2021 Freight Shipping Trends

What is freight shipping?

Freight shipping is the process of transporting commodities, goods, and cargo by land, sea, or air.

Freight itself can be defined as the goods transported by truck, train, ship, or plane.

Four Major types of freight transportation

No. 1 – Road or ground freight

When using ground freight shipping, the two major types are less-than-truckload and full-truckload.

Less-than-truckload (LTL) refers to goods and commodities that do not fill up the entire truck. LTL allows for other shippers to join together to save more money for smaller shipments.

Full-truckload (FTL) is the opposite; an entire truck dedicates to one shipper. FTL benefits shippers that need a dedicated space for high-value cargo and shorter transit time (LTL requires more time by transport from one truck to another).

No. 2 – Ocean freight

Ocean freight, also called sea freight, is the movement of goods internationally by sea. Ocean freight is far and away from the most popular option for shipping goods internationally. Roughly 90% of goods1 are transported around the world by sea.

No. 3 – Rail freight

Rail freight transport is the usage of railroads and trains to transport cargo on land. It can use to transport various kinds of goods or some of the way between the shipper and the intended destination.

No. 4 – Airfreight & Air cargo

Airfreight parcel delivery is the transfer and shipment of goods via an air carrier, which may be charter or commercial.

2020 top freight carriers

Top 3 ocean carriers

No.1 MSC-Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSCU)

Twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU): 908,144

No.2 Ocean Network Express Pte Ltd. (ONEY)

Twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU): 865,914

No.3 Hapag-Lloyd A G(HLCU)

Twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU): 683,152

Top 3 ocean forwarders

No.1 Kuehne + Nagel

Headquarter: Switzerland

Ocean containers: 4,861,000

No.2 Sinotrans Ltd.

Headquarter: China Ocean containers: 3,740,000

No.3 DHL Supply Chain & Global Forwarding

Headquarter: Germany

Ocean containers: 3,207,000

Top 3 air forwarders

No.1 DHL Supply Chain & Global Forwarding

Headquarter: Germany

Airfreight (metric tons): 2,051,000

No.2 Kuehne + Nagel

Headquarter: Switzerland

Airfreight (metric tons): 1,643,000

No.3 DB Schenker

Headquarter: Germany

Airfreight (metric tons): 1,162,000

Comparison of each type of freight

Ocean freight Vs. Air freight

Should I ship air or ocean?

The choice between air and ocean depends typically on your shipment’s size, weight, and contents – and how fast you need your goods.


The air is much more expensive than the ocean, and air prices fluctuate more often than the ocean freight. There are two significant aspects to influence air freight prices. One is fuel cost, and the other is capacity. During peak season, the air freight prices are changing every day. However, the ocean freight prices are stable.


Airfreight is faster than the ocean freight. So the emergency shipments ship by air freight. But there is a new fast ocean freight service that reduces the ocean freight transit time. Some carriers called express ocean services. For example, regular ocean freight shipments from China to the US take around 25 days of arrival in the US, the transit days of express ocean freight service reduces to 18-20 days.

Product Specification

Airfreight has restrictions of hazardous products including:

  • Gases (e.g., lamp bulbs)
  • All things flammable (e.g., perfume)
  • Toxic or corrosive (e.g., batteries)
  • Liquide
  • Strong magnetic

Because all shipments should follow the airline regulation, due to air freight will ship by air cargo or commercial flights.

Eco-friendly shipping

International bodies, governments, and individuals are increasingly taking responsibility for their impact on the environment. For instance, 114 large corporations recently committed to emission reduction for more eco-friendly shipping. Even smaller businesses are considering how they contribute to a more sustainable future. This will increasingly have a business impact, too: not having green credentials will lose business.

CO2 emissions from ocean freight are minuscule compared with air freight. Even withstanding some concerns about measurement, ocean freight has a much smaller carbon footprint.

Will my online orders need to ship by freight?


Freight shipping is for B2B businesses with big volume and heavyweight products. Most B2C sellers use express commercial or postal to ship the orders.

However, if you are an Amazon seller using FBA, the ocean or air freight may involve in your shipping method. For example, your suppliers in China use freight to ship the product to the US Amazon fulfillment center or EU Amazon fulfillment center.

But which should I use for shipping to FBA? Ocean or air?

Scenario one:

Unit product size is small, and you need to use air+ocean freight, air freight for shipping small initial quantity to start the sales in Amazon, when orders increased or the sales stable, begin to use ocean freight. Still, it would help if you did an inventory replenishment seriously because the air+ocean shipping method will help you decrease your shipping cost from suppliers to FBA.

Scenario two:

Unit product size is large, or the volume is big, like furniture, kitchen equipment, garden-related products, etc. The only choice is sea freight because the air freight will pull your profit to zero.

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