Shipping APIs: How to Connect Your Business System to Transportation and Delivery Providers

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Today, Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, are everywhere. Whenever you book a hotel room, request an Uber ride, or check the weather, that’s them working to get you the information you need. APIs connect business systems in one digital network, enable data and functionality sharing, support automation — boosting business growth and development at every turn.

If your company is part of a supply chain — whether you are a manufacturer, a logistics provider, or an eCommerce/retail seller — and you deal with moving goods, you need to connect to your partners to efficiently manage the shipping process. The main reasons for integrating shipping functionality into your business system or eCommerce website are

  • getting real-time quotes from carriers (sometimes multiple carriers to compare rates) and
  • creating, managing, and tracking shipments (check our dedicated post about how to integrate shipment tracking).

Previously, we’ve discussed the main connectivity options in transportation and how to connect to the key carriers and service providers. In this article, we’ll go over the main transportation industry players in more detail and describe how you can integrate with them, which data can be exchanged, and in what way it can benefit your business. It’s a long list (nowhere near being exhaustive though), so unless you’re looking for a sleeping aid, feel free to jump straight to the section that interests you the most.

groups of shipping APIs providers

Main shipping APIs providers

Top parcel couriers

If you look at the top logistics companies of 2021, you’ll see such familiar brands as UPS, DHL, and FedEx. Each of these industry behemoths delivers billions of parcels per year, has thousands of offices and fulfillment centers worldwide, and provides a wide range of services, covering all fulfillment stages, from international shipping to last-mile delivery.

We’re not comparing them, since every business has different shipping requirements, and you might even choose a different carrier for each shipment, depending on the conditions, but in a nutshell,

  • UPS is the oldest private delivery company and boasts the biggest number of delivered parcels;
  • DHL is known as the largest worldwide logistics company with the broadest coverage but outsources domestic deliveries within the US to other carriers, namely, USPS;
  • FedEx holds the greatest number of planes in its fleet and is strong at expedited shipping; and
  • USPS is the cheapest and is usually the carrier of choice for small businesses that handle lightweight shipments.

Mind that all of them have separate divisions for parcel deliveries and all-encompassing logistics services (those are typically meant for bigger companies involved in global trade.). We already have an article explaining how you can integrate with the main shipping carriers. This time, we’ll focus on the APIs they provide and also discuss the 3PL divisions. So, let’s start our integration overview with them and then proceed to other big players in the 3PL market.

UPS APIs

Main users: small and mid-sized eCommerce companies

Region of coverage: worldwide

UPS, or Universal Parcel Service, in over 100 years since its founding became the world’s largest courier company in terms of revenue. Present in almost all countries, UPS offers a variety of shipping services both in and out of the US.

UPS APIs include the following groups:

  • Shipping/Rating for address validation, requesting a pickup, printing labels to order shipping, dangerous goods verification, and comparing delivery options, time in transit, and rates;
  • Visibility for shipment tracking; and
  • International Trade to generate international shipments documentation and obtain cost estimates for duties, taxes, and transportation.

UPS APIs are available in 3 versions: XML, Web service, and JSON. To make use of UPS APIs, you’ll have to register with ups.com, download documentation of the selected APIs, and request an access key. UPS provides technology support and access to the Developer Resource Center (including a developers community) to guide users through the integration process step by step and assist with possible issues. APIs are available at no charge.

UPS Supply Chain APIs

Main users: mid-sized and large eCommerce companies, manufacturers, wholesalers

Region of coverage: worldwide

UPS Supply Chain Solutions (UPS SCS) provides a full range of freight forwarding services (including air, ocean, and multimodal transportation), as well as takes care of warehousing, distribution, customs clearance, insurance, and so on.

UPS SCS offers an API Portal with a list of available APIs that would enable you to

  • create a warehouse order,
  • create an advance shipment notice,
  • query your inventory within a warehouse,
  • request shipment order status,
  • request advance shipment notice status, and so on.

Their APIs require two-factor authentication for security. You’ll have to contact their team and choose the options that suit you. APIs can be protected by either API keys, OAuth2, JWT, Certificates, or HTTP basic authentication.

DHL APIs

Main users: small and mid-sized eCommerce companies, freight forwarders

Region of coverage: worldwide

DHL was founded in the US but is now part of Deutsche Post and is headquartered in Germany (that’s why they don’t handle domestic shipments within the US). On the flip side, DHL is not limited by sanctions and embargoes related to the US, so it can ship to such countries as Cuba and North Korea, which makes its coverage even more global than that of its competitors.

DHL has a variety of options in its API catalog. Depending on your needs, you can choose from the following categories:

  • Location finder (to find all DHL pickup and drop-off points),
  • Shipment tracking (to retrieve shipment status),
  • Document (to upload and download electronic documents related to global freight forwarding),
  • Shipment Label (to generate labels),
  • DHL eCommerce Solutions (to help eCommerce customers create and manage shipments within and from Europe),
  • Duty and Tax Calculator (to let business account owners calculate the total cost of a cross-border shipment),
  • Shipment Booking (to let freight forwarders create and manage shipments), and so on.

Note that DHL offers different APIs for different customer groups, i.e., freight forwarders, eCommerce, users with specific accounts, etc. To choose the right integration type, consider consulting the DHL team first.

DHL APIs follow the Open API 2.0 specification in RESTful / JSON format. The volume of requests and authentication method depend on the selected API. For example, for global eCommerce, APIs are provided as a REST API using OAuth 2.0 for authentication and authorization and JSON format for request and response messages. The API uses HTTP (over SSL) protocol, HTTP GET is used to retrieve data, and HTTP POST is used to create, update, or delete data. Use of HTTP PUT and DELETE is not allowed.

DHL Developer Portal provides you with all the necessary credentials and integration materials free of charge after registration.

DHL Supply Chain APIs

Main users: mid-sized and large eCommerce companies, manufacturers, wholesalers

Region of coverage: worldwide

DHL Supply Chain, another subdivision of Deutsche Post DHL, offers services along the entire supply chain, including consulting, value-added services, and returns management. They operate 1,400 warehouses in 55+ countries throughout the world and topped the 2019 ranking of 3PL companies in terms of revenue.

DHL Developer Portal provides 3 types of APIs to connect to DHL Supply Chain:

  • Track and Trace for monitoring order status,
  • Transportation Management to get access to the TMS and place/manage delivery orders, and
  • Warehouse Management as an interface to WMS operations to manage inventory, procurement, returns, place outbound orders to pick/pack and dispatch goods, and more.

Their APIs are accessed as REST API using OAuth 2.0 for authentication and authorization and JSON format for request and response messages. APIs use HTTPS (over SSL) protocol.

FedEx APIs

Main users: small and mid-sized eCommerce companies

Region of coverage: worldwide

FedEx, founded 50 years ago as Federal Express Corporation, is today a multinational corporation with a global reach and a recognized brand worldwide. It was one of the first companies to offer overnight delivery (which is still their strong suit, considering their huge air fleet) and a shipment tracking system.

FedEx Web Services is a set of APIs that allow you to integrate FedEx shipping services into your website or business management system. Such integration allows you and/or your customers to compare shipping options and manage shipments, i.e.,

  • obtain rate quotes,
  • create labels to order shipping,
  • track shipments,
  • facilitate returns, and
  • generate reports.

FedEx Web services communicate using HTTP and XML and support OAuth 2.0 for authentication and authorization. Check FedEx Developer Resource Center and API Catalog to find necessary tools, documentation, and FAQs to establish connectivity. FedEx APIs are free to use after registering with Web Services.

FedEx Supply Chain APIs

Main users: mid-sized and large eCommerce companies, manufacturers, wholesalers

Region of coverage: worldwide

FedEx Supply Chain, formerly known as GENCO (General Commodities Warehouse & Distribution Co.), was recognized as a Top 3PL company of 2018 by Multichannel Merchant. It’s a leading non-asset-based 3PL which means they don’t own the assets needed to arrange the supply chain activities, but instead focus on innovation, technology, and negotiating profitable contracts with external warehousing and transportation companies.

FedEx Supply Chain APIs contain a list of open APIs that give you access to the FedEx platform. You’ll be able to

  • create an appointment for the facility,
  • manage fulfillment operations (create, update, and track orders),
  • track shipments,
  • generate labels,
  • manage inbound shipments and provide advance notice to the FedEx fulfillment center,
  • get inventory information and manage the inventory list,
  • receive updates on the latest events occurring in the commerce platform,
  • manage returns, etc.

FedEx Supply Chain APIs support the OAuth 2.0 protocol for authorization. To get your credentials, you’ll have to register your application in the Developer Portal.

USPS APIs

Main users: small and mid-sized eCommerce companies

Region of coverage: US, worldwide

USPS is a government-run company that provides postal services in the US. It has a huge fleet for domestic ground deliveries (it even does last-mile delivery for some FedEx and UPS shipments), but for international shipping, it partners with FedEx because of its ownership of air and sea transport.

USPS Shipping for Business offers a variety of tools, including the USPS Web Tools API Portal. This API Portal allows developers of web-based and shrink-wrapped applications access to the USPS online services. Using their APIs, you can

  • access their price calculator,
  • get tracking and delivery information,
  • generate labels to start the shipping process,
  • validate addresses,
  • manage pickups, and
  • see service standards and commitments.

The USPS Shipping API Server communicates over HTTP using XML. There are a number of detailed guides for developers that are going to set up connections on the portal website.

USPS Web Tools registration and usage are free of charge once you have a business account.

3PL companies

If you don’t want to look for separate carriers, negotiate discounts, worry about extra storage space, and mess with all these complicated logistics activities, you can pass the buck to a 3PL.

A 3PL or third-party logistics company is an organization that manages outsourced logistics for its customer and can cover such fulfillment activities as warehousing, distribution, transportation, inventory management, returns management, etc. Being experts in order fulfillment, 3PL companies provide their storage space, multiple fulfillment channels, discounted carrier rates, and trained staff to spare you the hassle of organizing your logistics activities.

We’ve already described how you can connect to the 3PL divisions of the leading providers of delivery services. But, of course, other options exist.

C.H. Robinson APIs

Main users: mid-sized and large eCommerce companies, manufacturers, wholesalers

Region of coverage: US, worldwide

C.H. Robinson is a US-based logistics provider that offers a range of brokerage, transportation, warehousing, and transportation management services. It deals with full and partial truckloads and covers air, ocean, and land transportation.

C.H. Robinson suggests using their logistics platform, Navisphere, to manage your freight either online or through an EDI/API connection with your own TMS. Their Developer Portal provides detailed descriptions and documentation of available REST APIs including

  • Rating — to get real-time market quotes and shipping options,
  • Order — to create orders and tender shipments to C.H. Robinson in Navisphere,
  • Events — to receive status updates on orders and shipments (Webhook solution available as well to push real-time event updates into your app or system),
  • Visibility — to view your supply chain movements,
  • Shipments — designed for carrier partners to see the list of available shipments,
  • Financials — to retrieve invoicing information,
  • Documents — to create, manage, and retrieve such documents as BOLs, PODs, and Lumper receipts,
  • Purchase order — to create a purchase order in C.H. Robinson’s Navisphere® PO Management system, and
  • Labels — to generate small parcel shipping labels.

C.H. Robinson uses OAuth v2.0 to secure connections to its APIs.

Kuehne + Nagel APIs

Main users: mid-sized and large eCommerce companies, manufacturers, wholesalers

Region of coverage: Europe, worldwide

Kuehne + Nagel was founded in 1890 in Bremen, Germany. Today, it’s headquartered in Switzerland and maintains its presence worldwide through 1,400 locations in 109 countries, being one of the biggest providers of supply chain services. It was recognized as a visionary leader in the 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for 3PL (closely followed by DHL and UPS).

Kuehne + Nagel offers data integration through EDI and APIs. They have a separate Air API Portal to request air freight prices and place booking requests for air transportation. You have to contact their team to connect to

  • Shipment overview API (allows you to retrieve shipment details),
  • Shipment tracking API (allows you to receive shipment status),
  • Document API (allows you to download shipment-related documentation),
  • Container tracking API (allows you to receive container and status information for sea freight shipments), and
  • Order tracking API (allows you to get order and status information through customer-specific order references).

All API access is over HTTPS and accessed from the Kuehne + Nagel domain. All data is sent and received as JSON.

DB Schenker APIs

Main users: mid-sized and large eCommerce companies, manufacturers, wholesalers

Region of coverage: Europe, worldwide

DB Schenker, a division of German rail operator Deutsche Bahn AG, combines air, sea, and land transportation as well as deep expertise in global contract logistics. They boast 2000+ locations worldwide and more than 8.8 million square meters of storage space across over 50 countries that allows them to offer bespoke logistics solutions to clients from various industries.

DB Schenker has an API Portal to support developers in exploring, testing, and managing their APIs. Their e-services page is messy, so it might take some time to figure it out. The list of APIs offered includes

  • Pricing (can be used as plug-ins to directly obtain freight pricing information in XML format, which can be used by an external application),
  • Booking,
  • Transportation instructions,
  • Tracking,
  • Info collection point, and
  • Map collection point.

The booking service can be invoked by http Request using XML or HQF (http Query Format) and can be returned in two formats: XML and text.

Also note that to use DB Schenker’s APIs, you’ll have to insert the text “Logistics by” and display their logo on the pages where their services will be utilized.

ShipBob APIs

Main users: small and mid-sized eCommerce companies

Region of coverage: US, worldwide

ShipBob is a tech provider and also a 3PL company, offering “simple, fast, and affordable fulfillment” for small and mid-sized eCommerce businesses.

They offer open API documentation to help you integrate and manage your fulfillment all the way from creating product lists to tracking shipments and processing returns.

ShipBob’s Developer API allows 2 forms of authentication, depending on the use case: Privileged Access Token (PAT) or OAuth 2.0.

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) APIs

Main users: eCommerce companies, retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers

Region of coverage: US, worldwide

Amazon has long since outgrown the eCommerce niche where it started. Today it’s, well, something else. It combines a marketplace where you can find almost anything, a powerful tech provider that offers a cloud computing platform and live-streaming platform — and a 3PL with a wide range of fulfillment services. So, we couldn’t avoid mentioning it here as well — just like you probably can’t avoid selling through Amazon if you’re a retailer and want to increase your customer reach.

Amazon fulfillment or FBA program allows you to make use of Amazon’s enormous network of fulfillment centers (as well as 100+ million Prime subscribers!) and outsource your storage and distribution operations.

Amazon’s Selling partner API portal includes a set of APIs that are designed to help Amazon sellers manage their business. This is the updated suite of APIs that will replace the legacy Amazon Marketplace Web Service (Amazon MWS) APIs at some point. They use JSON-based REST API design standards, OAuth2.0 selling partner authorization using Login with Amazon, and a test endpoint.

The basic set of APIs enables inventory management, order management, and reports management. For FBA sellers, Amazon MWS also allows you to

  • create inbound shipments to an Amazon fulfillment center,
  • monitor status of inbound shipments,
  • submit multichannel fulfillment orders, and
  • track and manage outbound shipment requests.

The provided documentation is detailed and well-written, so you shouldn’t have trouble connecting. Amazon MWS comes free of charge, but you must have a seller account and register with MWS.

Now that we discussed the most popular delivery providers that offer the widest range of shipping services, let’s look into narrower niches on the transportation market.

Freight forwarders

Freight forwarders arrange cargo transportation on behalf of shippers. They don’t move freight themselves but organize logistics by partnering with multiple carriers for different shipping modes, i.e., ocean, air, or land. They also offer additional services such as preparing documents and performing customs-related activities.

The main difference between freight forwarding and 3PL companies lies in the scope of services provided. Freight forwarders only set up shipping services for you, basically acting as a middleman between you and a carrier. Meanwhile, 3PLs, in addition to freight forwarding services, take care of the entire logistics chain for you including warehousing, packing, customer support, last-mile delivery, and so on.

Freight forwarders can be a real leg up when it comes to international shipping. So, if you deal with global trade and want to streamline your operations, here are a couple of integrations that can come in handy.

DSV APIs

Main users: eCommerce companies, retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, and other companies that deal with international shipping

Region of coverage: worldwide

DSV, a Danish logistics company, is now getting to be one of the top three global freight forwarding companies after acquiring Panalpina in 2019 and Agility’s GIL in 2021 (as of now, Kuehne + Nagel is the market leader, followed by DHL). Its operations are divided into three branches: Road, Air & Sea, and Solutions.

If you choose DSV as your freight forwarding partner, you can connect via their myDSV tool, EDI, or API. Their Developer Portal has all the necessary information to support your integration. The API Catalog includes

  • Quote — to request current rates,
  • Booking — to submit shipments to DSV,
  • Tracking — to receive updates on your shipments, and
  • Labels — to generate shipping labels.

DSV APIs are provided in REST JSON format.

Flexport APIs

Main users: eCommerce companies, retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, and other companies that deal with international shipping

Region of coverage: worldwide

Flexport is a California-based full-service freight forwarder, providing cargo transportation, customs brokerage, freight consolidation, and logistics technology. Founded in 2013, in 2018 it was ranked 8th on the list of the fastest-growing private companies in the US with a 3-year growth of an overwhelming 15,911 percent.

Flexport declares its focus on innovation and technology, so they have a robust suite of APIs to integrate with their platform. They not only allow you to book shipments, track their status, and manage financials and documentation, but also calculate CO2 emissions and receive port information.

Their APIs follow RESTful conventions and speak JSON in both directions. Check their API documentation page for more information.

Freight forwarders can take the lion’s share of arranging logistics formalities off your shoulders. However, if you want to work with carriers directly or if you ARE a freight forwarding company and want to know how to connect to ocean/air freight moving companies, the next sections are for you.

Ocean container carriers

World trade relies heavily on ocean carriers, which include such well-known brands as Maersk, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), CMA CGM, COSCO, Evergreen, and others. Traditionally, they use the EDI (Electronic data interchange) to communicate with other systems.

Today, it’s considered a legacy standard that’s costly and inefficient to utilize. However, the world’s leading carriers are just starting to embrace digitization and adopt API-based technologies in response to modern market requirements. In 2020, DCSA (Digital Container Shipping Association) released the set of definitions for track and trace APIs (published on SwaggerHub and GitHub). Now (finally!), carriers can use them as standards to implement their own APIs to enable data sharing.

So, as of today, there are still limited possibilities to integrate directly with the ocean freight moving companies (except for tracking purposes) and manage your shipments via APIs. We’ll discuss some options provided by carriers that offer API integration, but there are also certain workarounds to get the tracking information from other companies. Here’s what you can do.

Partner with a 3PL or freight forwarding company and use their APIs to track your containers.

Connect to the shipping API aggregators that partner with your carrier(s) and have preestablished integrations (more information further on).

Partner with specialized tracking companies or marketplaces that allow you to track your containers. For example, such platforms as ShipsGo, Terminal49, or Vizion provide APIs that allow you to easily track containers shipped by different carriers. You can track your COSCO shipments with the help of Trackingmore or Tracktry RESTful JSON APIs. SeaRates offers a variety of subscription plans to access API and Web integration.

Register with the TradeLens platform which self-described as “an open and neutral supply chain platform underpinned by blockchain technology,” developed due to an IBM and Maersk initiative. It connects different parties in the supply chain industry in a single collaborative ecosystem, supports automation, and facilitates data-sharing. TradeLens strongly encourages all the members of the supply chain to move away from legacy EDIs. Connecting to their REST JSON APIs (check their API documentation) would allow you to create documentation, receive updates, and share shipment-related data.

But let’s get back to connecting directly to container carriers. Most of them are only working on their APIs, e.g., COSCO or MSC. Others have rolled out some functionality.

Maersk APIs

Main users: freight forwarders, wholesalers

Region of coverage: worldwide

Maersk is a Danish vessel operating company that has been an industry leader since 1996. It offers both ocean and inland freight shipping services as well as port operation and supply chain management.

At the 2019 Nordic APIs Summit, Dave Holliday, a Product Owner of Maersk’s API Management Platform, told about the difficulties he and his team encountered on the way to building open APIs. Today, you can integrate with Maersk and track your shipments through their Offers APIs, which only cover their Spot Products. The main difference of Spot products from other company offerings is that the price for them is fixed, being set at the booking, not at the estimated time of departure.

Here’s their onboarding guide that will help you get access to the Maersk API slack team. Those guys will assist you establish the connection and grant you the API security token for authorization.

CMA CGM APIs

Main users: freight forwarders, wholesalers

Region of coverage: worldwide

CMA CGM is another big player in the world of international sea transportation. It’s a French company that operates 500+ vessels on 200+ shipping lines across 420 ports.

They have an API Catalog that includes

  • Routes APIs to obtain information about routes, schedules, and operational details over voyages;
  • Pricing APIs to get quote calculations; and
  • Other APIs for tracking and OBL (original bill of lading) printing.

They also present a list of APIs under development to be deployed soon that would enable more comprehensive management of your shipments, such as requesting a booking, updating shipping instructions, and more.

To connect, you have to register, select the necessary APIs, and receive an access token after verification. API documentation and pricing details are also only available upon registration.

Air freight carriers

Air freight carriers or cargo airlines are companies that operate aircraft to transport cargo. They can be either dedicated to freight shipping only or be subsidiaries of passenger airlines. According to IATA’s World Air Transport Statistics, the busiest air cargo carriers are FedEx, Emirates, Qatar Airways, and UPS.

Note that there’s a difference between air courier and air cargo services. Air courier is typically related to door-to-door parcel delivery with UPS, FedEx, or other similar provider, with customs clearance fees included. Meanwhile, air freight normally involves a freight forwarder and it’s about shipping airport-to-airport with a whole bunch of additional charges (e.g., airport handling, customs brokerage, further delivery, etc.). So, in short, air courier service is a good option to transport small, time-sensitive shipments, but if you need to urgently move 200+kg cargo, better go with air freight.

Air freight services are accessible and there’s always a choice who to ship with. Now, the bad news — even though these are multibillion-dollar worth global companies, the situation with their digitization is about the same as with ocean carriers. Only a few of them have their own APIs available for integration. Even those digital platforms (such as WebCargo or CargoAi) that act as middlemen between shippers or freight forwarders on one side and carriers on the other, providing real-time rates and booking functionality, don’t have open APIs.

So, let’s take a look at those airlines that have already joined the digital revolution by offering their APIs to customers.

Delta Cargo APIs

Main users: freight forwarders

Region of coverage: US, worldwide

Delta Cargo is a division of Delta Airlines, one of the major US carriers. They offer a variety of both domestic and international shipping options depending on the size and weight of cargo and also time in transit.

Delta Cargo APIs allow shippers and freight forwarders to manage shipments directly from their own systems. Delta Cargo provides

  • Shopping APIs to search flights and obtain current rates,
  • Booking APIs to create and manage shipment bookings, and
  • Tracking APIs to get real-time status updates on active shipments including GPS tracking and Door-to-Door shipment details.

Delta Cargo uses RESTful services. To get access, you have to fill out and submit the API request form. Registration, setup, and usage is free of charge.

Air France KLM Martinair Cargo

Main users: freight forwarders

Region of coverage: Europe, worldwide

Air France KLM Martinair Cargo is the specialized air cargo business of the Air France KLM Group that manages the combined fleet of three airlines and serves 457 destinations across 157 countries.

You can manage your shipments through the online portal myCargo or connect to AFKL Cargo APIs. Currently, two categories of APIs are available. MyCargo APIs allow you to get quotes, book and manage shipments, and get status updates. You can get access after registration and agreement only. Cargo Tracking APIs enable you to retrieve information about the status of all active AirWay Bills linked to your account.

CHAMP Cargosystems APIs

Main users: freight forwarders

Region of coverage: worldwide

CHAMP Cargosystems is the cargo management suite of CHAMP, a global IT provider dedicated to the needs of the air cargo industry. CHAMP provides integrated services to over 100 airlines and 200 customers worldwide, as a kind of aggregator of global air freight data.

CHAMP Developer Portal provides information about various API products that would allow you to

  • view the list of available flights and applicable rates,
  • get capacity and allotment details,
  • create and manage bookings,
  • track shipments, and more.

CHAMP Cargospot operates REST APIs and uses the standard OAuth2 two-step procedure to authenticate consumers.

Rail freight companies

Rail freight transport is the usage of railroads and trains to move cargo. If you need to haul large, non-time-sensitive loads over long distances, it’s usually cheaper than road transport as trains have bigger capacity and use less fuel (so it’s also more environmentally friendly.). However, there’s less flexibility in routing, so if your facilities are far from rail terminals, consider intermodal transportation with all the related transshipment costs.

The rail freight industry is at about the same stage of digitization as ocean and air cargo areas we described above. Very few rail freight companies have available APIs you can connect with. Here are some who do.

BNSF Railway APIs

Main users: freight forwarders, manufacturers, wholesalers, extractive industry companies

Region of coverage: US

BNSF Railway merged about 400 railroad lines in over 170 years since its foundation, so now it operates the largest railway network in North America with its 32,500 track-miles. It even offers intermodal services to move goods internationally, as well as dedicated train, door-to-door, and other shipment options.

BNSF API Center offers a suite of RESTful APIs that allow you to

  • track shipments,
  • get quotes,
  • request schedules,
  • retrieve waybills, and more.

Besides, their webhooks can send you notifications about important status updates. To set them up, you have to contact the BNSF administrator. However, as of now, you can’t place orders to book BNSF Railway services via APIs.

Union Pacific APIs

Main users: freight forwarders, manufacturers, wholesalers, extractive industry companies

Region of coverage: US

Union Pacific Railroad is the second largest in the US with its 32,200 miles of track. Together with BNSF they have a duopoly on transcontinental freight rail lines in the western United States.

Union Pacific Developer Center provides tools to support your integration. Available APIs include the following types:

  • Shipment — to track and get details on your shipments,
  • Action — to order rail cars or create intermodal terminal reservations,
  • Waybill — to retrieve waybill details, and others.

You can access API documentation only after you register.

DB Cargo APIs

Main users: freight forwarders, manufacturers, wholesalers, extractive industry companies

Region of coverage: Europe

DB Cargo is a Germany-based international transportation and logistics company and is the largest railway network in Europe. Their longest route is from Spain to China, about 13,000 km (8,000 miles) long.

With DB Cargo APIs you can track your shipments and order empty freight wagons for your cargo.

When you ship cargo with ocean/air/rail carriers, it’s usually transported to the port, airport, or terminal (well, it might vary depending on the contract terms.). But then what? How should you get your freight to your store, distribution center, or manufacturing facility? Or, what if you just need to move goods from a manufacturer in a neighboring state to your warehouse? Well, the trucking industry is at your service.

Trucking carriers

Trucking carriers are companies that operate their own fleets of trucks and provide transportation services. Over 70 percent of US freight is moved by trucks, so there are quite a number of carriers to choose from. Of course, you can partner with the same old FedEx or UPS to move your freight as they are among the industry leaders here as well. But let’s take a look at some other options.

J.B. Hunt APIs

Main users: 3PL, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers

Region of coverage: US

J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. (JBHT), with their 12,000 trucks and over 100,000 trailers and containers, is one of the largest transportation companies in the US. It moves freight all around North America, providing various logistics services, including cross-docking, last mile delivery, and more.

JBHT API Portal offers connectivity options for both shippers and carriers. For you as a shipper, available APIs include

  • tracking,
  • quote requests (full truckloads only),
  • document exchange,
  • scheduling, and
  • order management (create, modify, schedule, and search orders).

JBHT uses 2 types of security protocols, i.e., OAuth 2.0 and RHSSO. To get access to their APIs, you’ll have to register on their Shipper 360 platform.

XPO Logistics APIs

Main users: 3PL, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers

Region of coverage: US

XPO Logistics is a large US transportation company that mainly specializes in LTL (less-than-truckload) services and is one of the world leaders in freight brokerage operations with a network of about 63,000 carriers operating over a million trucks. XPO is rated as the top last mile logistics provider for heavy goods in North America.

To streamline your partnership in case you choose XPO as a carrier, visit their API Solutions webpage. They offer shippers a suite of open REST APIs that will allow you to

  • receive quotes,
  • create orders,
  • track shipments,
  • retrieve documents,
  • get invoices, and
  • retrieve shipment details.

XPO uses OAuth 2.0 token mechanism to securely access their APIs.

YRC APIs

Main users: 3PL, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers

Region of coverage: US

YRC Freight is a subsidiary of the US transportation holding company Yellow Corporation with almost 90 years of expertise primarily in LTL shipping and a comprehensive North American coverage.

YRC API webpage provides detailed information about their APIs and web services. Connecting to their APIs would let you

  • request terminal locations,
  • get tracking information,
  • receive rate quotes,
  • request documentation (streamed as XML or PDF), and
  • receive an invoice summary and actual invoice.

With the help of YRC web services, you’ll be able to request pickup, track shipments, create and submit BOLs, and look up ZIP codes.

Last mile delivery providers

Last mile delivery is related to the final stage of shipping goods — usually from a warehouse or distribution center to the end customer. Local couriers that deliver groceries and food from restaurants such as DoorDash, GrubHub, Instacart, and Uber Eats are also considered last mile delivery companies, but they are so narrowly focused that we’re not going to discuss them here.

Usually, if you outsource your logistics to a 3PL, sell with Amazon, or ship through a parcel courier, they cover this part for you. However, you might want to partner with a local delivery company to deliver your goods to your customers in the area.

The list of the top last mile delivery providers is headed by — guess who? Right, it’s FedEx and UPS again with their unbeatable coverage and fleets. But there are still some other courier services providers for you to consider.

Postmates APIs

Main users: restaurants, grocery stores, retailers, 3PL

Region of coverage: US

Postmates is a quick-commerce company owned by Uber that focuses primarily on local delivery of food, groceries, and also retail goods.

You as a business owner can use their developer portal to connect to their APIs. It will allow you to get actual delivery information (quotes, ETA, etc.), create delivery requests, and track your orders — all from your business system or website. You can also activate Webhooks to receive real-time updates on your ongoing deliveries.

Postmates APIs are REST-based with standard HTTP request and response verbs and HTTP basic authentication.

Purolator APIs

Main users: eCommerce, retailers

Region of coverage: Canada, worldwide

Purolator is a Canadian courier service company that is 91 percent owned by Canada Post. It’s similar to USPS and delivers shipments in Canada, the US, and over 210 other countries.

They offer their digital solution Purolator Your Way to support eCommerce and retail businesses that want to ship with Purolator as well as EDI and Web Services connectivity.

Purolator E-Ship Resource Center provides detailed information and developer guides to help you integrate their functionality into your website or business system. Once you register and connect, you’ll be able to

  • get rate estimates,
  • create shipments,
  • manage returns,
  • receive tracking information,
  • request pickups,
  • generate labels, and
  • retrieve documentation.

Purolator web services are written in XML and designed to work with any current SOAP/XML environments.

Shipping API aggregators

If you handle multiple shipments and cooperate with different carriers or service providers, connecting with all of them separately can be a real pain in the neck. But not to worry. There is a solution — shipping API aggregators. Those are platforms that are already integrated with multiple carriers, so you’ll only have to connect once, and voila — you get the shipment information from your logistics providers through a single channel.

There are other benefits as well. For example, you get access to discounted carrier rates. Besides, seamless connectivity is the bread and butter of these platforms, so rest assured that they all have great documentation and will provide you with all the necessary support to facilitate your integration efforts. So, let’s get acquainted with some of them.

EasyPost APIs

Main users: eCommerce

Region of coverage: worldwide

EasyPost can provide you with connectivity to over 100 carriers. Their shipping APIs allow you to order shipping, compare rates, track your shipments, create labels, insure packages, and so on.

Depending on which APIs you choose to connect with, they come in RESTful or SOAP/XML format. Here’s their API documentation and integration guides. There are also client libraries for .Net, Java, Ruby, Python, Node, PHP, and Go. EasyPost requires that all communication with the API is secured using TLS v1.2. Requests made over HTTP or without a proper API Key will fail.

EasyPost offers 2 pricing plans: Developer that includes free 120,000 shipments per year and Enterprise with unlimited shipping and a bunch of goodies, but you’ll have to contact their sales team for a quote.

Shippo APIs

Main users: eCommerce

Region of coverage: worldwide

Shippo partners with 85+ carriers and is focused primarily on the eCommerce sector but also works with direct retailers and fulfillment companies.

With Shippo’s REST APIs you’ll be able to request rates and ship through multiple carriers, generate labels (including labels for shipping alcohol), schedule pickup, manage returns and multipiece shipments, and more. To facilitate integration, Shippo provides client libraries in cURL, Ruby, Python, PHP, NodeJS, Java, and C#.

As for pricing, they have 3 plans, i.e., a free single-user offer, a Professional plan if you want to pay per label amount which starts at $10/month per up to 60 labels, and a Premier solution with a customized subscription fee. Plus, you pay the cost of postage and insurance.

ShippyPro APIs

Main users: eCommerce

Region of coverage: worldwide

ShippyPro is integrated with 150+ carriers and around 70 sales channels. And that means that if you already have the software from their list, you can easily sync your shipping platforms and chosen carriers to enable two-way communication.

ShippyPro APIs come in REST JSON and SOAP formats and support 14 programming languages. Their main products include

  • Label creator (to automate label printing),
  • Track & Trace (to monitor shipments and get status notifications),
  • Easy Return (to manage reverse logistics), and
  • Live Checkout (to get multiple shipping options to offer to your customers).

Pricing includes 4 options, depending on the number of shipments and desired functionality scope. There’s a 30-day free trial too.

Easyship APIs

Main users: eCommerce

Region of coverage: worldwide

Easyship is a popular shipping platform for eCommerce that boasts connections with 250+ courier service providers, eCommerce stores, marketplaces, ERP, and other types of software. This tool can be used to manage all your shipping activities, including financials, customized branded tracking pages, email notifications, and so on.

Easyship APIs allow you to add shipment management functionality to your website or internal IT system which includes

  • label generation,
  • shipping rates and options display (the response will also indicate which courier is the cheapest, fastest, and best value for money),
  • shipment creation and tracking,
  • returns management,
  • pickup scheduling,
  • duties and taxes calculation, etc.

Note that the endpoints limit is 60 requests per minute and 10 requests per second. Check their 4 pricing plans to choose the one that fits your needs.

ShipEngine APIs

Main users: eCommerce

Region of coverage: worldwide

ShipEngine is yet another multi-courier integration service provider with established connections to carriers and logistics software platforms.

ShipEngine REST API documentation has all the instructions to set up integrations to allow you to create labels, calculate and compare shipping costs, track shipments, manage orders, validate addresses, etc. They also offer international shipping APIs to support your global activity.

By default, ShipEngine allows up to 200 requests per minute. They have a transparent pricing structure depending on the types of APIs that you choose (e.g., you pay 1 cent for every tracked package with a tracking API) or you can pay a monthly fee for a packaged plan.

Freight marketplaces

The last category you might consider connecting to — but not the least — is online marketplaces for shipping services. They are also referred to as digital freight matching platforms and are built to connect shippers who want to move their goods and carriers who can do it (or freight forwarders who are willing to arrange transportation). It’s just like booking a room on Airbnb — you enter the details of your shipment and get a list of offers with rates and transit times that you can compare. Let’s examine some of the big ones.

Watch a cool video by Freightos that plainly lays out what freight marketplaces do

Freightos APIs

Main users: freight forwarders, 3PL, importing companies (wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers)

Region of coverage: worldwide

Freightos is the digital booking platform for international shipping. It gives you the quote options mainly from freight forwarders or 3PL companies since global freight movement involves such complications as customs clearance and multimodal transportation that carriers won’t handle for you.

freightos marketplace interface

Freightos sample quote results

You can compare rates, conditions, and ratings, decide who to ship with, and book shipment through Freightos.

Freightos Integrations provide several connectivity options:

  • Marketplace APIs,
  • Freight estimations,
  • Calculators and Tools, and
  • Industry Air and Ocean Freight Data.

Check their documentation for shipping calculator APIs that come in JSON or XML formats.

Freightos also offers Freight as a Service for B2B global logistics to support all your international transportation activities like booking, managing, and tracking your shipments — all through your internal system. Contact their team or register for more information on pricing and access.

SeaRates APIs

Main users: freight forwarders, 3PL, importing companies (wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers)

Region of coverage: worldwide

SeaRates is a subdivision of DP World, a multinational logistics company and port operator, that promotes the digital transformation of the logistics industry and offers solutions to automate international shipping. SeaRates is basically a search engine for freight quotes and providers, plus a heap of other useful instruments such as a route planner or ship schedule and all sorts of consulting services on top.

SeaRates API suite consists of the following API categories:

  • Logistics Explorer — to get quotes and compare rates,
  • Tracking System — to track your containers and receive status notifications,
  • Ship Schedule — to get sailing schedules of vessels from multiple shipping lines,
  • Load Calculator — to optimize your load planning,
  • Distances & Time — to view the optimal route and time in transit for your cargo,
  • Booking — to activate the booking functionality on your website or your internal system,
  • Route Planner — to create customized routes,
  • Adding Rates — to get (and provide) full visibility into shipping rates, and more.

Requests are sent in GraphQL and responses are received in JSON format.

uShip APIs

Main users: retailers, moving companies

Region of coverage: US, worldwide

uShip, based in Austin, TX, is a digital marketplace that connects shippers and carriers with a focus on transporting big and heavy commodities such as cars, boats, furniture, and even livestock. It operates on a bidding basis when transportation service providers place bids and compete to move the customer’s cargo.

uShip offers business customers the opportunity to use their own freight automation platform uShip PRO and book, manage, and track your shipments there. Or you can integrate via APIs, but to get access to documentation, you first have to register on their Developer Portal.

A few closing recommendations

If you’ve come this far, you must be really interested in API integrations and understand the benefits that seamless connectivity brings to your business. However, there are a few more things you have to consider as you plan the integration project.

Choose partners carefully. If you deal with international trade, you have a huge variety of options on how to ship your goods, starting from making all the arrangements yourself and up to outsourcing the whole logistics process to the 3PL company. Consider the pros and cons of each option, compare rates, and remember about additional expenses such as port fees, terminal handling, customs clearance, brokers fees, etc.

API integration requires development efforts. Even the best API documentation won’t spare you from involving skilled developers in your integration project. Keep in mind that it will take time (from a few weeks up to several months, depending on the team’s experience and project scope) and require significant investment.

Train your staff. Every innovation requires time for users to learn how to deal with it. So, remember that you’ll need to arrange the training sessions to teach your employees how to use the new system capabilities.

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Devaraj Mahantesh
Sep 17, 2021

Thanks for sharing the information about Integrating shipping software into the e-commerce business. as a business owner I was struggling with supply chain management process.