Moving freight to and from isolated locations like Alaska can get complicated—and expensive—quickly. To help you budget for your next Alaska freight project, we’ll walk you through the factors we look at when we price out a shipment to or from the Last Frontier.

Some of these factors may seem familiar. Others are particular to Alaska, a state in which only 18% of communities are accessible by road, and only about 31% of Alaska’s public roads are paved.

Whether you’re moving machinery, medical equipment, construction equipment, materials, or supplies to or from Alaska, this article will offer you insights on your freight costs so you know what to expect from your next Alaska freight project.

Factor #1: Origin & Destination

As with most freight, the origin and the destination of your freight will factor into your cost.

When pricing out your project, your forwarder will look at elements such as:

  1. How far your freight will be traveling from origin to destination
  2. What modes will be involved—air, ocean, rail, road, etc.
  3. The situation at origin and destination. If pick-up and drop-off services are requested, will they be done in a commercially zoned area? Is there a loading dock available? Or will the delivery crew need to bring their own equipment to load and unload the freight?

When it comes to freight headed to Alaska, getting it to a port like the Port of Anchorage is only half the battle. Routing it to the final destination is where the challenge lies.

If the destination is on the Alaska highway system, the task will be much easier. However, it won’t necessarily be easy. Not all of Alaska’s roads are paved, so deliveries in more remote areas can be challenging. In fact:

  • Only about 67% of the roads maintained by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities are paved.
  • Smaller municipal and borough roads are a mix of paved and unpaved roads.
  • Village and rural roadways are mostly unpaved.


Percentage of the roads maintained by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities that are paved.

Additionally, not all freight providers are willing to do pick-ups and deliveries in Alaska. Many only offer service to the nearest port. In other words, your options will be limited.

For destinations that can’t be accessed by road—a pretty common occurrence in Alaska—freight travels by barge or plane.

Freight headed out of Alaska experiences the same challenges, but in reverse: Finding a provider to get it to an outbound port can be a challenge.

The Bottom Line

Your forwarder will look at all of these factors when pricing your project. If your origin or destination offers logistical challenges, the price for your shipment will likely be higher.

Factor #2: The Freight You’re Moving

As with freight projects to other destinations, the freight you’re moving plays a big role in your cost. A freight forwarder will look at elements like:

Factor #3: The Equipment Needed

If you’re doing anything more than a pickup/drop-off at a commercial loading dock, you’re likely looking at extra charges on your freight bill. For example, if the freight requires a truck with a liftgate to lower the freight to the ground, you may be charged an additional fee. (These additional fees are often called “accessorial charges.”)

The same goes for more specialized equipment like a stepdeck. As we mentioned above when discussing oversized freight, when your project requires specialized equipment, it will impact your quote.

Factor #4: The Timeline

How quickly do you need your freight to move? Shipping cargo always involves a balance between speed and cost. As a general rule of thumb, the faster you need your shipment to move, the more expensive it will be.

If you’re in a hurry to get your freight to its destination, you’re likely looking at a higher quote.

Factor #5: Pick-Up & Delivery Services

When you’re planning your freight project, you’ll have the option to add on pick-up and delivery services. When you choose these services, rather than having to get the freight to the port or a terminal yourself, a driver will come out to your chosen location, pick up your freight and get it on its way. Similarly, at the other end, a driver will take your freight from the port/terminal and bring it to a destination of your choosing.

Under that overall umbrella of pick-up and drop-off services, you’ll have a few levels of service to choose from.

Below, we’ll take a look at the generally available service levels for freight pick-up and delivery. Note that not all Alaska providers offer these levels of service. If white glove service is an absolute necessity, you may only have a few options in Alaska.

Freight Pick-Up & Delivery Service Levels

Curbside Pick-Up/Delivery: Curbside delivery is a pretty standard service, in which your carrier picks up the freight or leaves the freight at the curb. This might happen, for example, on the loading dock of a warehouse.

Inside Pick-Up/Delivery: When you request an inside pick-up/delivery, your carrier will actually cross the threshold, either to get to your freight or to deliver it. However, they’re not obligated to navigate hallways, stairs, elevators, etc.

White Glove Pick-Up/Delivery: This is the highest level of service available. During white glove pick-ups, the team will come to the freight where it’s sitting, disassemble it if needed, package it, and take it away. During white glove deliveries, the team will put your freight in place, unpack it, and even assemble it, in some cases.

As you might expect, higher levels of service come with a higher freight bill. That said, for many types of freight, the extra cost is more than worth it—especially when it comes to specialized, high-value freight like medical equipment and equipment that’s just too large, heavy, or unwieldy to be handled by anyone other than professionals.

Moving Specialized Freight

Some truly specialized freight requires equally specialized equipment. For example, our team has moved a number of different types of medical equipment like MRI machines, X-ray machines, and CT systems. You don’t want to move delicate (and expensive!) machinery with just any equipment. Instead, experienced crews will show up with the right dollies, skates, jacks, J-bars, etc.—and some of this equipment is even manufacturer-specific.

If your freight requires this level of expertise, your freight quote will reflect this.

Factor #6: Any Fuel Surcharges in Place

Finally, in ocean freight and over-the-road freight, fuel surcharges (FSCs) have become a way of life. These surcharges change based on the cost of fuel, and are meant to compensate carriers for these fluctuating costs.

If you need to move a freight shipment, there’s not much you can do about fuel surcharges, other than to be aware of what they are so they don’t catch you by surprise.

Understanding Your Alaska Freight Quote

Ultimately, understanding the major factors at play in assembling an Alaska freight quote will give you a good lay of the land for what to expect for your next freight project. You’ll have a sense of the available services—and the costs involved. That way, when you receive your freight bill, there won’t be any surprises.

The best way to truly understand the costs of your Alaska freight project is to talk to an expert, someone with significant experience working in the state. Shipping freight in Alaska offers unique challenges you won’t see anywhere else.

By talking with someone who truly understands how Alaska operates, you’ll understand exactly what it takes to get your freight from origin to destination. With this knowledge, you might even be able to find some ways to save on your freight bill—or pick the right “extra” services that make your project significantly easier.

One of our Alaska freight experts would be happy to assist. Our team has decades of experience moving freight all over Alaska and all over the world, including specialized medical equipment, heavy freight, specialty freight, and more. Just reach out for a complimentary quote for your next Alaska freight project.

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