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How Fast Is Freight Shipping?

May 2, 2022 Kevin Baxter

Checks Watch

Freight shipping can be as fast as it needs to be, or can take lengthy amounts of time depending on the mode of transportation, the distance it's traveling, the price paid by the shipper and other factors. If product is needed tomorrow, there are freight modes that can accommodate such a need. If a shipment is working on a looser timeline, a month or more is not unusual for international freight. The fastest freight mode in a vacuum is air freight, while the slowest is ocean freight (not counting some type of horse-drawn, non-powered method). Staying on the ground, truckload is faster than intermodal, though not as drastically as some may think. Delays can of course happen to any type of freight, whether they be weather-related, due to congestion at ports or terminals, because of staffing issues, tied to failed equipment or related in some way - commonly these days - to Covid-19. So, long story short, freight shipping can be fast, or it can be less fast. Let's get to some more precise numbers.

How long does freight shipping usually take?

While transportation timelines are hardly absolute, some general guidelines for how long freight shipping usually takes are:

  • Expedited freight (domestic, truck/air): 1-3 days
  • Expedited freight (international, air): 1-3 days
  • Standard freight (domestic, truck): 5 days
  • Standard freight (domestic, intermodal): 6-8 days
  • Standard freight (international, air): 5-10 days
  • Standard freight (international, ocean, China to West Coast): 20-30 days
  • Standard freight (international, ocean, China to East Coast): 30-45 days

A couple of major caveats: All these times are heavily dependent on a variety of factors, including distance, route, congestion, capacity, weather conditions, load size, load type, and too many more to list. Also notable, to save money on domestic expedited, trucks may deliver in the same amount of time as air, so aim for that mode whenever possible. Another potential money-saver: On some well established intermodal lanes, a shipment may take the same amount of time as truckload. And that often goes for a lower rate. Finally, the world of ocean freight has been especially hard to predict of late, as starting in 2021, some ship times from China more than doubled. In sum, there are many factors to consider to determine how long freight shipping takes.

If you're ready to take the next step, at InTek Freight & Logistics, we can help. Just tell us what you need and we'll discuss how our expertise can help with the unique shipping challenges your business faces. Rather do a bit more research first? View our Freight Guides for comprehensive articles and eBooks on all things freight and logistics.

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