As you’re searching for the best transportation logistics solution for your business, you may have run across the term “cross-docking”. This term is generally not common knowledge for those outside of the transportation industry, so we won’t judge you if you’re at a loss for the definition. Because our team at Roane Transportation is dedicated to giving you the most efficient service and excellence with every shipment, we wanted to give you an in-depth explanation of one of our most valuable logistical practices.  

Where Did Cross-Docking Come From?  

Cross-docking as a process was pioneered by the American trucking industry in the 1930s. It has been used in “less than truckload”, or LTL, operations ever since. After cross-docking took off in the trucking industry, the US military began using it in the 1950s to transport necessary materials between bases. Large corporations, such as Walmart, began using the practice in the 1980s. As of 2014, over half of US warehouses and transportation companies utilize cross-docking.  

What Is Cross-Docking?  

The process of cross-docking is simply unloading the deliveries of incoming vehicles and directly loading them onto outbound vehicles to bypass some of the typical warehouse logistical practices that can waste valuable time and money. The streamlined process can be extremely helpful to ensure that deliveries arrive on time and that the materials being delivered are as organized as possible. Essentially, this practice removes the “storage” link on the supply chain.  

Previously, transportation companies would have to have multiple suppliers (or sources) bringing deliveries to different stores. With cross-docking, all suppliers bring the goods to one central distribution location, and from there the items are distributed to stores. It’s a much more organized process.  

The Types of Cross-Docking 

There are two main types of cross-docking that are used during the supply chain process. These are pre-distribution cross-docking and post-distribution cross-docking.  

During pre-distribution, goods being delivered are unloaded, sorted, and repacked according to distribution instructions from the customer. This way, the customer is in mind even before the delivery has left the supplier.  

Post-distribution cross-decking is when the sorting and repacking process is deferred until the proper customers and facilities are chosen. The deliveries spend more time in the warehousing phase of the process. This process takes a bit longer but allows businesses to be strategic with where they send their goods based on sales or in-store inventory.  

In addition to these main types of cross-docking, there are additional categories that detail certain aspects of the process. They include:  

Manufacturing Cross-Docking: involves the receiving of inbound products required for manufacturing  

Transportation Cross-Docking: the combination of multiple smaller shipments into one to gain “economies of sale”  

Retail Cross-Docking: receiving products from multiple vendors and combining them in order to send them to a larger number of retail establishments  

Distributor Cross-Docking: combining multiple shipments into one for the customer  

Opportunistic Cross-Docking: the transfer of product directly from inbound to outbound shipping docks to meet a certain client demand 

Advantages of Cross-Docking 

There are many advantages to using this technique as opposed to letting your goods sit in warehouses for extended amounts of time. They include:  

  • A great reduction or complete elimination of warehousing costs 
  • Less risk of inventory damage 
  • A greater variety of products can be shipped due to reduced wait time (ie. things that could spoil) 
  • The streamlining of the supply chain system 
  • A reduction of inventory holding costs by reducing storage time  
  • Easier to screen product quality  

In addition to the advantages of cross-docking for the industries that are served, there are also advantages for those that drive the trucks. With cross-docking, deliveries can be made much faster, allowing for the potential of more loads or more time home time. Cross-docking may also allow for drivers to stay in a more regional area, which also could mean more time at home with family  

Industries that Successfully Use Cross-Docking 

Many industries benefit from the process of cross-docking. Whether it’s retail, medical, or e-commerce, the efficient shipment of goods is absolutely essential. Here are three different industries that have been infinitely improved by cross-docking.  

Pharmaceutical Companies 

Pharmaceutical companies are one of the top industries that benefit from cross-docking and automated warehousing systems. This is because the goods that are transported to these companies are medical, and often require controlled temperature storage and insanely fast delivery. The turn-around time for most medications is usually within a 24-hour period. This makes the process of cross-docking necessary because they can avoid the hassle of unboxing, repacking, and storing different sensitive chemicals and medications and therefore provide guaranteed customer satisfaction due to undamaged products and fast delivery time.   

Food and Beverages 

In the hospitality industry, food is a must-have. It’s vital to have every ingredient necessary to keep your customers happy. Unfortunately, perishable products are difficult to safely store during transport. With cross-docking, the long wait times in storage are eliminated, and the items necessary are able to be delivered in a timely manner.  


Though significantly newer than the concept of cross-docking, e-commerce has taken over the world. Companies like Amazon have monopolized the industry and have streamlined their shipping services down to a science. Amazon utilizes a highly automated version of cross-docking that can allow for same-day delivery of whatever you want to order. Other consumer sites can achieve this same level of efficiency by utilizing cross-docking.   

What Roane Transportation Can Do for You  

Whatever your transporting needs may be, Roane Transportation is here for you. We are dedicated to ensuring that our clients receive the highest level of efficiency possible at the most affordable price. Our drivers strive for excellence with every delivery and make sure that your items arrive intact and on time. Our services include flatbed trucking, oversize transport, warehousing, and storage trailer rental.  

In addition, we have several partner companies that are ready to serve you with whatever you may need. Roane Metals is our partner scrap metal recycling company, and Roane Logistics is our third-party asset-based freight brokerage company. We work hand in hand to ensure that your goods arrive wherever they may need to go. If any of our services are something your company needs, or if you’d like to start your career with us, visit our website to learn more information.