Ecommerce shipping has brought about a lot of change to the parcel shipping industry. Finding ways to receive cheap shipping rates is imperative to any ecommerce shipping business, so it’s important to consider all options. While it’s typical for parcel shipping to be done through USPS, FedEx, or UPS, it’s necessary to consider the whole of the shipment to calculate profitability.

Using this method of shipping makes perfect sense when you’re shipping one package. You send it through UPS, and within a few days the customer gets a box on their doorstep. Say an ecommerce retailer gets an order for 20 of their product instead of one, sure, they could still use parcel shipping and send 20 individual packages, but it would be expensive and a clumsy delivery. It would be much more cost effective to ship them all freight.

Less-than-truckload (LTL) freight shipping is a perfectly viable option for parcel shipping businesses which often goes overlooked. There are often times in which the number of packages on an ecommerce order are too great, or the size of the package is too large or too expensive to ship through traditional parcel carriers. It’s easy to save money with LTL freight shipping in these instances, because the order is too small to fill a whole truck, but too large for parcel shipping, so it can take up space left over in a different freight shipment.

How can ecommerce shipping businesses, or others who do a lot of parcel shipping, decide when to use LTL freight shipping? It comes down to three key issues: size, number, and speed.

Size: Parcel shipping has size limitations. Most parcel carriers have limits at about 70 to 150 pounds and at most about 108 inches in length. While UPS, FedEx, and USPS have different limitations, if the package you’re shipping is around this weight or this dimension, it’s worth considering LTL freight shipping.

Number: LTL freight shipping could be the cheaper option if there are many packages going to the same place. If your boxes can fit onto a pallet, LTL will likely be the cheaper and most efficient solution. If they’re all headed to the same destination, LTL is a good thing to consider.

Speed: LTL freight shipping requires a bit of a window for shipment pickup. It can take a day or two to be picked up, and after that the time in transit is usually just an estimate. Parcel carriers, on the other hand, can schedule pickups in no time, and their delivery is predictable. If the shipment is time sensitive, it is likely best to use small parcel shipping ground services, but if the delivery time is flexible, LTL freight shipping will likely be more affordable.

Deciding between parcel shipping and LTL freight shipping will largely be a question of whether cost or speed is more important. LTL will be better in terms of shipping costs, but parcel will be better for speed of delivery.

Complications

Freight can be an intimidating switch for ecommerce businesses who are familiar with the parcel shipping market. Working with a broker will be helpful for those who do not often ship LTL or freight. This can provide a large variety of shipping options and locate the best LTL carrier for the job.

LTL freight shipping costs vary greatly depending on the service. Parcel shipping is a less varied means of delivery. A large reason for this is the influence of accessorials, freight class, minimums, distance traveled, weight, and base rate. There are many factors in LTL freight shipping that aren’t present in parcel shipping. For ecommerce businesses who aren’t used to LTL shipping, here are some things that must be considered: dimensions/weight, shipment requirements, class, risk.

Dimensions/Weight: Getting precise measurements is essential for LTL freight shipping. This information is used to determine the number of loads for each truck, because weight of trucks on the road is regulated, so inaccurate weights can result in expensive shipment adjustments.

Shipment Requirements: Having loading docks is important for freight shipping. It’s often assumed pickup and drop off locations will have one, so it’s important you find out if they’re present, or if a lift-gate will be needed. There may be additional accessorial charges for any special needs for your delivery.

Class: Freight shipping involves having a freight class, and there are several different types. Low classes are for sturdier shipments which aren’t likely to be damaged, while higher classes are for more fragile or difficult to move shipments. This means what you’re shipping will also play a role in determining whether to use parcel shipping or LTL, because higher freight classes mean higher shipping rates.

Risk: Freight shipping can pose greater risk of damage to goods, and greater risk of lost shipments. Before deciding how to ship, you must consider the value of the shipment. Is outside insurance necessary? Will it matter if there are a few dings and dents? Assessing the importance and value of your shipment is important.

The shipping industry can be a complicated place. Ecommerce shipping businesses can often use both parcel shipping and LTL freight shipping, so there is a lot for these companies to consider. It’s important to look into both shipping options in order to save money shipping and improve logistics management. Supply chain optimization requires finding the cheapest and fastest shipping mode for every package, and having a clear view of your logistics is where that all begins.

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