For a long time, LTL shipping was the best solution that addressed the needs of small and medium-scale shippers. Times have changed, though. Aside from LTL shipping, now there’s also parcel shipping. To minimize costs and maximize profits, many shippers now combine LTL and parcel shipping, depending on their specific needs. It’s a strategic move, of course. But the question is: when should one use LTL shipping and when is it better to go with parcel shipping?
Choosing between the two options used to be much easier because the only consideration was weight — if it weighs more than 150 pounds, it’s LTL. Anything below, it’s parcel. But now that weight is no longer the only determining factor, and a package that weighs more than 150 pounds but meets the size requirements can be considered for parcel shipping, it has become a little harder to decide. In order to make a smart decision then, a shipper should know the pros and cons of both options;
Parcel shipping is generally intended for packages that can be lifted without any kind of assistance and therefore cost less to ship. To qualify for this kind of shipping method, a package should meet at least one of the following criteria:
* Weight should be less than 150 pounds
* Combined length and girth should not be more than 165 inches (even if weight is more than 150 pounds)
* If length is up to 108 inches, its girth should not be more than 67 inches
Through parcel shipping, packages receive individualized care, and this helps ensure that each package arrives at its appropriate destination on schedule. Because carriers typically have more checkpoints for small packages, a package that is off-track has higher chances of being identified and detected sooner, which means it can also be reassigned to another truck as soon as the error is noticed so delivery can still go on as scheduled.
More shippers choosing to go with parcel shipping gives carriers more reason to maintain parcel shipping services. At the very least, that means better maintained equipment, better facilities and better technology for better and more cost-effective service.
On the downside, small parcels do have the tendency to become lost, delayed or damaged due to the multiple handing-off that happens. In this regard, parcel shipping carries a greater risk.
LTL or less-than-truckload shipping is intended for packages that are aren’t big enough to fill up an entire truck. This means that a single truck gets to ship multiple products from different shippers.
LTL shipping is sort of the middle ground — it’s the best option for shipment that’s too big or too heavy to be sent via parcel shipping, but not big or heavy enough to be sent via full truckload (FTL).
If you have delicate or fragile products, LTL shipping is not ideal because there’s no way to know which products will be stacked on top of one another. Irregularly-shaped items like furniture might likewise suffer or be prone to damage if shipped through LTL.
Since LTL serves multiple customers, delivery might take longer as the truck has to make several stops at different destinations. Of course, LTL shipping is generally more expensive than parcel shipping. You can also choose between ltl expedited truckload shipping and ltl refrigerated shipping.
The Bottom Line
It is imperative that LTL shippers consider all factors before deciding on which option will be best for the particular item or items being shipped. While cost is usually the main deciding factor, one also has to think about the integrity of the shipment. Because even if you save on shipping cost, if your product doesn’t get delivered on time, or worse, if it gets delivered in damaged condition, your business will stand to lose more than what you supposedly save on expenses.