Everything About Freight Labels / Shipping Labels

Everything About Freight Labels / Shipping Labels

Gone are the days when freight labels and shipping labels were used only for shipments of large cargo. As the shipping and supply chains become smaller and the shipping process becomes more precise, there is a greater need for freight and shipping labels. Whether you have a land-based business or an eCommerce site, if you support deliveries or have multiple storage locations, shipments are unavoidable.

The purpose of freight labels and shipping labels is different from traditional product description or other labels. Accordingly, the format of the labels is also different. While it is possible to manually fill out blank shipping labels, having a setup to print out freight/shipping labels is more effective, accurate and time saving.

Any existing labelling setup can be used to print freight and shipping labels. However, if you have a large volume of shipments, or are shipping across large distances, you may need to reconsider and revise your current labelling system.

Here is a complete guide on everything you need to know about freight labels and shipping labels.

What are freight labels and shipping labels?

Freight labels and shipping labels have the same basic purpose. They are affixed on top of packages or cargo items that are undergoing shipment. While freight labels are typically used for larger shipments and bulk cargo shipping, for smaller packages shipping labels are used. These labels display all the information necessary for transportation, including details on end-destination, starting point, postal codes, tracking numbers, addresses, weight, contact details and product details. If a single package has to be shipped in multiple stages, all the required information is reflected on the shipping labels.

Barcodes are often also printed on shipping labels for better tracking. Details about the contents and method of shipping are also included. Depending upon the recipient, additional details can also be included on the shipping labels, such as delivery instructions or personal messages. Each label is completely unique and cannot be reused. Based on the shipping service used, there can be extra requirements for the shipping labels, as many logistics providers will have particular layouts for shipping labels. Accuracy is essential when it comes to freight and shipping labels, so that the packages reach their destination as desired, without the risk of packages not being delivered.

Freight labels and shipping labels typically have strong adhesive capabilities to withstand the strenuous shipping process. For larger packages or long-distance shipping, extra durable shipping labels may be suitable that are weatherproof and resistant to hot and cold temperatures. The freight and shipping labels need to be readable and scannable for efficient tracking throughout the delivery process. Accordingly, they generally have a large space for printing information and can also be colour coded for easier management.

Apart from applications in transportation labels, freight labels and shipping labels can also be used for inventory identification, warehousing, and storage.

Advantages of Freight and Shipping Labels

When you are shipping any product, it is not a necessity to have a custom printed freight or shipping label. After all, they can be found pre-printed or purchased in bulk and be filled in manually. However, this can be expensive and time-consuming, and custom printed freight and shipping labels offer significant advantages.

  • Customised Labels: Every shipping label has to be unique, and having a labelling setup enables you to effortlessly print large volumes of custom labels.
  • Fast Printing: When you have large volumes of products that need to be shipped, or frequent shipments, you can save time with custom printed shipping labels.
  • Time-Saving: Apart from saving on printing time, having an in-house freight labels and shipping labels saves you a great deal of time overall. There is no need to manually fill in details or order and wait for printed labels to arrive.
  • Strong Adhesives: One of the worst things that can happen to a shipping label is the adhesive failing and it falling off. Specialised freight and shipping labels have strong adhesives to prevent the labels from falling.
  • Durable: The print on a label needs to be able to withstand wear and tear of transportation till it reaches the final destination. Shipping labels can be trusted to be durable and maintain their print throughout the shipping process.
  • Large Printing Space: A great deal of information needs to be printed on freight and shipping labels, ranging from address and contact numbers to content details and precautions. Smaller labels will likely not have enough space, but shipping labels come with a large amount of empty space for printing all the details.
  • Cost-Effective: Although initially you will need to invest in label printers and label rolls, overall, you get immense cost savings by printing your own shipping labels. If you have frequent shipping needs, you can save money on pre-printed or custom ordered labels. Also, by printing exactly the number of shipping labels needed you prevent wasting money on unused pre-printed labels.
  • Quality Control: With your own freight and shipping label setup, you have complete control over the quality of labels being printed. Depending upon the shipping destination and recipient of the package, you can experiment with shipping label styles, colours, quality and more. For example, using simple and basic labels for internal shipments and fancier labels for customers.

Who can benefit from freight and shipping labels?

Due to postal and shipping requirements, every package that is sent needs an adequate label. If you have more than 10 shipments a month, it might be time to have a specialised system for printing freight and shipping labels. A dedicated labelling setup in-house for freight and shipping labels can be more beneficial for some businesses rather than others. Whether you already have one of these businesses or are planning to expand or launch one in the future, having an in-house freight and shipping labelling system can be advantageous.

1. Suppliers and Wholesalers: Among the biggest users of freight and shipping labels are suppliers and wholesalers. They are often connected with manufacturing units or are manufacturers themselves and sell products to retailers for further sales. As suppliers and wholesalers typically do not sell directly to public, they have a major requirement for freight and shipping labels to transport products to retailers. Depending upon the niche, size of products sold, and frequency of shipping, the volume and urgency of freight labels and shipping labels will vary. The distance the shipment needs to travel and storage conditions have an impact on the required durability of the labels.

2. eCommerce Sellers: Online shopping and eCommerce sites are growing at an immense rate, and many shoppers prefer to buy a wide range of items online. Simple to use and manage eCommerce platforms such as Magento and BigCommerce have made it easier than ever to launch successful eCommerce sites. However, an eCommerce site works predominantly on a home delivery model, which is why shipping is an important part of business.

To support accurate and fast shipping for an eCommerce business, having dedicated freight and shipping labels is vital, even more so if the deliveries are long distance. Freight/shipping labels enable efficient deliveries and are also a great tool to personalise the shopping experience and enhance branding for the business.

3. Stores Offering Home Delivery: With increased competition from eCommerce sites, and to encourage customers to make purchases, many land-based stores are now also offering home delivery. This can be with an additional eCommerce site, through catalogues, in-store orders, over the phone or subscription-based orders. If larger products are being sold, having a home delivery option encourages customers to purchase without worrying about transportation.

Home delivery can increase your customer base, frequency of purchases and average order volume, leading to greater profits. To support fast home deliveries, freight and shipping labels are required. By having an in-house shipping labelling setup, you can print custom labels as soon as orders are placed. These labels represent your brand, and can be used to encourage repeat purchases.

4. Stores with Multiple Warehouses: As sales increase, it often happens that there becomes limited space in the main location of the businesses for extra warehousing of products, and as a result, setup extra warehouses. Smaller storage spaces remain attached to the main store, while additional warehouse spaces are used to store products. While this is a great idea to maximise space and manage inventory, often shipping becomes involved if the warehouses are located at a distance. Products may need to be shipped from the warehouse to the store, or between warehouses, or even directly to customers. In any situation, freight and shipping labels are useful.

With custom shipping labels, products can be moved around as required without having to personally oversee the movement of each individual item. Shipping labels can also be attached on the original packaging of the suppliers to reduce time and efforts of unpacking and repacking products.

5. Multiple Storefronts: Apart from adding eCommerce or home delivery capabilities, businesses also expand by opening additional store branches. This provides access to fresh customer bases in those areas and also helps with branding for the business. When there are multiple storefronts, the shipping needs of a business increase as you need to be able to offer products at whichever branch the demand arises. This can involve shipping between storefronts, from a central warehouse to other stores, from multiple warehouses to stores, or any other combination as needs evolve.

A freight labels and shipping labels setup can help streamline the movement of products within the brand throughout the different branches. As most of the movement is internal shipping, you can customise the labelling setup to suit your needs for easier inventory management. For example, colour coding categories of products and destinations, or utilising a barcode setup.

Elements of Freight Labels/Shipping Labels

Every freight label and shipping label features common elements that are required for successful transportation of the package. Incorporating as many details as possible is the best way to ensure that the package reaches its destination without any hassle. Keep in mind that depending upon the location of the sender and the recipient, there may be additional requirements from the shipping label. For example, sending across states or internationally will have different requirements.

Common elements of freight/shipping labels are:

  • Sender details: Listing full sender details is vital for a freight or shipping label so that in case of any problem, the sender can be contacted or the package can be returned. These include sender name, company name, full address, pin code, and contact number.
  • Recipient details: All the details of the package recipient need to be clearly marked on a shipping label, including name, address, pin code and optional contact number. This confirms the final destination of the package and prevents mix-ups.
  • Service method: The service method refers to the mode of transportation and level of service that the package requires. This is especially important if the package is going through multiple locations or is an express delivery.

Optional elements for freight/shipping labels are:

  • Content details: It is entirely up to you on how many details about you package contents you want to print on the shipping label. If the shipping is taking place internally, within the same business’ minimal details or specifics of the product category can be enough. When shipping to customers, you can include a brief description of the contents, or a short message for discreet items or gift deliveries.
  • Additional instructions: An optional element of freight and shipping labels, additional instructions can include anything that you want the shipping personnel or customer to know. If fragile or easy breakable items are being shipped that can be indicated in the additional, or if the package has to be handled in a particular way. For customer deliveries, the additional instructions can guide on what needs to be done if the customer is not available.
  • Barcode: In inventory management, barcodes play a big role in keeping track of products and their movement. Logistics and shipping companies will often add their own barcodes on packages to oversee and manage the shipping process. Nevertheless, if you have a barcode-based inventory management system, you can add your own barcodes to the shipping labels for efficient tracking. This is especially helpful if packages are shipped to or from different store branches and warehouses.

Creating Freight Labels/Shipping Labels

The process of creating freight labels and shipping labels is simple and straightforward, without requiring any specialised skills. All you need is the label design or layout, a label printer and label roll. The label design will depend on the delivery partner, and if they have a mandatory template to be used or if you can improvise. The label printer and label roll you use will be influenced by the durability requirements from the label.

Label Design

Label designs can be unique for different product categories, shipping locations, carriers, or the same throughout. While some shipping carriers will have a shipping label template that has to be used, often you will be able to use your own label designs. To create shipping labels, first identify the required elements for the labels, depending upon distance and recipient, and choose a design layout.

The goal of freight labels and shipping labels is clarity, and so it is advisable to not experiment with any quirky styles, and to keep the label design simple. As each and every label has to have unique information, setting up a label designing system is beneficial and time saving. Here are the common options:

  • Shipping Label Templates: There are a wide range of freight label and shipping label templates available online. These include templates by logistics firms and carriers, as well as general templates. With templates, you can directly enter the desired information and still have an overall uniform label appearance.
  • Label Software: A more advanced version of using shipping label templates is to use label software, available online and in the form of SaaS. Labelling software is available for free and in paid formats, and can be used for multiple types of labels apart from freight and shipping labels. By entering the required information and choosing the desired label layout you can instantly create shipping labels.
  • Integration with Shipping Tools: Many eCommerce platforms come with capabilities for integration with shipping tools. If you have an eCommerce business for which you require freight and shipping labels, the shipping tool can automatically print the required label. Shipping tools can be linked with top shipment providers and all the information required is automatically printed on the shipping labels.

Label Printers

If required, nearly any printer can be used to print occasional freight and shipping labels. However, if you need large volumes of shipping labels, it is better to get a printer that is more suitable for shipping label printing. Here are the best types of label printers for freight and shipping labels:

1. Thermal Printers

Thermal label printers use heat to create the desired patterns and are ideal for printing a vast range of labels, including freight and shipping labels. Thermal printing is fast, cost-effective and quiet, making it suitable for a variety of applications.

Among thermal printers, there are direct thermal ptinters that do not use ribbons, and thermal transfer printers that do use ribbons. While both types of printers are great for bulk printing of labels, thermal transfer printers produce labels with greater durability. For long lasting and weatherproof shipping labels, thermal transfer printers are best. Direct thermal printers have a short shelf life and are heat sensitive, but are cost effective and suitable for stable environments.

2. Laser Printers

Laser printers are commonly found in office spaces for general printing applications, but can also be used to print labels such as freight/shipping labels. While laser labels have excellent durability, can withstand extreme temperatures and also be waterproof, they are expensive to print when compared with thermal printers.

The cost of purchasing a laser printer is high and as specialised toner is used to fuse the prints onto the label material, the toner replacement is also expensive. Nevertheless, laser printers are fast and have excellent printing quality, making them suitable for diverse applications including several types of labels. If you already have a laser printer for other applications, then with the right label rolls they can be effective in printing shipping labels. If you are purchasing a printer, then a thermal printer will be more cost-effective for producing shipping labels.

3. Inkjet Printers

Inkjet printers are the most popular printers amongst consumers and they can also be used to print labels, including freight and shipping labels. The printing speed however is slow, and more time is required for the printed labels to adequately dry.

The average durability of inkjet printed labels is low, and there are prone to smudges. However, with adequate inks, label rolls and even plastic covers, the durability can be enhanced, making the labels smear-proof and weather resistant. Available in a variety of price points, the ink cartridges are also relatively affordable, resulting in low printing costs. While labels are often produced using inkjet printers, due to the durability concerns, inkjet printers are not advisable for printing shipping labels. For long-term printing of freight and shipping labels, either thermal or laser printers are a better option.

Label Rolls

Label rolls or the material the label will be printed on, have a major impact on the final quality of freight and shipping labels. The material influences the quality of the printing and the durability of the final label. There are dedicated freight/shipping label rolls available that are made to withstand rigorous transportation and rough handling. The freight/shipping label rolls have strong adhesives and are available in different shades for colour coding packages, and different sizes to match the printer capabilities and package sizes.

When choosing label rolls for freight and shipping labels, keep in mind the following factors:

  • Printer Compatibility: It is essential that the printer technology and size be compatible with the label roll for optimum quality of shipping labels. Incompatible printer and label rolls will result in poor quality shipping labels that might not survive the rigours of transportation.
  • Required Durability: When you are choosing a label roll for freight and shipping labels, check that it meets your durability requirements. For example, will the package be exposed to extreme weather temperatures or moisture or will it be indoors within controlled spaces? Opting for durable label rolls is more effective than trying to add plastic layers for protection after printing.
  • Label Size: The size of freight and shipping labels needs to be adequately large enough for the average size of packages being shipped. Larger shipping labels offer greater visibility from a distance, making it easier to manage logistics, but for smaller packages smaller labels are more suitable.
  • Strong Adhesives: A major criterion for freight and shipping labels is the adhesive capability. The shipping labels must have strong enough adhesives to withstand the entire transportation journey. If the adhesive is poor, the entire label can fall off and the package can be misplaced, hampering timely delivery.


As the applications of labels have evolved over the years, there are now designated labels available for specific purposes. Every package that is shipped requires some form of label. While manually-filled labels may be okay for occasional packages, if you have frequent shipments, consider having in-house printing of freight and shipping labels.

Specialised freight labels and shipping labels are sturdy, durable, large, and have strong adhesives. Thermal printers, commonly used for printing other types of labels are suitable for printing freight/shipping labels, although any printer can be used for occasional printing of shipping labels. Printing your own shipping labels gives you flexibility, saves time, and is cost-effective.

Here at POS Plaza, you can find a wide range of label printers and dedicated freight/shipping label rolls. Our capable team can help you find the best labelling solution for an existing or new labelling setup.