Parcel vs LTL vs FTL Shipping: Understanding the Differences

Parcel vs LTL vs FTL Shipping: Understanding the Differences

For businesses to fully accomplish customer satisfaction and succeed in providing the perfect customer experience, it’s essential to form partnerships with trusted freight shippers. While there are several options for shipping providers, finding the right match to collaborate with is a challenge. Annual increases in shipping rates, changes in business products offerings, fluctuating tariffs, and exploring new markets all require eCommerce businesses to reconsider their shipping options. Traditionally, there are three main shipping options: parcel, LTL, and FTL. In this article, we will be discussing the differences between these options and when to use each.

Differentiating Between Parcel Shipping, LTL, and FTL

Parcel Shipping

Parcel shipping is a suitable option for small-sized packages that are quick and easy to move. The specifications for packages deemed suitable for parcel shipping are a combined length and width of fewer than 165 inches, weight under 150 pounds, and maximum length of 108 inches, the latter of which also applies if the width is under 67 inches. Parcels are not shipped on pallets, and these shipments are conducted both via ground and air. You can consider outsourcing your eCommerce fulfillment services to a trusted third party logistics (3PL) provider and spare your team from the hassle of packing and shipping.

LTL Shipping

LTL Shipping refers to Less than Truckload Shipping, which is opted for freight amounts that exceed the permissible amount of weight for parcel shipping but are less than the amount that fills up a trailer. Typically, freight amounts that are worth 1-6 pallets and weigh less than 10,000 pounds classify for LTL Shipping. LTL shipments are divided into classes 50 to 500, with the higher density freight falling in the 50-85 classification and lower density freight in the classes between 125 to 500. LTL shipments are priced using the 18 freight classifications that are based on weight, height, density, length, value, and liability of the freight. Moreover, LTL shipment routes have terminals located in all the key cities.

While LTL shipping is the most affordable shipping method particularly for small and medium-sized businesses with freight volumes that are less than the amount that fills up entire trailers, it has its share of issues. The main issue is the variations in shipping carrier prices, rules, and regulations, tariffs, and fees. Mistakes in shipping classification can cause the further imposition of additional charges, resulting in the loss of any potential savings on shipping costs.

Moreover, shipping carriers have become more particular about their pricing structures for specific lengths of items, such as additional fees that were previously only being charged on individual items greater than 12 feet are now being applied on those that are just over 8 feet. However, despite these issues, with good route planning and rate negotiations, LTL shipping can continue being a cost-effective and efficient way of shipping freight.

FTL Shipping

FTL refers to a Full Truckload, meaning it is the right choice only if you are dealing with a lot of freight. Here, ‘lot’ means a LOT, referring to freight that is around 20 pallets or more and weighs more than 20,000 pounds. Typically, FTL shipping involves no stops or transfers and makes direct shipments to the destination. In FTL shipping, the goods are loaded and unloaded only once, as the goal is to deliver the freight as quickly as possible. FTL shipments are mostly conducted by air, making it an expensive shipping option.

When to Switch from Parcel Shipping to LTL Shipping?

When dealing with lesser than a full truckload of freight, it is important to know when to use LTL shipping instead of parcel shipping, as it can be quite cost-effective. Here is a list of scenarios that signify it’s time to defer from parcel shipping to LTL shipping.

1. Your shipment is of more than 4-5 boxes

If you ate fulfilling an order that goes beyond 5 boxes, it is advisable to use LTL shipping instead. Add the goods to a pallet and enjoy lower shipping costs per case via LTL.

2. You are shipping the order to a retail giant

With the growing expectation of retailers from brands, and the delivery timing and transportation being under constant scrutiny, it is better to opt for LTL shipping when dealing with larger retailers. One more reason for doing this is the fragmented delivery of multi-case orders when shipped via parcel shipping. Retailers aren’t equipped to handle it, and this can have a negative impact on how the retailer perceives your performance and credibility. Using LTL shipping instead, in such cases, will ensure timely and consolidated delivery of orders.

3. The product is prone to damage

Parcel shipments involve multiple loading and unloading events and excessive handling which can damage goods. While LTL shipping to is notorious for product overhandling at times, lesser damage occurs compared to parcel shipments.

4. The order requires more service

Expensive and high-value products and expedited orders require increased attention to the handling and transportation of your freight, which is better provided with LTL Shipping as there is no dedicated customer support team for parcel shipping.

Irrespective of the shipping option you decide to work with, ShipBots ensures you get the best outcome and your carrier complies with your shipping strategy. Our team at ShipBots respects your organizational goals and tends to make all operational decisions that are in compliance with those goals and profitable to your business. If you wish to collaborate with us, you may contact us for detailed insights and a custom quote.

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