Freight Loading and Unloading: 9 Tips and Tricks

Illustration of freight loading and unloading

[Updated June 2023]

If you don’t have a business with a dock, freight loading or unloading can become very stressful very fast. This is why we’ve prepared a few tips for you in case you’re unsure of how to proceed.

1) Be prepared. The best thing you can do is think ahead

If the carrier arrives at your location and you don’t have the means to load or unload the cargo, the driver will simply leave. This will cause avoidable delays or extra charges since carriers tend to charge for missed pickups/deliveries.

That’s why it’s important to always think ahead and plan for the means to load/unload

Without further ado, let’s get into everything you need to know.

2) Use a forklift, it’s as good as a dock

A forklift is a small vehicle with two power-operated prongs at the front that can be slid under heavy loads and then raised for moving and stacking materials in warehouses, shipping depots, etc.

If either location has a forklift instead of a dock, you don’t have to specify that part while you’re booking your shipment. Feel free to say you’re shipping dock to dock.

If a forklift is not available to you, but you really need to receive a shipment as scheduled, consider renting one. If a shipment is too large or too heavy for a tailgate(see below), this might be the best option for you.

If it’s not an option, read on!

Illustration showing freight loading and unloading



3) Request a tailgate/liftgate

If you don’t have a dock or a forklift, simply request a tailgate at the required end (pickup or delivery).

Tailgates are small hydraulic lifts at the back of a truck that are used to get a shipment from a truck to ground level.

Carriers do charge for the tailgate service, but paying for this service beforehand is much more affordable than paying for a missed pickup/delivery charge and for the tailgate service, when the carrier attempts the pickup/delivery the second time.

It is important to note that tailgates have their limitations. The average tailgate can accommodate 1300-1500 lbs in weight and about 72 x 48 x 82 inches in dimensions.

If a tailgate is not enough value for your taste, there are other, more permanent options available that we discuss below…

Freight offloaded via tailgate



4) Use a loading ramp

A loading ramp allows access to the back of a truck without a dock. Or to be a bit more technical, it is an inclined plane used to load and unload materials, serving the same purpose as a dock. They will do it by hand

If you are planning on shipping more frequently, consider investing in a loading ramp.  Some ramps are on wheels, allowing you to move them out of the way when you’re not using them.

If loading ramps are a bit too big of a commitment, we do have other options for you below!

Example of a loading ramp


5) Handbomb your shipment

Not nearly as ominous as it may sound, hand-bombing simply means that the person unloading the freight will do so without the help of a dock or forklift.

This one will only work for lighter shipments (up to about 120 lbs) or shipments made up of smaller boxes. If you don’t have loading equipment and you’re shipping something light — feel free to load or unload it by hand.

The important thing to keep in mind is that, depending on the carrier, you will have either 15 or 30 minutes of free time before waiting time charges start.

If your shipment is too heavy for this option, fret not. There are other solutions available.

6) Request a Terminal dropoff/pickup

Your consignee doesn’t have a forklift and a tailgate is too expensive? Why not have them pick their shipment up from a nearby carrier terminal?

This is generally the cheapest option for those without docks.

This will count the shipment as going to a business with a dock. The consignee can then pick it up and unload it at their location at their own pace.

If you are an experienced shipper you may already know the address of the carrier’s terminal close to you. If not, however, our super-responsive Client Care team is happy to help and provide you with the address ourselves.

Example of a carrier terminal


7) Request driver assistance

This one technically falls under handbombing as well. Since drivers will not allow anyone to climb on board the truck, sometimes time is a limiting factor. In such situations, driver-assist services are available.

Not all drivers provide these services, but if you make a note of this request ahead of time, the carrier will let you know if they can accommodate your request.

Driver assistance also falls under the special handling category and comes with a fee. The best way to approach this request is by reaching out to Freightera’s super friendly Client Care team directly by Online Chat, email, or phone. If you request assistance from the driver directly, you may be surprised by the price once you receive your final invoice.

Illustration depicting a driver assisting with offloading


8) Load/Unload via crane

If you’re shipping a very large shipment on a flatbed truck, chances are you will need a crane.

If you’re planning on shipping items on a flatbed, you might want to get familiar with loading and unloading with a crane. Cranes are used for larger than average shipments that cannot be unloaded by a forklift from the side of the truck.

Your Freightera shipping specialist will be able to spot a shipment that requires a crane in order to unload and they will let you know on time. Cranes, due to their specific nature, are charged as special services.

Illustration depicting a crane truck


9) Use Google maps

If you are having trouble reaching your shipper or consignee and you are unsure whether their location is equipped for shipping, feel free to cheat a bit using Google maps.

Google Maps is Google’s free mapping service that offers satellite imagery, aerial photographs, and street view of the globe, including city maps.

If you enter your desired address or company name into google maps, you can see whether they have a dock or forklift most of the time.

This will help you get an accurate quote the first time around and you will know whether any special services are required on time.

Still, it is good to keep this option in mind if you’re looking to expand your shipping business.

Google earth pin of Freightera's location


Found what you need?

By this point, you should be fully informed about your shipment’s requirements and ready to ship.

However, if you do have any further questions regarding shipping, feel free to visit our blog which has most of the information you could need when it comes to shipping.

Head over to Freightera now and get your free, online freight quote from 100s of carriers in seconds!

Free Freight Quotes
For Businesses

Get Freight Quotes in 15 Seconds

Light Bulb Icon Choose if you’re shipping up to 10 pallets.
Light Bulb Icon Choose if you need a dedicated truck.
Light Bulb Icon Choose if you’re shipping heavy or oversized cargo.

or Sign Up | Login

Offer For Businesses Get Additional $25OFF Your Online Shipment
Thank you for reading our blog!

Ready to Ship?

Access the best freight rates from 100s of carriers in 15 seconds.
Compare prices and book online 24/7!

Sign Up Today

Looking for a Freight Shipping Solution?

Freightera is ideal for wholesalers, manufacturers & distributors,
shipping regularly in the USA & Canada, or cross-border between the two.

Get Quotes