Shipping lanes

What Are Shipping Lanes In Trucking?

Shipping lanes or as people often call them trucking lanes or freight lanes are essential in moving regularly shipped goods across the US. They are great at connecting cities with transportation hubs to ensure an efficient flow in transporting freight. Understanding shipping lanes will help anyone who wants to gain an insight into how freight navigates its’ way through complex supply chains. So, let’s take a look into why shipping lanes are important and how they can be effectively used.

What is a Shipping Lane?

Shipping lanes are used across almost any mode of transportation including ground, air, sea and rail. In this instance, we’re exclusively speaking about ground trucking lanes. These lanes are any routes that are regularly travelled by a carrier when transporting freight. From short-distance lanes to across-the-country type lanes, that pass through multiple States and utilize major highways and interstates. As long as a shipper requires regular shipments along the same route then any bespoke route can be classed as a shipping lane, including point A to point B routes and more complex multi-stop routes also.

Keynote: What is the defining feature of a shipping lane? In short, it’s the regularity of these routes being travelled consistently. For a shipping lane to be classed as a shipping lane, trucks need to be moving freight back and forth on this route while following a regular schedule.

Example of a Shipping Lane

Route: New York to Arizona

Frequency: Twice a week

Stops: Pick up cargo from a factory in New York – deliver to distribution center in Arizona ⬆. This is a shipping lane.

It’s hugely beneficial when carriers can also fill their return journey with more freight. For instance in the above case, from Arizona back to New York, to minimize empty miles. Or at least cover part of the return journey, like maybe a drop off in Ohio for example. However, it’s easier to pick up an extra load when travelling through busier freight areas like Chattanooga (which is a hub for freight) as freight is constantly passing through.

Why are Shipping Lanes Important? πŸ’­

A shipping lane essentially makes scheduling freight movement predictable. They’re a super important part of transporting freight, because they bring efficiency to the process and offer a simple solution to complex shipping routes. Here’s why these matter…


When using a regularly travelled route, carriers are able to put specific timeframes against journeys. Your carrier will understand peak times of travel within that shipping lane and how delays can affect their timings. This makes supply chains much more predictable, as it keeps businesses in the know, so they can work out how the rest of their process may be affected, for example when they’ll receive materials and goods, enabling a much smoother production, etc.


Optimization doesn’t only work in the way of finding the fastest route possible. It can also be in the form of planning back to back freight so there’s minimal empty miles for a truck. Carriers that are able to find shipments in both directions of the trucks shipping lane journey (often referred to as “headhaul” & “backhaul”) are able to offer more competitive prices, especially when this is repeatable πŸ’°. And due to the abundance of moving freight within busier shipping lane areas, fulfilling deadhead miles is not always too difficult.

Not only this, but shipping lanes are literally intended for efficiency, and our back-office workers work super hard to make a shipping lane as optimized as possible. By making tweaks here and there to fine tune a route, they can save on gas costs and time, making them an extremely cost-effective solution.


Again, this one covers the importance of shipping lanes to meet customer demands. Shipping lanes help time-frames and costs to stay reliable. Obviously there are other factor affecting these, but for the most part shippers can estimate costs to help with their budgeting. And similarly for the carrier, they can figure out what sort of revenue is coming in.

Less Environmental Impact

Although it’s regular travel so this one seems contradictory. By reducing empty miles and finding the most effective and therefore efficient route, shipping lanes help to reduce fuel consumption and therefore emissions, creating a more sustainable shipping solution. ♻️

Types of Shipping Lanes πŸ›£

Dedicated Lanes

These are a lane, contractually established between a shipper and carrier. This is mutually beneficial as the shipper agrees to a certain volume of freight with a specific regular schedule and the carrier agrees to have capacity to move said freight volume along the specific route. Win-win πŸ™Œ as it offers predictability for both parties involved.

Regional Lanes

These type of lanes are used for shippers that need movement in a relatively smaller area, usually within one State or across a group of pre-determined States. Therefore, is more limited, but none the less a great system for those shorter journeys.

National Lanes

These are the polar opposite of a Regional lane, and these types of lanes work by connecting areas across the country, for example Los Angeles to Atlanta.

How To Improve Shipping Lanes

Enhanced Visibility πŸ‘€

One of the main complications that can affecting shipping lanes is bottlenecks. Depending on the popularity of an area that’s regularly travelled, a shipping lane can become extremely backed-up creating less efficient transportation. If this becomes a constant issue, then perhaps the carrier needs to review their lane and find a more suitable route. How does visibilty minimize this?

Real-time tracking ⏰

This is a MUST as it gives shippers and carriers visibility into freight movement. This helps carriers to make on the fly decisions to potentially stray off the beaten track and make slight detours when needed to avoid bottlenecks. At PEI we have real time updates on all of our shipments, for this exact reason.

Route Optimization Software πŸ’»

Another MUST is route optimization software, these are constantly being updated and enhanced. Who knows what the future holds? but we can say with certainty that route optimization softwares will continue to improve and therefore, continue to play a vital role in the world of logistics and reducing bottlenecks.

The Future of Shipping Lanes πŸ›£

Shipping lanes are and will always be an essential part of the trucking industry, to ensure a smooth flow of goods moving efficiently throughout the United States. If carriers utilize available technologies, it makes the future look promising for even more efficient and sustainable ways to move freight.

How Can PEI Help? 😁

We’re experts at moving specialized freight with any custom requirements. Please get in touch if you want to discuss any shipments you might have coming up, we’d love to hear from you! You can call us on Phone: 888-SHIP-911Β  πŸ“ž 24/7/365. Or use the link below to reach out to our highly experienced team 😊


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