For global shippers of wood, metals and other dense cargo, heavy freight shipping companies will charge you more for over-the-road heavy hauls. But, in the process, they can help cut your total freight shipping costs as much as 20%.
The savings are on the ocean shipping leg of the journey.
The key to efficient ocean shipping is to put as much in the container as you can. But many shippers of dense cargo don't do this. They follow steamship line guidance to limit container weight to 44,000 pounds, or even less – despite the fact that the actual capacity limit is the maximum gross cargo weight listed on the container door. That's usually 10,000 pounds or more beyond the 44,000-pound “limit.”
Why do some shippers follow this artificial limit?
Because DOT regulations set the allowable gross weight for a truck – including the vehicle, chassis, container, fuel, and driver – at 80,000 pounds. At a container weight of 44,000 pounds, a shipper can usually stay within this limit, allowing them to pick up the container at the port and legally deliver direct to the consignee with no special permits or equipment.
That’s a convenient strategy. It's just not the most cost-effective global shipping strategy for dense freight since it weighs out a container far before it cubes out. You’re paying to ship a lot of air.
In most states, the right permit allows a truck to operate at a gross weight of up to 90,000 pounds. In a few states, the upper limit is 100,000 pounds. (Read our article on DOT truck weight limits by state.) Shipping these heavy hauls requires the services of a heavy freight shipping company with specialized equipment and permits.
Paying a little more for this specialized service over the road lets you save money upstream
By packing more cargo into a container, you can reduce the total number of containers you ship – and your shipping costs – by about 20%. For any shipper, that's a material boost to the profit line. Mid-size-to-large shippers can easily realize 6- to 7-figure savings by adopting a heavyweight ocean shipping strategy.
I.C.E Transport worked with a tea importer to ship more freight in fewer containers, cutting the company’s per-ton shipping costs by $14.32 per metric ton. Despite an increase of around $500 for each CY-to-door delivery, the company saved $10,500 per month, or $126,000 per year from this simple change.
Check out our heavyweight ocean freight savings calculator to compute the savings potential for your company.
Finding heavy freight shipping companies can be hard work
To adopt a heavyweight ocean shipping strategy, you would need to have a reliable network of heavy freight shipping companies for first- and last-mile service.
That's easier said than done.
First, most carriers don't haul heavy freight because of the added operating costs and risks. Those that do might be hard to find, particularly when capacity is tight and there is plenty of ”easy freight” to be had.
You'll have to reach out to them one by one to find a good match for your lane. That takes time. It takes even more time to make sure the heavy freight shipping company arrives with everything needed to stay compliant, like the proper permit and equipment.
Load boards can help a little, but you'll still have to do some vetting. Does the carrier who accepts your load have the right permits to move through each state along the route? Does it have the right insurance?
Steamship lines don't really have the relationships with heavy haul carriers needed for their door-to-door bookings. It's easier for them to set an artificial weight limit on containers and avoid use of specialized truckers.
Another thing that makes it hard to manage a network of heavy haul truckers on your own is the need to keep track of the truck weight limits for individual states, which vary. Our eBook on how to reduce costs in heavy goods shipping contains a chart with state-by-state weight limits.
If you don't have relationships with heavy freight shipping companies, lean on a freight forwarder that specializes in heavy freight shipping. They can manage your door-to-door global shipments, leveraging long-term relationships with vetted and proven heavy haul truckers for first- and last-mile service.
Doing it on your own might put your company at risk. Some truckers say they can move heavy loads, but then show up without the proper equipment and permits. If they get pulled over by a trooper with a portable scale, your container will sit until another carrier is found to complete the trip or the load is lightened. If an unqualified trucker gets into an accident and winds up in court, so do you.
The advantages of using a freight forwarder that knows heavy freight shipping
Here are some benefits of partnering with a freight forwarder that specializes in heavy freight and has strong relationships with heavy freight shipping companies.
- Access capacity when you need it from an existing network of carriers. The right forwarder should be able to quickly match your need with the right carrier to avoid delays.
- Get better rates. Freight forwarders handle heavy loads for many shippers and can often get a better rate from truckers they use frequently.
- Ensure suitable equipment is used. Like chassis that can handle the extra weight safely.
- Stay compliant. Brokers for heavy haul trucking vet carriers carefully. They know all the questions to ask to make sure the trucker arrives with a valid overweight shipment permit.
Find the right freight forwarder for your heavyweight shipping strategy
For shippers of heavier, dense freight, the cost benefit of a heavyweight global shipping strategy is compelling. But executing on that strategy requires a network of heavy freight shipping companies for landside transport.
Your best move might be to partner with a global freight forwarder, like I.C.E. Transport, that specializes in heavy freight shipping. Since 1987, we have established a strong nationwide network of honest, qualified OTR carriers to move your heavy containers safely and in full compliance with DOT regulations. To learn more, talk to an I.C.E. heavy shipping specialist.