Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019


Jessi Freitag is the Startup CPG Podcast host and builds products for Startup CPG that help emerging brands grow faster.

Startup CPG has released the first Freight Database connecting freight brokers and carriers with emerging food & beverage brands who need LTL or FTL shipments. Links to access the database are at the bottom of the article.

Freight in CPG

Port delays, truck driver shortages, rising freight costs, and the increasing complexity of getting even one pallet across the country (or even a state), can easily erode CPG brands’ precious time. UNFI needs your shipment early? Your raw materials are sitting on a dock somewhere? LTL, FTL, BOL, lumpers, reefers – it’s a whole separate world to navigate. And options do not make it easier. As of February 2021, the US Department of Transportation reported 996,894 for-hire carriers, 813,440 private carriers, and 83,235 other interstate motor carriers. How do you choose a partner who will have your back and make sure your shipments get to the destination on time and intact?

Startup CPG has curated the first list of freight carriers and brokers just for CPG companies (created & crowdsourced by Startup CPG members).

Brokers vs Carriers

What’s the difference between freight brokers and carriers? Freight carriers own the actual trucks and physically transport your goods. Carriers vary in size from YELLOW with over 34,000 trailers to local carriers with just a few trucks (91% of trucking fleets have less than six trucks). Freight brokers act as intermediaries between brands and carriers for a small additional percentage. They have established relationships with carriers and look across multiple options to then contract your load. Ideally, a broker takes the pressure off a brand to follow up on all the pieces of a shipment and take care of any issues that arise.

Wesley J Urquhart, CSO of SUNTECKtts, shares about some of the benefits that brokers can provide:

​​”Brokers are able to provide unique capacity and solutions for a CPG company. Often they have varied needs with shipping being a very big part of their costs as well as important to getting their product moving. Brokers are able to anticipate their real needs and provide shipping services that actually work.”

Types of Freight Services

Shipping ice cream? Have a container at a port that needs to be moved? Trying to ship something across the ocean or the border to Canada? It can be tough to find a freight partner that covers all the services you need. Some of the most common freight services are listed below and are noted in the database based on available information for each carrier and broker.

  • LTL (Less than truckload): usually six pallets or less transported on a truck shared with other companies’ shipments.
  • FTL (Full truck load): usually 10 pallets or more or when you need a dedicated truck.
    Intermodal: most often refers to shipping by rail, but involves transporting freight via multiple modes
  • Temperature Controlled: unless otherwise specified, most freight is considered “dry” – meaning it is in an enclosed trailer but there is no temperature control so the temperature during transit can vary greatly. For refrigerated and frozen goods, trailers called “reefers” are used to maintain the correct temperature for perishable goods through setting specific temperatures for the trailer, goods placement within the trailer, and/or more/less packing materials.
  • Expedited: you need something moved faster than standard transit times? Some carriers can accommodate expedited services.
  • White Glove / Last Mile: You need your goods to end up in a specific room at a location? Or packaging removed upon arrival? Some carriers can provide these extra services for a fee.
  • Drayage: Drayage usually refers to moving a shipping container a short distance to or from a port.
  • International: Some carriers can accommodate international air or ocean shipping and navigate cross-border transport to Canada or Mexico.
Choosing a Freight Partner

So how do you choose a partner or partners from all of these options? Here are some of the top things to consider:

  1. Do you want to choose carriers yourself and manage or do you want to lean on a broker to help manage freight logistics? If you are an established brand or have deep freight knowledge, you may be able to go direct with your favorite carriers. For most small brands, a broker can take the pressure off you to manage it all.
  2. Who will your account representative be? Your level of service is strongly tied to the representative(s) assigned to your account. Do they seem easy to work with? Are they easy to reach anytime? Do they take the initiative to handle issues? Ideally, you want to find a long-term partner who is an extension of your own team.
  3. What are starting credit terms? Some firms have really generous starting credit terms and others require pre-payment on loads for newer businesses, so finding a firm that works best for your cash flow is important.
  4. Does the broker or carrier have a self-service portal/TMS (transportation management system)? Do you like to book shipments via phone or email or would you rather log-in yourself, input the details, and book instantly? Many carriers and brokers now have self-service options (noted in the database based on available information).
  5. Do you need refrigerated or frozen services? We recommend finding a carrier or broker who specializes in temperature controlled needs.
  6. What are your most common route needs? If you ship primarily along the west coast, find a partner who specializes in that area. If you ship cross-border frequently, find a firm that specializes in those international regulations. You may end up with a partner for each coast or a partner just for local routes.

Phebe Rossi, Founder and CEO of Nuflours, shared about the challenges of freight in CPG:

“Searching for freight partners was a daunting task; not only are we a small brand needing LTL, we also require frozen, which is a combination difficult to find! I started by reaching out to my network and asking for recommendations. None of my initial options could provide the services I needed, but I would ask those companies for recommendations, and continued until I was able to source multiple quotes. Persistence is key!”

Tips for Shipping Freight

It can be daunting booking a freight shipment, especially when using a self-service portal or form and answering all the questions. Here are a few tips for a successful freight shipment:

  1. Calculate the weight and dimensions of the shipment to the best of your ability. If you do not know the exact weight, do not round up! An exact shipment (such as 1,000 pounds) will often be flagged for a re-weigh which can result in additional charges. Online tools like this one can be helpful in mapping out pallet specifications.
  2. Use the correct freight classification. Using the wrong freight classification can result in additional charges. There are multiple online calculators (like this one) you can use and double check with your account representative.
  3. Make sure there is a BOL and that all the right people have it. BOL stands for Bill of Lading and is the most important document pertaining to your shipment. Most carriers and brokers will generate a BOL for you. Some warehouses like to receive a copy of the BOL in advance for their documentation. Sometimes a BOL is not generated and it is okay to create your own using a template (like this one).
  4. Get all the details. Are there special dock hours? Is a lift gate needed at the origin or destination (meaning there is no shipping dock and the truck needs a gate that can move the pallet to the ground on its own). Are the goods stackable? If not, it’s best to label that they cannot be stacked.
  5. Document everything. Get a damaged shipment? The destination reports not receiving the whole load? Make sure you get pictures and save all your documentation as backup.
  6. Educate yourself. There are many great lists of freight terms (like this one) to help you navigate all your freight conversations. And learning about current transit times on sites like this can help you plan your business more proactively.

Craig O’Connell, a National Account Manager at Echo Global Logistics, sheds light on the current state of the freight market:

“Currently the carrier market is a ‘seller’s market.’ The carriers have the advantage of choosing what they pick up and naming the price. All modes of freight such as LTL, Truckload, Ocean, and Rail have a lack of drivers which is driving up cost to the market and in turn affecting consumers. Many carriers are not taking calls as they are short staffed. The carriers that do take calls can take in the upwards of 30 to 45 minutes to get through. Companies like Echo provide the service of calling direct to carriers, so our clients do not have to spend their time waiting on the phone to get answers to their needs.”

We interviewed Startup CPG Slack community member Alex Cree, co-founder of Baozza, on our podcast about his brand’s experience with freight with more great tips. You can check it out here!

How do I access the list of Freight Brokers and Carriers?

The list is available for free, along with Startup CPG’s other resource lists:

Access the database here

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