Freight Handling: Equipment, Location and Qualifications

Freight handling is a crucial component of the logistics industry. It involves the movement and management of goods from one location to another. Whether it’s loading cargo onto trucks, airplanes, trains or even ships, experienced freight handling ensures that goods effectively and safely transition through every stage of the trip to their intended destination.

Understanding Freight HandlingPalletized freight waiting to be loaded onto an airplane

Freight handling is the process of loading and unloading cargo, from the point of origin to the final stop. It involves a series of procedures necessary to move goods efficiently and securely through the supply chain. This includes:

  • Receiving: First step in the shipping process where goods arrive at warehouses or distribution centers from suppliers or manufacturers.
  • Sorting: The goods are separated according to destination, size, weight, and other relevant factors to simplify the loading process.
  • Storage: At times, goods may be temporarily stored in warehouses or storage facilities before being released to travel to their final destinations.
  • Loading and Unloading: The physical movement of goods onto or off trucks, airplanes, or ships. Care and strict attention to detail is required to prevent damage to the cargo.
  • Documentation: It is essential that accurate record-keeping and documentation follow the goods throughout the freight handling process. This allows shipments to be tracked and ensures compliance with shipping regulations.

Equipment Used in Freight Handling

While much of the work is manual, there are several types of equipment that freight handlers use to get the job done: 

Forklift: A powerful lifting and moving machine. Driven by a certified operator, a forklift uses a two-pronged forked front attachment to lift heavy cargo that is stacked and secured on a wooden pallet. Forklifts have the capability to lift their loads up and down, which is essential for loading and unloading trucks and airplanes. 

Pallet Jack: Also known as a ‘pallet truck’, this small yet powerful device is used to move small, heavy loads over short distances. Unlike a forklift, the operator of a pallet jack controls the jack while standing on the ground. A pallet jack also does not have the capability to lift loads more than slightly off the ground. 

Conveyor Systems: Goods within warehouses or distribution centers are moved more quickly with the use of conveyor belts. These conveyor systems utilize pulleys, rollers, and belts to pass the items along their intended route, from one end to the other.

Loading Dock Equipment: This includes dock levelers which are used to bridge the height difference between a warehouse floor and delivery vehicle; dock seals, foam pads that a truck trailer compresses into when it backs into an unloading dock; and dock shelters, enclosures that seal the perimeter of the trailer to form a seal.  All are essential for efficiently loading and unloading trucks.

Cranes and Hoists: Used primarily at docks to load and unload extremely large shipping containers to and from ships.

Time Frame and Location

The time frame for freight handling varies depending on factors such as the volume of goods, mode of transportation, and distance traveled. In general, efficient freight handling operations aim to minimize down times and ensure swift movement of goods to their destinations.

Freight handling operations take place in various locations, including:

Warehouses and Distribution Centers: These are structures used primarily for receiving, sorting, and storing goods before transporting to their next destination.

Airports: Air freight handling operations take place at airports, where goods are loaded onto and off airplanes.

Ports and Terminals: Ships dock at ports to load and unload their freight, while terminals are used for truck and train cargo.

Intermodal Facilities: These hubs are equipped to move large shipping containers between different modes of transportation, such as from trucks to trains or ships.

Qualifications and Skills

Freight handlers possess a wide range of skills to be successful in their field:

  • Physically Fit: Since much of the job involves lifting and carrying heavy items, individuals need to be in good physical condition.
  • Operational Skills: Knowledge and experience in operating items such as forklifts, pallet jacks, conveyor systems, and other loading dock equipment is essential.
  • Forklift Certification: To physically drive a forklift for moving and lifting heavy, bulky items, a forklift operator certification is required.
  • Computer Skills: Basic computer skills are necessary for interoffice communications, as well as operating software-based systems such as trip tracking and inventory management.
  • Focus on Details: Accuracy in sorting and documentation is essential to ensure the correct handling and tracking of shipments.
  • Safety Awareness: To prevent accidents and injuries in the workplace, knowledge and practice of safety protocols and regulations is imperative.
  • Communication Skills: Effective communication with coworkers, supervisors, and drivers is necessary to coordinate timing and schedules, and to resolve any possible issues quickly and efficiently.

Keeping Things Moving in Grand Style

Grand Aire operates the only staffed 24/7/365 full-service FBO on the field at the Eugene F. Kranz Toledo Express Airport.  We have over 25 years’ experience in freight handling as well as providing all aircraft related services including fueling, de-icing, and more. 

Our on-site Logistics Specialists also work around the clock to provide the optimal air charter, air freight, hand carry and expedited ground transportation solutions available.  If you’re in need of cargo shipping assistance, let us put our experience to work for you.  Contact us at 1-800-70-GRAND or email our team at