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Shipping Wood & Lumber: What You Need to Know

August 18, 2020
 By Natalie Kienzle
Shipping Wood & Lumber: What You Need to Know
Last Modified: June 2, 2023
Shipping wood and lumber is easy when you have a transportation provider like Heavy Haul and Oversized to handle your logistics needs.

Shipping wood and lumber is common throughout North America. Wood and lumber are vital for manufacturing and construction. Making sure this fundamental commodity is available when it’s needed is essential. Critical supply chains can experience severe delays if necessary wood and lumber aren’t on hand or arrive damaged. To avoid needless delays, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of shipping wood and lumber freight. 

Wood and lumber transport varies based on the amount, weight, and length needed. When shipped on trucks, a flatbed trailer is often used. Railroad transport is available in a limited number of areas and requires intermodal services. Wood is usually a heavy haul commodity and must be protected from moisture during transport. 

Our in-depth guide provides you with all of the information you need to make an informed decision when shipping lumber throughout the United States.

How is Wood Transported?

Wood and lumber are versatile when it comes to being shipped as freight. They are easily shipped through multiple modes of transportation and in a variety of containers and trailers. The majority of lumber freight is very durable and less likely to experience damage during transport.

You’ll find wood and lumber products are almost always transported by truck, at least during the beginning and end of their shipping journey. Transport by rail is also common, especially when shipping whole logs to processing centers like mills, or in the case of wooden utility poles.

Truckload Shipping Lumber

Freight trucks are almost always involved in at least some portion of a wood shipment. Drayage trucks transport whole logs to mills or off of railcars. Lumber yards ordering dimensional timbers will usually get their shipments with Full Truckload (FTL) services.  Typically, trucks use flatbed trailers as the go-to choice over other trailer options.

Flatbed trailers offer some useful benefits when shipping wood. These include:

  • Ease of loading and unloading. Since flatbed trailers are open on all sides, they can be easily loaded and unloaded without needing a loading dock. When delivering wood or lumber to a construction site or other location without a dock available, this is a huge boost. 
  • Protection from outside elements. Despite the fact that flatbed trailers are open, they can still protect their cargo. Most companies that utilize flatbed trailers offer a tarping service. Tarping involves securely wrapping a durable tarp around the cargo being shipped. This protects wood and lumber from a significant amount of moisture in the event of rain or snow.
  • Capability to handle oversized loads. The open aspect of flatbed trailers offers the option to extend freight beyond the normal limits. When it comes to wood and lumber, oversized shipments are most often too long or too heavy.

Wood and lumber are also shipped in other types of trailers including dry vans, side lifters, and even dump trailers. If the wood is especially valuable or is being transported in small batches via Less Than Truckload (LTL), then a dry van trailer or a more protected specialty flatbed is common.

If you’re shipping an oversized load of wood and timber, Heavy Haul and Oversized can help you. Visit our heavy haul trucking page to learn more about how we can help you. 

wood loaded on a trailer

How to Ship Wood to Construction Sites

If you need to ship wood and lumber to construction sites, you’re not alone.  Wood is a foundational piece of building material used across a wide array of industries. Getting this to construction sites when it’s needed is vital for meeting important deadlines. Not having the needed lumber will have a negative impact on achieving construction objectives.

Properly utilizing demand planning strategies can ensure that you have the necessary wood on hand at your construction site. 

Demand planning for lumber freight incorporates the following processes:

  1. Examining the necessary amount of resources (wood) needed for each project.
  2. Forecasting how many projects are going to be completed over a given time period.
  3. Arranging for the production of the needed lumber and wood products
  4. Coordinating the transportation and logistics of all deliveries in advance. 
  5. Setting up a delivery zone that won’t interfere with construction or create bottlenecks.
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The above steps may seem elementary, but they’re often skipped over. When proper planning isn’t in place, mistakes are far more likely to occur. Even with the best plan in place though, last-minute demands can arise. 

If you find yourself in need of a quick shipment, be sure to utilize an expedited freight service. Using an expedited freight shipping company to fulfill your last-minute needs will ensure you’re still able to get the job done.

Heavy Haul and Oversized is equipped to handle both your long-term and short-term shipping needs. If you’ve already finalized your demand planning for your construction projects and just need shipping services, we’ll get the job done. Need help with demand planning and more? Our supply chain experts can work with you to craft a customized plan and ensure that your materials are delivered on time, every time. 

How Much Does it Cost to Transport Wood?

The cost to transport wood is average or low compared to many other types of freight. This is due to a couple of factors.

First, wood tends to carry less liability thanks to its high level of durability. There is a much smaller chance of wood being damaged during shipping than expensive electronics. Second, wood can be loaded and unloaded with relative ease, either with the right equipment or even by hand.

With that being said, pricing will ultimately depend on how much wood you plan on shipping and which shipping method you go with. The vast majority of the time, shipping via FTL services will provide a better deal. Many carrier services are willing to offer deals to frequent shippers to make long-distance lumber shipments worth it.

FTL rates tend to be calculated per loaded mile – for lumber, it tends to range from $2 to $5 per mile depending on the route. Shipping wood might be under $1,000 if it’s between 600 to 700 miles through a lower rate route Coast-to-coast wood and lumber shipments will cross the $1,000 threshold and beyond. 

Rising costs of diesel and toll fees are also contributing to the rising costs of shipping. If you are trying to deliver to a location with a history of poor flatbed backhauls, such as Las Vegas, the cost is also likely to be higher. 

Truckload Lumber Transport Estimates

Shipping DistanceEstimated Cost (based on $3.50 per loaded mile)
500 miles$1,750
1000 miles$3,500
2000 miles$7,000

These estimates are based on standard shipments (not oversized or expedited) and don’t include additional insurance. Actual costs may be higher or lower depending on carrier, route, trailer type, and insurance. 

LTL Lumber Transport

For customers who truly don’t need a truckload’s worth of lumber, LTL shipping is an option. For businesses shipping specialty lumber in smaller batches, be aware that weight will be a major impact on cost. 

LTL shipments are priced based on weight and density – heavier and denser materials will be less expensive. For wood, the magic number is typically 70 – anything over 70 pounds will get you a better rate because it will have a higher freight class. 

The downside is that you are limited in length. The majority of LTL shipping services rely on products that can be easily boxed and palletized. Wood greater than 48 inches in length may be subject to accessorial charges. If the shipments are made in a flatbed, fees may not be added on unless the length exceeds 96 inches (8 feet).

loading lumber

Shipping Oversized Wood & Lumber

Oversized freight comes with its own special set of challenges and wood is no exception. To further complicate the situation, each state has its own set of guidelines when it comes to shipping oversized freight. This means that when you have an oversized load moving across multiple states, even more planning and attention to detail are needed. 

Most wood that falls into the oversized category does so based on length. Extremely long pieces of wood can be used for large construction projects such as bridges or mass timber buildings. Stretch, or extendable flatbed trailers are most often used to transport this long wood. Lumber can also pack a significant amount of weight, either in the form of one massive piece or numerous heavy individual units. However, standard flatbed trailers and trucks can typically handle these heavier loads. 

No matter what way your wood is oversized, accuracy is extremely important. Providing precise dimensions guides your shipping partner in making the right choices for your freight. 

When shipping wood and lumber, a freight company must:

  • Secure the correct type of trailer
  • Choose the proper route that accommodates the dimensions of the freight
  • Hire a pilot or escort vehicle (if needed)
  • Ensure that the proper signs, flags, and lights are used

Giving incorrect details about your shipment can lead to your shipping partner securing resources that aren’t correct for your shipment. This can cause delays and additional charges for your shipment. 

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Shipping Pressure Treated Lumber

Shipping pressure-treated lumber is a popular load to move as well because of all of the ways in which it is used. What is pressure-treated lumber? It’s wood that has been injected with chemical properties to protect it from rot and insects to make it durable.

Pressure-treated wood is for:

  • Attaching lumber directly to concrete and other masonry walls
  • Outdoor applications such as fencing and decking 
  • Bathroom framing due to mold and moisture resistance 
  • Termite resistant construction
  • Fire-resistant construction in areas prone to wildfires

The chemicals used in pressure-treated lumber do make it more resistant to moisture so it may be preferred as a framing material in areas with humid or rainy climates.

What Type of Wood Is Pressure Treated Lumber?

Pressure-treated wood is softwood that typically comes from southern yellow pine that is chemically treated to resist all the elements we outlined above. In general, any evergreen softwood is a good candidate, including spruce and fir. Where you live will determine the most readily available types.

Pressure-treated lumber is easy to ship and deliver across the country on flatbed trailers that are open on all sides. Tarping can protect the wood until it reaches its destination.

wood on a flatbed stacked

Challenges of Shipping Wood

When it comes to the challenges of shipping wood and lumber, thankfully, there aren’t many. As noted above, wood is a durable and strong material that doesn’t face many of the challenges that more fragile freight does. With that being said, wood and lumber aren’t indestructible during shipping and do face a couple of challenges that need to be accounted for.

1. Protect Against Moisture

Depending on the stage that wood is at when it’s shipped, moisture can have a significant impact on quality. Unprocessed wood or lumber will have more time to recover during the processing phase from excess moisture.

Wood that is needed for a construction project isn’t so lucky. For example, using wet wood in the construction of a house or other building can lead to mold or warping as it dries. These are obviously major issues that must be avoided.

Avoiding all moisture during shipping isn’t really possible. Wet roads naturally evaporate and that moisture can come into contact with freight. Thankfully, this is minimal. However, avoiding massive moisture from rain and snow is possible by implementing some basic protection protocols.

When shipping via flatbed trailers, it’s always a good idea to utilize a tarping service. With a securely placed tarp, wood will be protected from the outside elements and moisture will not be an issue. Your other options are a Conestoga flatbed or curtain-sided flatbed which offer increased protection from the elements.

2. Excess Weight

While wood and lumber are certainly stable and strong, they also come with a hefty weight. Shippers can often find themselves in the situation of having to pay for a heavy haul shipping service. It’s also a possibility that a shipment of wood too large for a standard load is instead split into two loads.

Whatever the solution, an experienced freight partner will provide you with effective options and help you decide what’s best for your situation.

3. Speed of Delivery

It’s natural for tight deadlines to pop up in the manufacturing and construction industries. With wood and lumber being a major component in many cases, there is often a need for expedited shipments. Similar to shipments with excess weight, expedited orders shouldn’t be a problem for an experienced shipping partner. 

Many shippers choose to work with a truckload freight broker that has established partnerships with multiple freight carriers. These brokers are quickly able to find the best carrier for your shipment that can meet your need for speed without sacrificing quality.

Heavy Haul and Oversized offers a freight broker service using only qualified and vetted carriers that meet strict, rigorous standards. 

Need Help Shipping Wood & Lumber?

When you need help shipping wood and lumber Heavy Haul and Oversized is your go-to partner. We ship wood, lumber, and many other commodities for our clients each and every day. We work with the best flatbed carriers on the road today. Our top-notch customer service and 99.5% on-time delivery rate are just a couple of the reasons our clients continue to choose us. 

If you’re importing wood into the U.S., no need to worry. Our customs brokerage services will help you navigate all of the import regulations. We’ll ensure that your shipment arrives smoothly with no delays or unnecessary fees. From there, we’ll take care of warehousing, shipping, and any other logistics services you need.

Contact our transportation and logistics experts today to get a hassle-free, transparent freight shipping quote. You can give us a call at (855) 490-2433 or click the freight quote below and complete our short form. 

3 comments on “Shipping Wood & Lumber: What You Need to Know”

  1. Hi,

    I’m wondering if your company can fulfill our needs. We are selling lumber and hardwood. We will need it to be trucked from Iowa to NY area. Do you do Flatbed shipping, intermodal shipping, tandem trailers? Do you have 3 axle truck service?

    I would love to hear back from you and see if we can work together.

    Esther Cziment,
    Northeast Supply House.

    1. Hi, Esther! We got your quote request form! One of our agents will be in touch soon!

      Thank you,
      Laura Isaacs
      USA Truckload Shipping

  2. Hello,
    We make long wood floors (48’to 52′) in Malaysia we shipped our floor using RORO vessel through Brunswick port, Georgia. Our customer is in Bowling Green, KY.

    Currently we are using 45′ container to do the delivery but we wanted to switch to RORO asap. Our current volume is four flatbed (48,000lbs each full load) per month.
    Could you handle the importation and the road transport?

    Best regards

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