag a win for their work is minimal: just making sure the trailer is where it needs to be and when it needs to be there in order to get loaded. Eagle Express Service has numerous dedicated carriers that will haul your truckloads/partials locally or nationwide (including Canada and Mexico).

What is full truckload freight?

Full truckload freight is the transportation of goods that make up the entirety of a truck’s fifty-three foot trailer. Full truckloads differ from partial truckloads due to the fact that partial truckloads only take up a portion of the fifty-three foot trailer, leaving some remaining space open. Full truckloads are often a faster and more expensive shipping solution when dedicated to a single customer because they are likely to make less stops and the cost of the trailer is being covered by one entity.

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Full Truckload Freight

Shipping Lane

What types of commodities are shipped by the truckload?

As stated previously, 70% of all freight is transported via truckloads. This means that there are a lot of different commodities being loaded into and shipped by these fifty-three foot trailers. But what commodities are most commonly hauled as truckload freight? For your reference, here are the top 12 commodities actively being shipped by the truckload:

Freight Volume By Commodity

Source: www.bts.gov - Illustration: FreightWaves

Expedite/Team Service Shipping Lane

When it comes to the fast-paced economy that exists today, quick, reliable freight shipping has never been more important in logistics. Regardless of the destination, businesses and consumers have an elevated standard when it comes to the delivery times of their shipments. This is even more true for time-sensitive freight. Expedited freight or team service has become a necessity in the current economy and forced to adapt with the times in order to relinquish inefficiencies like multiple time-wasting stops during transit.

What is expedited freight?

Expedited freight can simply be described as a shipping method that is used to reduce transit times through alternative solutions in the supply chain. Expedited shipping is used on different scales. For over-the-road (OTR) transportation, trucks that haul expedited freight hardly ever make stops during the route. Since the freight has very limited time to arrive at its destination, it is imperative any potential delays be mitigated in order to maintain customer satisfaction. Expedited services allow for the shipper to pass along the responsibility of managing the shipment onto the freight services provider.

What makes an expedited freight company good?

Shippers want to use freight services companies that have both a track record for timely expedited freight deliveries and exceptional service. With so many freight brokers entering and exiting the market every year, it becomes increasingly difficult for shippers to find those who can execute time and time again. Fortunately for shippers, Eagle Express Service has the experience and industry connections to move expedited freight on time, every time. When shippers book with Eagle, there is a peace of mind knowing that they will receive satellite tracking updates from our team of vigilant Transportation Dispatchers.

What’s the maximum radius of an expedited shipment?

The great thing about expedited freight is that there is no real mileage limit to what qualifies. For example, if a shipper needs a load moved from Los Angeles, CA to Atlanta, GA within two days, then you know that the load will be considered an expedited shipment. Transit time will likely be around 32 hours, so you’ll need to put a team on it in order to avoid violating any DOT or FMCSA regulations. Adhering to transportation rules and regulations is just one of the many reasons why using a reputable logistics providers is necessary for shippers.

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Expedited Freight

Shipping Lane

Long Haul Shipping Lane

Long haul freight transportation is considered to be the movement of goods over long distances, between two cities or terminals. Long haul can encompass different capacities: truck, intermodal, ocean, and air. Most often, however, long haul can be associated with over the road shipping lanes. Freight being shipped over the road (via truck) that is deemed long haul will almost always cost more in total than local delivery to ship because the time and fuel to get to the destination is far greater.

However, rates for truckload freight is variable and the per mile cost becomes cheaper the longer the route. In fact, it is often much cheaper than short haul since the rate is likely already been negotiated and is higher due to the short distance.

Drivers of long haul shipping lanes can travel between hundreds and thousands of miles to deliver a load. So if long haul freight is so much more involving than short haul, why do drivers prefer to do it? Well, here are some perks of being a long haul trucker:

  • Out on the open road

  • Travel and experience new cities

  • Higher paying

  • Drive highways rather than city streets

Short Haul Shipping Lane

Short haul is the opposite of long haul: a short distance of the transport of goods. Short haul is typically for local distribution from facilities directly to retailers or for final mile — warehousing direct to consumer. It is also common for the trucks to be less than truckload or LTL. Drivers will not likely exceed 100 mile transit driving short haul routes, having to navigate city local city streets and some highways to arrive at the destination.

It is for these reasons that short haul can be appealing for drivers. Here are some additional benefits of short haul for carriers:

  • Work-life balance

  • Can sleep in your own bed at night

  • Spend more time with family/friends/socializing

  • Earn almost as much income as long haul

  • Doesn’t require loading/unloading large trailers

How do long haul shipping lanes differ from short haul?

Source: Federal Highway Administration, 2013

Source: Federal Highway Administration, 2013

As I am sure you can tell, long haul differs from short haul in that they have longer routes than that of a short haul driver. A majority of short haul drivers will make deliveries within a radius of 150 - 250 miles. This allows the drivers on these types of shipments to have greater flexibility with their work schedules, which may be highly desirable to drivers (especially those with families).

Meanwhile, a long haul trucker will be required to drive over 250 miles to make a single delivery. Check out the map above to see the most common shipping lanes for long haul truckers, as documented by the Federal Highway Administration.

Drivers have indicated where they feel the main shipping lanes run. To little surprise, they identified major cities and freight hubs like NYC, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, and St. Louis as part of their long-haul routes.

Future of Shipping Lanes

There is a big push right now into the automation of the trucking industry. The ability cut down on emissions, transit time, and improve road safety are just a few of the improvements that autonomous vehicles can bring to the table. Being a driver will be less taxing physically since the truck will be able to navigate the highways automatically, cutting down on both time and strain of the operator of the vehicle.

Source: Electrek

Source: Electrek

Companies like Tesla, Nikola, and others all want a piece of the autonomous trucking action for they know that it will revolutionize the transportation industry just as electric vehicles did with the personal automobile. There will come a point, like with electric vehicles, where retailers, manufacturers, and asset-based trucking companies and intermediaries will have no choice but to invest in the trailers of the future.

Doing so will ensure that supply chain processes are operating at full efficiency, supplying customers with timely deliveries without delays due to various truck maintenance issues such as flat tires, dead batteries, or overheated transmissions during transit.

Faster and more consistent transit times means shelves get restocked quicker and customers receive their goods as promised. This adjustment in systems efficiency will allow for businesses to reinvest their added earnings back into growth and fueling the economy.