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February 1, 2024
Freight 101: First, middle, and last mile explained
Understanding freight logistics can be tricky for those new to it. But at Amazon Freight, we’re here to make things a little easier for our small business shippers. So, this post provides an overview of the freight shipping mile stages, along with a few behind-the-scenes insights to help you ship with confidence.

Keep reading for an inside look and create a shipper account with us when you’re ready to move forward. Just note that, like so much in the transportation world, there are slightly different definitions for terms and concepts. When it comes to the mile stages (first, middle, and last), it can get especially fuzzy when considering when one stage ends and another begins.

First mile: launching your freight
The first mile delivery stage is the beginning of any freight journey. Here, your goods are pulled by the manufacturer, packaged to prevent damage in transit, and loaded onto trucks to hit the road. This stage also sets shipment documentation and tracking up for success—with detailed records of each order type, purchase order, quantity, destination, and estimated time of arrival.

What happens during first mile informs the rest of the freight journey. Any logistics errors—such as pulling the wrong product or packaging goods incorrectly—can cause a ripple effect that can lead to costly delays and disappointed customers. That all makes this a key time to set your shipment up for ultimate success. Once all of these logistics are in place and your shipment is ready to move, it will be transferred to a transportation hub, warehouse, or distribution center to begin the next stage.

Middle mile: moving your freight
The middle mile delivery stage begins when your shipment is picked up from its hub, warehouse, or center. This stage is typically the longest and often supported by freight providers (like Amazon Freight) specializing in transportation services within states, across regions, or coast-to-coast.

Middle mile strategic planning, coordination, and execution are essential to maintaining your delivery timeline. Any wrong turns in this stage can easily disrupt the entire process, so make sure to work with a freight company that knows how to effectively balance timeliness, costs, and safety for seamless transportation. Your freight provider should also have the tools to provide insights into your shipment’s location, status, and ETA at any point during this stage.

Last mile: delivering your freight
In the last mile delivery stage, goods are sorted at a fulfillment facility and loaded onto delivery vehicles for dispatch to your end customer. These last mile vehicles, like Amazon’s delivery vans, follow specific routes to ensure speed and efficiency.

Unlike the other stages of the journey, where large quantities are moved together, last mile delivery breaks your freight shipment out into individual customer orders. Any interruptions in the delivery flow will be immediately noticeable to the end customer and could impact their opinion of your service. As with the final leg of any race, a lot is at stake this close to the finish line!

Your next mile: stay in school
Learning about the freight industry is a never-ending endeavor. Be sure to check out our Tips for Shippers page to understand what it takes to be a successful shipper. And, if you’re ready to take the next step with Amazon Freight, create an account and start quoting loads immediately.
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