What Is Transloading?

Transloading is a shipping term that refers to the transfer of goods from one mode of transportation to another en route to their ultimate destination. Long-haul shipments of goods often involve multiple shipping companies, multiple modes of transit, or both.

Transloading has become a standard method for shipping goods in recent years, in part due to increased international trade and the growth of internet commerce. Many retailers and manufacturers now market their products around the world. Transloading is one tool for the complicated logistics involved.

Key Takeaways

  • The long-distance transfer of goods often involves transloading, or moving goods from one mode of transit to another en route to the final destination.
  • Trucks, trains, planes, and container ships all may be used to transport containers of goods from their sources to their destinations.
  • Many companies now outsource their shipping systems to logistics companies.

Understanding Transloading

Most freight is now shipped in rectangular steel containers that are either 20 feet or 40 feet in length, although other lengths also are used. The containers are intermodal, meaning they can be transferred from trucks to rail cars to ship holds and back again as necessary.

This standardization has greatly increased the use and efficiency of transloading. Many of today's commercial ships are giant, purpose-built container ships that deliver goods internationally.

Perishables and Nonperishables

The method of delivery depends on the shipping speed that is required. Shipping canned goods from the U.S. to Europe, for example, may involve trucks and trains transporting the goods to shipyards. Carrying fresh sushi-grade tuna may involve driving an air-conditioned truck to an airport and loading it onto an air freight carrier so that it arrives quickly.

Most goods are now shipped in rectangular steel containers that are designed to be intermodal.

In general, trains and ships are the most economically efficient transport methods for most nonperishable goods. Large trucks can be used to transport goods from ports or rail depots, while smaller trucks may be used for delivery to their final destinations.

Nonetheless, many products require specialized handling. Bulk goods like grain, flammable products like gasoline, and many other products have their own transport complications and solutions.

The Logistics

Due to the sheer complexity of options, many companies these days prefer to outsource their shipping to third-party facilitators.

These contemporary logistics companies plot a route and track delivery from the source to the customer, using software to plan the most efficient combination of transport modes.

Familiar Names in Logistics

Some names that are familiar to consumers for home delivery are also big names in logistics with expertise in transloading. Two of the world's biggest, in fact, are UPS and FedEx.

UPS operates a cargo airline and a freight trucking service as well as handling door-to-door home delivery.  DHL specializes in international deliveries. CSX concentrates on rail delivery in the U.S. and has consolidated several older companies into a 21,000-mile network. Ryder, familiar to consumers for its rental trucks, is now a major name in transportation management and warehousing. 

Article Sources
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  1. FedEx. "Company structure & facts." Accessed Jan. 31, 2021.

  2. UPS. "UPS Facts and Figures." Accessed Jan. 31, 2021.

  3. UPS Freight. "Get Started with UPS Freight LTL." Accessed Jan. 31, 2021.

  4. UPS Air Cargo. "Welcome to UPS Air Cargo." Accessed Jan. 31, 2021.

  5. DHL. "International Shipping." Accessed Jan. 31, 2021.

  6. CSX. "History & Evolution." Accessed Jan. 31, 2021.

  7. Ryder. "Supply Chain Management." Accessed Jan. 31, 2021.

  8. Ryder. "Dedicated Transportation Solutions." Accessed Jan. 31, 2021.

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