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How to Estimate the Average Cost of Flatbed Shipping?

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If you are in the logistics or transportation industry, understanding the ins and outs of flatbed shipping costs can literally make or break your business’s financial success. After all, flatbed shipping is among the most cost-effective and versatile methods of transportation for transporting heavy or high-volume cargo. 

Yet, flatbed shipping costs can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors, including the type of cargo, size/weight of the cargo, time of the year, and others. Grasping these factors that influence flatbed shipping costs is crucial, so you can make the best possible decisions to maintain cost-effectiveness

Trying to learn more about these factors? Fear not! We’re here to discuss all you need to know about flatbed shipping costs, including six of the most influential factors affecting flatbed shipping costs.

In this guide, we’ll cover the following factors: 

  1. Distance and route
  2. Freight weight and size
  3. Freight type (and special requirements)
  4. Fuel prices and market trends
  5. Carrier selection and capacity
  6. Accessorial charges 

Whether you’re a complete beginner in the industry or a seasoned pro, grasping these factors can help you make informed decisions about your shipping needs and keep your business running smoothly. 

Without further ado, let us begin from the basics: what is flatbed shipping? 

Understanding Flatbed Shipping

Flatbed shipping, also often referred to as “open-deck” shipping, is a specialized type of freight transportation that uses a flatbed truck (hence the name) to transport cargo.

Below are several key characteristics of flatbed shipping: 

  • The flatbed truck/trailer

A flatbed truck (also called a flatbed trailer) is a type of truck that has a flatbed platform without any walls or roof, so it can be loaded of all sizes.

The flatbed platform makes the truck ideal for transporting a wide range of oversized or heavy cargo, including vehicles, heavy machinery, construction materials, and others. 

  • Securing cargo

Since the flatbed platform is not enclosed, the cargo would require additional securement using straps, chains, or other tools/equipment to prevent shifting during transport, and also to protect the cargo from the elements.

This additional securement may result in additional costs (including labor costs.)

  • Varying load types

Due to its open nature, flatbeds can be used to transport oversized and/or irregularly shaped items. This makes flatbed shipping ideal for industries like manufacturing, agriculture, and construction with their heavy machinery.

  • More accessible and efficient

The flatbed platform offers easy access for loading and unloading the cargo, whether from the rear, front, sides or even above the platform. This can significantly streamline the process for handling heavy or oversized cargo.

Importance of Flatbed Shipping in the Logistics Industry

Flatbed shipping has a unique importance in the logistics industry because it allows for the transportation of heavy or large cargo that wouldn’t otherwise be possible with other means of transportation. 

On the other hand, flatbed trucks/trailers can also access roads—including highways—that other types of trucks can’t access. 

This versatility causes a heavy reliance of various industries on flatbed shipping, including:

  • Construction: Construction projects rely on flatbed trucks/trailers to transport heavy equipment, oversized building materials, and large components to job sites. 
  • Industrial machinery: Manufacturers often require flatbed shipping for moving heavy or large machinery between facilities or directly to customers. 
  • Agricultural and farming: The agriculture/farming sector relies on flatbed shipping for transporting heavy/large farm equipment, large quantities of crops, and even livestock. 
  • Energy: The oil and gas industry often relies on flatbeds to transport drilling equipment, pipeline sections, and other large components to remote locations. 

Besides these industries, flatbed shipping is also heavily used for specialized projects and complex logistics, like transporting aerospace components, wind turbine blades, and more. 

As we can see, flatbed shipping is an important backbone of logistics, facilitating the transportation of large, heavy, or uniquely shaped cargo in various sectors. 

Factors Influencing Flatbed Shipping Costs

Factor 1: Distance and Route

One of the most significant factors affecting the cost of flatbed shipping rates is distance.

Flatbed shipping rates are typically based on the distance that the flatbed truck needs to travel between the pickup and delivery points. Here are some key considerations:

  • Miles matters: As discussed, most flatbed shipping rates are based on the mileage between the pickup and delivery points. Underneath this, there are factors like fuel costs, wear and tear on the vehicle/equipment, driver wages, and more. 
  • Per-mile rates: Typical flatbed shipments are priced at a per-mile rate. The actual per-mile rate can vary depending on region, demand, specific logistics carrier, and other factors. 
  • Economies of scale: Sometimes, logistics carriers can save costs by shipping longer distances by filling a flatbed trailer with multiple shipments along a single route.  This may lower the flatbed shipping costs.

Importance of route selection

In addition to the shipping distance, the route taken by the flatbed shipment can heavily affect the cost. 

For example, if the shipment needs to travel through difficult mountainous terrain, the cost could be higher.

Here are some important considerations:

  • Efficient routing: It’s critical to choose the most efficient route to ensure cost-effectiveness. As much as possible, try to choose the most direct route to reduce fuel consumption and minimize cost. However, sometimes alternative costs can be more cost-effective despite being longer due to less traffic, lower tolls, etc. 
  • Road conditions: Poor road conditions can increase wear and tear on the vehicle and/or equipment, and may slow down travel, which may increase costs.
  • Toll roads and permits: Routes that include toll roads or require special permits may add to overall shipping expenses.
  • Weather conditions: Extreme weather conditions may require the shipment to take longer routes or additional safety measures, which may affect costs. 

It’s also worth mentioning that certain customers may prefer specific routes, and delivery windows may also influence the route chosen, which can impact costs. 

Selecting the most optimal route while taking these considerations above into account can significantly lower the overall costs of flatbed shipping.

Factor 2: Freight Weight and Size

The weight and size of the cargo are two of the most important factors influencing the cost of flatbed shipping. 

Let’s delve into how size and weight affect pricing and what considerations should be taken into account: 

  • Weight: Heavier cargo typically incurs higher shipping costs. The higher the weight, the more fuel will be consumed during transport, and the more strain will be placed on the vehicle and equipment. 
  • Size: Larger cargo not only requires more space on the flathead trailer but also needs more securement materials (i.e., straps, chains, etc.) which may add to the overall costs. 
  • Permits: Heavy and/or large cargo may require special permits (and escorts), which may incur additional costs. 
  • Loading and unloading: Handling heavier or larger freight is typically more labor-intensive, which may affect labor costs. 
  • Equipment requirements: Exceptionally heavy or large cargo may require specific types of flatbed trucks, which can be more expensive to operate. 
  • Route restrictions: Oversized freight may be limited to specific routes, which can be longer, have increased transit times, or have more fuel consumption. 

Factor 3: Freight Type and Special Requirements

The type of cargo you are shipping can also affect the cost of shipping. 

For example: 

  • Oversized loads: Larger freight that exceeds size limits can be more expensive and difficult to transport. Not to mention, this oversized cargo often requires additional precautions, equipment, and special permits/escorts, all of these can contribute to increased costs. 
  • Fragile or high-value cargo: Fragile freight or those that have a high value, require additional security measures and/or specialized handling, which may result in higher costs. 
  • Hazardous materials: Shipping hazardous materials typically requires compliance with strict regulations, specialized equipment/training, and additional safety measures. 
  • Temperature-sensitive cargo: Temperature-sensitive goods may require air conditioner, refrigeration, or climate control equipment, which can increase costs. 

Below, we will discuss special shipping requirements related to specific cargo types that may affect shipping costs: 

  • Packaging and crating: Cargo that requires special crating or packaging to ensure safe shipping will typically lead to additional costs. 
  • Loading and unloading: Loading or unloading large, fragile, or uniquely shaped cargo may require extra labor or specialized equipment, which may come at an extra cost.
  • Time sensitivity: Urgent shipments may result in higher shipping rates due to requiring multiple drivers, non-stop routes, etc. 
  • Customized handling: Freight that requires specialized expertise or care in handling it may result in higher costs. 
  • Delivery location: Hard-to-reach or remote delivery locations may require longer routes or detours, which can increase costs.
  • Security requirements: Sensitive documents, valuable goods, etc., may require additional security measures (i.e., tighter surveillance), increasing the overall costs.
  • Insurance: Different cargo types can impact insurance premiums.
  • Regulatory compliance: You may need to comply with industry-specific regulations when shipping certain cargo (i.e., chemical goods, medicines), which may incur extra costs. 

Understanding the type and nature of cargo you’re shipping and whether it requires any special treatments are essential when calculating the cost of flatbed shipping. Understanding these factors discussed above will not only help in maximizing cost efficiency, but also in ensuring the cargo’s security and integrity during transit. 

Factor 4: Fuel Prices and Market Trends

One of the most important factors that influence flatbed shipment costs is the fluctuations in fuel prices. While there are a number of electric or hybrid flatbed carriers available in the market, they are still pretty rare and are mostly smaller than traditional flatbed trailers—at least at the time of writing this article. 

This is why efficient route planning is very important to ensure the cost-efficiency of flatbed shipping, especially when fuel prices are high. It’s also worth noting that some carriers apply a fuel surcharge to their shipping rates, which can significantly increase the overall costs when fuel prices soar. 

Market trends and their influence on shipment costs

Market trends, especially fluctuations in supply/demand for flatbed services, can affect shipment costs. Increased demand or lower supply typically leads to higher rates.

Other market trend factors that may influence shipment prices include: 

  • Economic conditions: GDP growth, industry health, and other economic factors may affect shipping costs. A strong economy often results in higher flatbed shipment prices. 
  • Seasonal variations: Flatbed shipping costs can vary between different seasons. For example, during agricultural or construction peak seasons, the demand for flatbed shipment may rise, resulting in higher rates.
  • Regulatory changes: Changes in regulations, such as new safety policies, changes in emissions standards, etc., may impact shipping rates in various ways. 
  • Technology adoptions: Carriers that adopt advanced logistics management or tracking technologies may offer more competitive prices.
  • Global events: Unexpected global events (i.e., natural disasters, geopolitical shifts, etc.) can disrupt supply chains that may result in an increase in shipping costs. 

Staying up-to-date to the latest fuel prices and market trends is critical to help businesses optimize their routes and negotiate betters with carriers, which can lower flatbed shipping costs. 

5. Carrier Selection

Picking the right carrier for your flatbed shipping needs is a bit like selecting the right tool for a job. It’s very important! Here’s why:

Reliability: A good carrier can be counted on to deliver your cargo safely and on time. They provide well-skilled and knowledgeable drivers as well as good-maintained trucks.

Expertise: Some carriers specialize in certain types of freight or industries. Choosing one with expertise in your kind of cargo can make a big difference.

Communication: Good carriers keep you in the loop. They will tell you where your shipment is and when it will arrive. Communication is very important for a smooth delivery process.

Cost-Efficiency: The right carrier can also save you money. They might have lower rates or offer bundling options if you have multiple shipments.

How Career Choice and Availability Affect Pricing

The choice of the logistics company in Canada will affect the pricing in the following ways:

Availability: If there are many carriers to choose from, it can create competition. That’s good for you because it can mean lower prices. But if there aren’t many carriers available, you might have to pay more because they have the upper hand.

Carrier Reputation: Well-known carriers with a good reputation might charge a bit more, but they often come with reliability and peace of mind. Smaller carriers might have lower prices, but their service may vary.

Location: Where the carriers are located matters too. If you’re in an area with lots of carriers, you’ll likely have more options and better prices. In remote areas, where carriers are scarce, you might pay more due to limited choices.

6. Freight Insurance

If your cargo, especially if it is expensive, gets damaged, lost, or stolen during transit, you could face significant financial losses. Freight insurance helps cover those losses, giving you peace of mind. Sometimes, customers or shipping contracts require you to have insurance. 

The inability to meet these requirements can end up in punishment or the loss of business.

How Insurance Options Can Affect Overall Pricing

The type of insurance and amount of coverage you choose can impact your flatbed shipping costs:

Coverage Level: The more coverage you want, the higher the insurance premium. You can opt for basic coverage or comprehensive coverage, depending on your cargo’s value and your risk tolerance.

Deductibles: Like car insurance, you might have to pay a deductible if you make a claim. A higher deductible can lower your insurance premium but means you’ll pay more out of pocket if something happens.

Cargo Value: The value of your cargo influences insurance costs. High-value items will naturally have higher insurance premiums because they represent a bigger risk.

While insurance of the goods to be moved increases the overall cost of using a flatbed for shipping, it is a wise decision to protect both your goods and your financial interests. 

Selecting the appropriate amount of coverage and deductible can assist you in striking a balance between safety and cost-effectiveness.

7. Fuel Prices and Regulations

Flatbed shipping costs are closely tied to the price of fuel and the regulations governing the trucking industry. When the price of fuel increases, customers have to pay more to fill their tanks. It’s the same for flatbed trucks but on an even bigger scale.

These trucks guzzle a lot of diesel fuel, and when fuel prices spike, it directly affects shipping costs. Carriers often pass on the increased fuel costs to customers in the form of fuel surcharges Fuel prices can be unpredictable, just like the stock market. 

Sudden jumps in oil prices due to geopolitical events or natural disasters can lead to rapid increases in shipping rates. 

Regulations

To lower truck pollution from burning fuel, governments all around the world have passed stronger rules. This often means carriers need to invest in newer, more fuel-efficient trucks or retrofit existing ones. The cost of following these rules may result in increased shipping costs.

Regulations that limit the number of hours a truck driver can be on the road also affect shipping costs. These rules are made for the safety of the drivers and the protection of what they carry, but the rules can make delivery times longer and also increase labor costs for the shipping company, which may, in turn, lead to an increase in the money customers will pay.

8. Accessorial Charges

Accessorial charges are like extra fees you might encounter when you’re shipping something on a flatbed truck. They’re additional costs on top of the base shipping rate, and they can add up quickly. 

Common Accessorial Charges 

  1. Liftgate Service: If you don’t have a loading dock or forklift to load/unload your cargo, you might need a liftgate on the truck. 
  2. Inside Delivery: This is when the driver goes inside a building to deliver or pick up goods. 
  3. Residential Delivery: If the pickup or delivery location is a home rather than a business, expect a residential delivery charge. 
  4. Detention or Waiting Time: If the driver has to wait longer than expected at your location, you might incur detention charges. 
  5. Tarping and Untarping: To protect your cargo from weather or debris, flatbeds may need tarps. 
  6. Hazardous Materials Handling: Shipping hazardous materials requires special permits, handling, and safety measures, incurring extra fees.
  7. Extra Stops: If your shipment involves multiple stops, each additional stop can result in extra charges. 
  8. Redelivery Fees: If the driver attempts delivery and it’s unsuccessful, you may be charged for redelivery. 
  9. Overweight or Oversize Fees: If your shipment exceeds legal weight or size limits, you’ll pay additional fees, which can vary significantly depending on the violation.

To avoid surprises and plan properly for your goods, it is important to go over exactly what you want with the service.

Wrapping Up

Whether you’re a business owner sending products or an individual moving oversized items, these factors that we have discussed play a crucial role in determining how much you’ll pay for flatbed shipping.

From the distance your shipment needs to travel to the weight and size of your cargo, we’ve uncovered the basics. We have also discussed how the type of freight you’re shipping, special handling requirements, and even seasonal and market demand can all affect pricing.

So, whether you’re sending goods to customers or embarking on a personal move, you’re better equipped to manage the costs and ensure a smooth journey for your cargo.

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