Ground Freight Forwarding: The Best Bang for Your Buck?

Ground freight sounds simple enough. You need a truck, materials to ship and you’re done, right? At a basic level, yes. But there’s more going on behind the scenes that makes ground shipments successful. It’s best to learn about all the modes of freight forwarding and the associated costs to help you select the best combination of services to meet your company’s supply chain needs.

What is ground freight forwarding?

Ground freight is the use of a variety of types of motor vehicles to move freight between two locations. The type of motor vehicle can range from vans to specialty heavy load trucks.

Ground freight, like most logistics transportation, has service levels from expedite to economy. When using ground transportation, you’ll hear terms such as:

  • Hotshot
  • Full Truckload (FTL)
  • Less than Truckload (LTL)
  • Courier Services
Semi Truck Cargo and Air cargo collage


Types of Ground Freight Forwarding


A hotshot refers to a truck exclusively moving your freight direct between two locations. When you need something delivered in a set timeframe on a dedicated vehicle with ‘round the clock tracking and care, expedite is the way to go. Whether the shipment is straightforward point A to point B or requires some white glove handling, expedited hot shots have become a very popular method of ground freight forwarding. Hotshots may be more expensive than your traditional ground freight forwarding options.


FTL means the entire truck is dedicated to your product. It is the obvious choice when you have enough product to fill up a trailer. FTL is the simplest out of the types of ground freight forwarding because the customer is in total control. This option makes sense to use when you have enough product to fill the truck or when you have most of the truck filled and need to minimize touches of your shipment.


When utilizing LTL, you only pay for what you use on the truck. Smaller volumes of freight that don’t take up the space of a full truck are added to other shipments from various companies to fill the trailer. Think of this option as a rideshare with multiple parties – all of you are splitting the cost of the trailer to get to various destinations along the way. This can lead to cost savings.

Courier Services

Courier services are transporting small shipments to a specific consignee (e.g. hospital, life science lab, etc.). If you need something asap, a courier can pick up your item when you need it. It can be done through hand carry services or using a small van to get there in the time you need it.


Why choose ground freight over another transportation method?

The key to coordinating a successful supply chain is finding a balance between cost vs. transit time. Ground transportation is relatively quick and less expensive than using air freight services.

Most companies use a mix of freight services to support their supply chains. They use rail and economy ground freight to move the bulk of their product and air freight services for expedite shipments with distances too far to get the shipment there overnight.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of using ground freight?


  • Reliable
  • Easy to track using GPS
  • Lower cost when domestic
  • Flexible
  • Able to be offloaded as requested


  • More touch points (with LTL)
  • Increased possibility for damage or lost shipment
  • May need to be utilized with air freight services for time critical or intercontinental shipments



Each mode of freight forwarding has advantages and disadvantages. How you move your freight can help achieve your customer’s needs as well as your financial goals. Whether you need expedited hot shots every month to keep your production line on track or courier services from life science labs to hospitals, ground freight may be the best option for you. Utilizing a 3pl provider can help you choose which mode or mode mix is right for your supply chain.

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